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Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

FIFA World Cup 2018: France beat Uruguay to seal semi-final berth

France reached the FIFA World Cup 2018 semi-finals for the first time in 12 years after beating Uruguay 2-0 in Nizhny Novgorod on Friday.

football Updated: Jul 06, 2018 22:35 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Nizhny Novgorod
Raphael Varane (2nd L) celebrates with Antoine Griezmann (2ndR) and Kylian Mbappe after scoring the opener for France during the FIFA World Cup 2018 quarterfinal against Uruguay.
Raphael Varane (2nd L) celebrates with Antoine Griezmann (2ndR) and Kylian Mbappe after scoring the opener for France during the FIFA World Cup 2018 quarterfinal against Uruguay.(AFP)

France underlined their title ambitions on a windy evening here easing past Uruguay 2-0 through goals from Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann to reach the World Cup semi-finals.

Didier Deschamps’ men needed a glancing header from a set-piece and a goalkeeping error from Fernando Muslera to help them book a berth in the first semi-final in Saint Petersburg next week, where they will now face either Brazil or Belgium.

Even though they were without key forward Edinson Cavani, Uruguay started brightly. In the fourth minute, a cross from the left by Diego Laxalt evaded every player in the box and had the French backline struggling to clear the ball. Then, Cristhian Stuani shot across the goalmouth from a tight angle and had Hugo Lloris in the French goal diving to his right. It, however, harmlessly went wide.

France struggled to impose themselves on the game despite enjoying a greater share of the ball. Their first major chance came in the 15th minute when Uruguay failed to clear a cross. The ball fell to Kylian Mbappe but his weak header was off target.

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Uruguay’s compact formation was starting to frustrate France. Mbappe, Argentina’s tormentor, hardly had a sniff after his early chance with Laxalt reining him in. Neither was Paul Pogba, Corentin Tolisso or N’Golo Kante managing to control the midfield. At the other end, the South Americans came near but not near enough.

In the 39th minute, Rodrigo Bentancur fouled Corentin Tolisso on France’s right flank. The 1998 world champions hadn’t managed an attempt on target yet but with chances coming at a premium, Antoine Griezmann floated a dangerous delivery into the box.

Even though Portugal’s Pepe had breached their defence in the last round, Uruguay are one of the best in international football when it comes to thwarting set-pieces. This time, however, Varane made a clever run and timed his jump and flick with such precision that Muslera could do little. Having managed to hold on a final wave of Uruguayan pressure, France went in at half-time.

The second half started with France finally taking charge. Unlike the first 45 minutes, the Uruguayan flanks were kept in check. In the 59th minute, Oscar Tabarez made a double change, sending in Maximiliano Gomez and Cristian Rodriguez for Stuani and Bentancur respectively.

Two minutes later, disaster struck Uruguay.

With space to shoot, Griezmann had a go. The powerful shot was going straight to the goalkeeper but Muslera failed to hold on and it slipped over his hands into the goal.

Griezmann didn’t celebrate but France knew they had the tie effectively sealed.

Tolisso could have made it 3-0 from the edge of the box but, with no defender to block, couldn’t keep his shot on target.

Uruguay pressed but France held on and by the 89th minute, Jose Gimenez was in tears. A few minutes later, the Uruguay central defender would crumble on to the ground.

First Published: Jul 06, 2018 21:34 IST

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