World Cup 2018: Hugo Lloris admits Belgium have the momentum in semi-final against dully-efficient France

Lloris, one of seven Tottenham players still remaining in Russia, believes that the boost that comes with beating Brazil makes Belgium favourites for Tuesday’s semi-final

World Cup top scorers

It says something for the utter unpredictability of this World Cup that there are seven Tottenham players still in it – and just three from Real Madrid and Barcelona. When Mauricio Pochettino’s squad gathers for pre-season it is very likely at least one of them will know what it is like to win a World Cup.

“I think it’s very good for the image of the club,” said Hugo Lloris, whose full-length save from Martin Caceres denied Uruguay their best chance of scoring in the first of Friday’s semi-finals.

“It is good experience and good for the future of the club. We will see. Hopefully, a Tottenham player will become a World Cup winner. Obviously, there is one I wish for the most. There are still two games to go. We will see with England and Belgium.”

Lloris was speaking in the wake of France’s comfortable 2-0 victory over a Uruguay side that without Edinson Cavani lacked a cutting edge in a stadium where most were on their side. He was talking before Belgium eliminated Brazil, 400 miles to the east in Kazan. Lloris did, however, remark that, should Belgium win, the momentum would be so great that it would make them favourites when the two sides meet in St Petersburg on Tuesday.

France have resembled the old German sides in this World Cup. They have been dully-efficient in their group stage and were dully-efficient against Uruguay in the quarter-final. Yet, when they had to attack and had to mix it, as they did in the 4-3 win over Argentina, Didier Deschamps’ side demonstrated they knew precisely how to move through the gears.

Some observers, such as Marcel Desailly, believe this is a better France side than the one which won the World Cup 20 years ago. Deschamps lifted that trophy in Paris and the fact he knows what it takes to win the biggest trophy in world sport might count for something.

Hugo Lloris pulled off one of the saves of the World Cup in denying Martin Caceras

“He had this amazing experience as a player and as a captain,” said Lloris. “He won the World Cup and it is the only one that we have won. Hopefully we can repeat the process and do it again but to win the semi-final we need to play at a better level than we did against Uruguay. We will be up against a great team with fantastic players. It will be a big, big fight and I hope we are ready for it.”

Belgium have their own World Cup winner in the shape of Thierry Henry, Roberto Martinez’s assistant.

This will be the sixth time France have played in a World Cup semi-final and few have been happy experiences. The first, in 1958, saw them destroyed by the 17-year-old Pele. In Seville in 1982 there was Harald Schumacher’s assault on Patrick Battiston which ought to have resulted in dismissal and probably a ban from football but which did not earn France even a free-kick.

Even in victory there has been pain. The 1998 semi-final against Croatia was scarred by Slaven Bilic’s play-acting – of the kind Kylian Mpabbe attempted against Uruguay – which cost Laurent Blanc a red card and a place in the final.

For Lloris, this has been a near faultless tournament. After errors in the warm-up fixtures against Italy and the United States, there were calls to replace the 31-year-old, calls that like everything else from outside the French camp, Deschamps ignored.

He was rewarded in Nizhny Novgorod by one of the saves of the tournament, although a few hours later against Brazil, Thibault Courtois would deliver one of the goalkeeping performances of this World Cup.

“Everything went so fast,” said Lloris of his save from Cacares. “The important thing was that my first move was towards the ball. Then you think that the most important thing is to get up quickly because the ball is still alive. It’s on the rebound and I had to make myself as big as possible and the space for Diego Godin as small as possible. It was a good moment.”

Fernando Muslera fumbles Antoine Griezmann's shot into his own goal (Getty)

It was not a good moment for Lloris’ counterpart in the Uruguay goal, Fernando Muslera, who simply palmed Antoine Griezmann’s shot into his own net, an error that effectively gifted France their passage to the semi-final.

Lloris genuinely felt for Muslera in a way that goalkeepers do. When playing for Everton against Bolton at a gale-swept Goodison Park, Tim Howard scored direct from a goal kick and said he felt only embarrassment for Bolton’s Adam Bogdan.

“I feel very sorry for Muslera,” said Lloris. “He is one of the best goalkeepers in the world; he has done fantastically for Uruguay. The World Cup ball is very fast and you need to think very quickly, when to punch and when to catch. The shot moved and that is part of the game. It is part of being a goalkeeper, there is nobody behind to save you. He deserved better.”

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