Kurt Zouma is predicting a tight World Cup semi-final between France and Belgium in St Petersburg tonight, but ultimately victory for his fellow countrymen.
The 23-year-old defender, who has two France caps of his own, is back at Chelsea now having spent last season on loan at Stoke City. Although he is disappointed 2017/18 ended in relegation for the Potters, the year away did provide plenty of appearances, 37 in total, as he built up his fitness following a serious knee injury. He wishes Stoke a speedy return to the top flight.
This summer Zouma has been able to mix holiday and the start of his Chelsea pre-season with keeping a close eye on the World Cup.
‘I have been watching, especially France, my country,’ Zouma tells the official Chelsea website. ‘It has been a good World Cup. Lots of goals and the games have been very tense and it has been great to watch, especially France against Argentina. That was a crazy game, 1-0 up, then 2-1 down, then 4-2 at the end!
‘I knew France were going to go far with the team we have. Also Belgium, and I knew England with the team they have there was no doubt they were going to go far too. Now I hope France win the game today, an important game, they have to win it.’
‘It should be a very intensive game, two of the best teams in the world playing against each other so it will be nice to watch.’
— Kurt Zouma
When it comes to Chelsea interest, the prospect of N’Golo Kante in direct contest at times with Eden Hazard is a mouth-watering one.
‘Two of my friends, and it will be nice to watch,’ notes Zouma. ‘N’Golo, the way he plays is very good in the midfield, and Eden we know is the captain of Belgium and both are doing so well in the World Cup, like their teams, but I hope N’Golo will win it.’
And a France fan like Zouma will also be looking for someone to put the ball past Thibaut Courtois in the Belgium goal. Although Olivier Giroud joined Chelsea after our young defender went out on loan, he knows all about the centre-forward.
‘I played against him a few times and he is a good player, he is holding the ball very well and he is fighting for every ball. You can see in the games how important he is for the national team and I hope he keeps going like that and scores a goal for our team.’
And a prediction for tonight’s result?
‘I think 1-0 for France, 1-0 in 90 minutes.’