France goalkeeper braces for Belgian attack
ST PETERSBURG, Russia (AP):
France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was back to his best in the World Cup quarter-finals, and he's going to need to be just as good when his team takes on Belgium in the semi-finals today.
The experienced Lloris, set to make his 103rd international appearance, will be facing a Belgian team that have scored a tournament-leading 14 goals in five matches.
"Quite simply, I think Belgium is the most complete side in the tournament, in all aspects of the game," the 31-year-old Lloris said Monday. "They defend well. They know how to attack well. They know how to counterattack. They're good in the air and on the ground."
Belgium offer multiple threats, including the speed and trickery of forward Eden Hazard and the strength and finishing of striker Romelu Lukaku, who has scored four goals in Russia. Then there's the heading ability of their defenders Jan Vertonghen and Vincent Kompany, and of midfielder Marouane Fellaini.
Belgium will be coming into the match after rallying from a 2-0 deficit to beat Japan 3-2, followed up by a quality performance in beating Brazil 2-1 in the quarter-finals on Friday.
"They are a great side and have a fantastic generation of players. To beat them, we'll have to play extremely well and need to make our own luck," Lloris said. "We know there will be some tough moments in the game, and we'll have to be ready to suffer. But we will be, because there's a great spirit in this side."
Lloris has faced the vast majority of Belgium's side when playing for English club Tottenham.
"Most of them play in the Premier League, so we know them well. For my part I have three Tottenham teammates," Lloris said. "There will be a lot of great players on the pitch."
Stopping them will be a different matter.
"They beat Japan in a somewhat crazy ending, and beat probably the tournament favourite in Brazil," Lloris added. "I think the Belgians will arrive with a lot of confidence."
France have three shutouts in five games, but blanking Belgium's talented attack will be tough.
"We're going to face one of the best attacking teams," Lloris said. "We will have to play in a very structured way, give them as little space as possible."