When Manchester City played Monaco in the Round of 16 of the 2016-17 Champions League season, Kylian Mbappe was starting to make his name in France. Kevin de Bruyne had been asked about him prior to their game and the Belgian midfielder had pleaded ignorance then.
Mbappe would go on to score a goal each over the two legs as Monaco knocked City out on away goals. Fair to say that De Bruyne knows well about the French youngster now.
“He has become a star in France. When I was playing against Monaco, he had played only about 10 matches. He hadn’t played a lot of football to tell the truth. At that time, I did not know him. But now he has been playing for a year and a half. He plays for a great team and has played a lot for France, a lot in the Champions League as well. So he is a different player now. He is a star for the next 10-15 years,” De Bruyne said about Mbappe on the eve of Belgium’s FIFA World Cup semi-final clash against Belgium, at the Krestovsky Stadium here on Monday.
However, De Bruyne went on to add that Belgium are not worried by France’s firepower up front. Instead, Belgium have the belief that they can go on to lift the title this Sunday.
“I think Belgium have a very good team. There are dozens of teams who say they want to be world champions. You have to show that you have ambitions as a team, as a group of players.
“We are here to go as far as we possibly can: to win the tournament. And that’s the attitude we will go with in tomorrow’s (Tuesday) game,” he told reporters.
Head coach Roberto Martinez said that there would be no let-off from his team following the 2-1 win over Brazil in the quarterfinals.
“When you are in the semifinal of a World Cup, it’s a unique moment in anybody’s career. You don’t have the opportunity to switch off. It’s an opportunity to improve on what we did against Brazil,” Martinez said.
The former Everton manager said that he would prefer playing three defenders at the back but like in the last game against Brazil, he’s is open to going with a back-four if the situation demands.
“I think the back three suits our players. But there are certain games where you need a back four and make it more solid. In the game against Brazil, we needed that and in the last 20 minutes against Japan, we needed that,” he said.
With French great Thierry Henry deputising him as part of the coaching staff, Martinez said the legendary forward’s international experience convinced him to bring him to the fold.
“Thierry Henry has brought something that we didn’t have. Me and my technical staff have been working together for 12 years; so there’s a clarity in our methodology and how we want to work with a team. What we didn’t have was international experience, the knowhow of winning a World Cup, the knowhow of being a footballer who is expected to perform in front of the eyes of the world and knowing how he feels in those moments. Thierry Henry brings that,” he said.
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