France remain alive on their quest to win the FIFA World Cup title after 20 years, while Uruguay’s dream has abruptly come to an end.
Despite the fact that Uruguay looked intense and pacey during most of the contest, they didn’t pose much of a threat and France took advantage of that. A first-half header from Raphael Varane and a long-range shot from Antoine Griezmann in the second half – with direct responsibility of Fernando Muslera – lifted France to a much-deserved 2-0 win. With the result, France became the first team to qualify to the tournament’s semi-finals, while Uruguay have become the latest South American side to get eliminated in the knockout phase.
Varane breaks the deadlock in the first half
Neither side looked on top early on, but both generated some interesting attacking movements. Christian Stuani – who replaced the injured Edinson Cavani -looked quite active, but the best chances came for the European side. Kylian Mbappe gave Uruguay the first notice with a header in the 15th minute, but his effort went above the crossbar.
Uruguay kept working hard looking to threaten the opposing defence, but lacked creativity to pose much of a threat in the final third. France finally broke the deadlock in the 40th minute. A cross from Griezmann found Varane who, aside from winning above all of his rivals, placed the ball into the far post out of Fernando Muslera’s reach. It was a great goal, and the second one that Uruguay conceded in the tournament. Strange enough, it was the second time they allowed a goal following a set-piece situation, and the second time a centre-back scored against them (Pepe did it in the Round of 16).
Los Celestes had a clear chance to equalise only three minutes later, though. Martin Caceres nodded the ball home following a cross into the box, but Hugo Lloris made a spectacular one-handed save to deny the veteran defender. It was one of the best saves of the World Cup so far. Despite Uruguay’s attacking intentions, the first half ended with a 1-0 lead for France. Les Bleus were in front quite deservedly based on how things happened.
Griezmann kills Uruguay’s dream… with a lot of help from Muslera
Uruguay tried to play with more pace and intensity in the second half, and it showed. Suarez became the team’s focal point of reference on the attacking end, but La Celeste could not create many chances. Oscar Tabarez even sent Maxi Gomez and Cristian “Cebolla” Rodriguez looking to spark things up. But at the same time, Uruguay knew they were taking too many risks. One mistake on defence and they could pay a steep price… and that is exactly what happened.
Following a lost ball in midfield, Paul Pogba charged towards the opposing goal, passed it to Corentin Tolisso and then Griezmann found himself in a decent shooting position. The Atletico Madrid star blasted a 25-yard effort straight to Muslera, but the goalkeeper could not punch it away and instead, sent it towards his own goal. Uruguay came close to equalise to be down by two goals in a 10-second span. Unbelieveable, huh?
Griezmann’s goal essentially killed Uruguay’s chances of any potential comeback.
Uruguay kept pushing the lines forward hoping to find the back of the net, but desperately so. The entrance of Jonathan Urretaviscaya in place of Nahitan Nandez did not have much of an impact, and La Celeste could not become a threat to Lloris, who responded every time he was required.
France did not take too many risks. Didier Deschamps’ men moved the ball around comfortably trying to find spaces in the final meters, and they came close to add the third goal more than a few times. However, Tolisso and Olivier Giroud both were largely inaccurate with their shooting attempts. The same goes for Griezmann, who sent a free kick over the bar in the 89th minute.
Pitana blew the final whistle after five minutes of stoppage time and France ended winning deservedly, as they wanted it more and looked far more accurate. Les Bleus have become the first team to reach the semi-finals and continue to look as a contender, while Uruguay will return home empty handed, but with their heads held high because they never gave up.
Uruguay: Muslera (4); Caceres (5), Gimenez (6), Godin (5), Laxalt (5); Nandez (6) (Urreta (-), 73′), Torreira (5), Vecino (6), Betancur (5) (Rodriguez (5), 59′); Suarez (6), Stuani (5) (Gomez (4), 59′)
France: Lloris (6); Pavard (5), Varane (7), Umtiti (5), Lucas (5); Pogba (7), Kante (6); Mbappe (6) (Dembele (-), 88′), Griezmann (7) (Fekir (-), 93′), Tolisso (5) (N’Zonzi (-), 80′); Giroud (4)
Goals: Varane (0-1, 40′), Griezmann (0-2, 61′)
Referee: Nestor Pitana (ARG)
Yellow cards: Betancur, Rodriguez (URU); Lucas, Mbappe (FRA)
Red cards: None
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