He may have been a quiet presence up to now, but the Belgium team has one man’s DNA all over it — that of Thierry Henry.
Wednesday’s semi-final promises to be a bizarre occasion for the legendary striker, one of France’s all-time greats.
Now assisting Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, Henry is plotting the downfall of his own country 20 years after he won the World Cup with France.
By all accounts Henry has been happy to remain in the shadows of Belgium’s campaign, but in the build-up to the semi-final he has unsurprisingly been pushed into the spotlight.
With 123 international caps to his name, a Champions League and five titles, Henry stands as a role model for the Belgium players.
He is hands on at training and clearly still full of the trickery that made him a genius on the field during his playing days with France, Arsenal and Barcelona.
Despite it being his first foray into coaching, it’s become abundantly clear just how much of an impact he has had on the Belgium side in his two years with them.
Particularly on Romelu Lukaku.
“When we were kids, we couldn’t even afford to watch Thierry Henry on Match of the Day,” Lukaku told The Players’ Tribune.
“Now we’re learning from him every day with the national team.
“I’m standing with the legend, in the flesh, and he’s telling me all about how to run into space like he used to do.”
Lukaku, the 25-year-old Manchester United forward, already has four goals this World Cup and is chasing England’s Harry Kane for the Golden Boot.
He was instrumental in Belgium’s quarter-final win over Brazil; his pace and power proving too much for the Selecao to contain.
There’s been a touch about Henry in his game too, particularly in the way he has pulled out wide to create space for Eden Hazard or Kevin De Bruyne.
Lukaku and Henry meet up regularly in England to discuss football and ways the Belgium striker can learn from the French legend.
“We discuss what I have to do better,” Lukaku said.
“I also talk him sometimes through some old games. One with Arsenal in the 2005-2006 season, for instance. I can tell you all about it, and then he brings out details from one of my matches, and together we look for ways in which I can do even better.
“I learn from him every day. The way of moving, how to find the spaces, control the ball as well as possible. He could do it all. I have learned so much from him.”
For the France players looking to emulate Henry and the 1998 French squad by winning the World Cup, seeing their legendary countryman sitting on the opposition bench is unsettling.
Olivier Giroud has already said he’d prefer to be the one receiving Henry’s advice, but the former Arsenal, now Chelsea, striker says France now have a point to prove to Henry.
“There’s a lot of mutual respect. I don’t resent him,” Giroud said.
“I’d have preferred him to be with us and to be giving his advice to me.”
“My job’s to be good on the pitch, to help my team. But I’d be proud to show Titi that he chose the wrong side.
“He’s a living legend of French football and we have a lot of respect for him.
“We have a lot of respect for what he’s done, but we’re not going to think about very much.”
The outcome of the match will be something of a win-win for Henry either way, but he’s unlikely to display too much emotion in the moment.