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France and Belgium have taken considerably different paths to the World Cup semifinal, and their varied approaches can be seen through the prism of their head coaches.

By Grant Wahl and Brian Straus
July 09, 2018

France and Belgium meet in a star-studded World Cup semifinal on Tuesday, with one European power set to continue a run to the final, while the other braces for a third-place game that, through history, has proven to mean plenty for some, but absolutely nothing to others. And on the eve of their showdown, Belgium manager Roberto Martinez and France manager Didier Deschamps gave their pre-match press conferences, which could not have been more opposite, and, in some ways, mirror the two teams and their paths to the semifinal. 

We discuss that and more in our latest World Cup Daily podcast. Listen to the full episode below, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes to hear each episode throughout the 2018 World Cup.

Here's a snippet of the latest episode: 

BRIAN STRAUS: The demeanor of the two (coaches) today, Deschamps and Martinez, in a lot of ways to me reflects their teams. ... Maybe Deschamps is the life of the party, but he is just a dour, joyless dude when he's in (the press conference). Meanwhile, Roberto Martinez is really impressive, and engaging, and thoughtful, and open, and it's just night and day with these dudes.

And it's kind of the same with their teams. I still feel like France is holding back. I still feel like France is wound tight. I still feel like they haven't sort of blossomed and opened up and shown themselves and given us everything. Whereas I feel like Belgium has. I feel like we've seen a Belgium that's ... they are giving everything of themselves. They are showing their cards. They are laying it out. They are attacking this opportunity, attacking their opponents. There's just something about them. They've hit their highest gear. And I still don't think France has. ... To me, tomorrow's semifinal will be decided by whether or not France can finally show us what they got. Either they can or they can't. And if they can't, if they are essentially as wound tightly as their coach and they cannot change this identity, I think Belgium, they can win this game. They are certainly talented enough to win this game.

GRANT WAHL: I'm really excited for this game. I agree with what you're saying about France, but of all the pre-tournament favorites, they're the only one that's still here!

BS: That's the other thing, right? If you can be all of those things, if you can basically sleepwalk your way ... (the USA) made one World Cup quarterfinal, and those guys are like legends. Like "Oh man, Eddie Lewis!" And France just rolled into Russia and have kind of sleptwalked their way into a World Cup semifinal, other than that just incredible game against Argentina where there was just no–Argentina wasn't going to play with any structure or sensibility. They were just going to go for it and see what happens. But that's how good France is. That's another sign of how good and talented they are. That even in second and third gear, they're not only in the World Cup semifinal, but the best team left in the tournament.

We saw what Belgium is capable of when they commit. ... I just don't feel like France has given us that.

Continue listening in the podcast above or download and subscribe to the podcast here.

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