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10 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Road to final

Salahuddin keeps France bit ahead

Bangladesh football icon Kazi Mohammed Salahuddin thinks France are a little bit stronger side than Belgium even though the latter have a fantastic forward and the world’s best goalkeeper.
Md Abu Talha Sarker
Salahuddin keeps 
France bit ahead
Kazi Mohammed Salahuddin

Kazi Mohammed Salahuddin, a former captain of the Bangladesh national football team, doesn’t consider either of France or Belgium as clear favourites, although the Les Bleus qualified for the semi-finals by clearly thrashing Argentina (4-3) and Uruguay (2-0) in the knockout and quarter-finals, while Belgium have a fantastic forward, and the world’s best goalkeeper.

“Their (Belgium) defence has been strong all through the tournament. So far, they have shown grit and character against Panama, Tunisia and England in the group stage,” said Salahuddin.

He came up with the remarks yesterday as the most exciting phase of the World Cup in Russia resumes after a two-day break with the four-team semi-final ties today in the aftermath of the group stage, knockout and quarter-finals.

The way millions of football fans across the world were buzzing initially with huge enthusiasm and zeal for the World Cup was expected slump because of the exits of a multiple World Cup winners including Germany (from group phase), Argentina (knockout), Brazil and Uruguay (quarter-final) along with 2010 champions Spain (knockout) and Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal (knockout). But that has not happened, as the

teams that are now in the title race have kept the grandeur, éclat and zeal of the mega football event alive with their fantastic and jaw-dropping football.

Resurgent Belgium will fight against the well-drilled France in the first fixture of the semi-finals at the Saint Petersburg Stadium at 12 midnight today to go into the coveted July 15 final.

Bangladesh football icon Kazi Mohammed Salahuddin, was a member of the Swadhin Bangla Football Team and the first Bangladesh player to play in the foreign Professional Football League, gave his opinion about the first semi-final match between Belgium and France.

Salahuddin, who played club football for Abahani Limited, Wari Club, Mohammedan Sporting Club and Dilkusha Sporting, said that it was really very tough to say which team was the favourite, but it would take a whole team effort to get past spirited Belgium and their array of attacking shots.

“The overriding victory over two-time World Cup champions, Uruguay, consolidated France’s favourites’ tag to win their second title after 1998. Belgium, by contrast, appeared in the four-team semi-finals by beating tournament-favourites Brazil in the mouth-watering quarter-finals,” said Kazi Mohammad Salahuddin, who made his debut in international football in 1973 with the Merdeka Cup in Malaysia and then played so many games for the national team till 1983.

“Belgium have players the likes of Eden Hazard, Kerin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, who could cause an upset at any moment. Along with that, the Red Devils have a solid goal-stopper Thibaut Courtois coupled with a rock-solid defence that could make all the difference. In contrast, France are brimming with world class Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Antonie Griezmann, Oliver Giroud, who never disappoint their team in the high-octane clashes,” Salahuddin told The Independent at his BFF office.

“Overall, both the teams are very good. It’ll be an exciting encounter because both will try to excel each other with their beautiful football,” he added. The player-turned-organiser, Salahuddin who was elected BFF president for the three consecutive terms, shared the identical views with coach Roberto Martinez that Red Devils have their work cut out if they are to go all the way to the July 15 final.  

“You have to play. The team who will play better football will be winners. There is no favourite. There is no surety. I could say if it was 10 years back when we knew Brazil and Argentina used to win the match. But this time they couldn’t do it,” the former national superstar said.

Later, he said that he kept France a bit ahead of Belgium though he doesn’t think of anyone as favourites because the Les Bleus came here in this stage by clearly thrashing Argentina (4-3) and Uruguay (2-0) in the knockout and quarter-finals.

“I think France are a little bit stronger side than Belgium. But then, again, Belgium have a fantastic forward, and the world’s best goalkeeper. Their defence has been strong all through stronger. They so far showed their grits and character against Panama, Tunisia and England in the group stage,” the veteran organizer whose best success was to bring Argentina national football team along with its superstar Lionel Messi in Bangladesh to play a friendly match against Nigeria in 2011, said.

“All I say that you have to perform because your name will not take you to the final,” he said as his parting shot.

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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