For France, the target has already been reached. The French federation and the team manager, Didier Deschamps, said before the World Cup that the semi-finals would be the aim.
But we’re now in the semi-final and it’s an open tournament, so they can dream about winning the World Cup.
It’s different to 1998 because then we were playing at home in front of our own fans, and the support we received from the fans and the nation was huge. But it’s starting to get that way for this team as well. The fact they are in Russia they know what’s going on in France, ànd they receive all the news, which will boost them.
In terms of confidence, this team has no limits and we’ve known for a long time that the potential is there. Even the players realise that they can do amazing things together on the pitch.
The team has been criticised for months and months. Despite winning games, most of their performances were not considered satisfactory, and they received further criticism during the group stages of the tournament. They were a bit upset about this, but realised they could do more on the pitch.
A World Cup is not a straight line, and you have to go through difficult times. The most important thing is to keep on winning games. Their performances are improving, and they’re playing much better now compared to the beginning. We knew before the tournament that they were good physically, technically and tactically, but we wondered how they were mentally. So far, they have risen to the challenges given to them.
We all know the French team have the potential to win the World Cup, but many people said the players were too young, with no experience in big tournaments. I always said the opposite, that it’s not about young players – it’s about character and potential. You cannot compare a player who is 30 with one who is 20, because if the younger man has the personality to perform well on the pitch, age is irrelevant. We can see that with this team.
WILL FRANCE FEAR BELGIUM?
Belgium are quite similar to France. They have great individuals and huge potential. They were previously lacking team spirit, but seem to have learned from past failures such as against Wales in the Euros.
During the World Cup so far they appear to have discovered how good they are and that they can play as a team – what they showed against Japan, for example, coming back from 2-0 down with 25 minutes to go. Martinez made two substitutions, bringing on Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli and they won the game.
This is something very important for the Belgian team. You need to go through games where different styles and approaches are required. You need to have your backs against the wall in order to show you have character. This is what happened during the World Cup for them.
The French players have already said it will be strange to play against him. I can understand that, but that’s the way it is. He never had the opportunity to work with the French federation, so he took the chance he had.
I’m happy for him because from what I’ve been told he’s doing a great job, especially with the strikers.
Thierry Henry brings confidence and serenity. He brings experience as well. He knows how to prepare for big games in big competitions like this. Before he arrived, Belgium lacked that experience. They’ve grown up and become a different team.