FIFA World Cup 2018: France’s youthful flair meets Uruguay’s gritty resolve

The 4-3 win in vs Argentina Kazan illustrated France’s ability to outscore any other team in the FIFA World Cup, but Uruguay, under Oscar Tabarez, will not be an easy nut to crack.

football Updated: Jul 05, 2018 19:21 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Nizhny Novgorod
FIFA World Cup 2018,France vs Uruguay,Uruguay vs France
France's Kylian Mbappe during training ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2018 match vs Uruguay on July 6, 2018. (REUTERS)

There have been a few intriguing match-ups at the FIFA World Cup 2018 so far but when France and Uruguay meet here on Friday, the fight for a spot in the semi-final will pit two teams with contrasting styles. (FULL FIFA WORLD CUP 2018 COVERAGE)

Didier Deschamps’ France scraped through the group stage with two 1-0 wins and a goalless draw. But when the stakes were upped, against Argentina in the Round of 16, Kylian Mbappe and his mates rose to the challenge.

That 4-3 win in Kazan illustrated France’s ability to outscore any other team in the tournament, something that should hold them in good stead on Friday.

Uruguay, under Oscar Tabarez, will not be an easy nut to crack, however. Led by Diego Godin, they have been one of the best defensive units at the World Cup having conceded one goal so far, in the 2-1 win against Portugal in the Round of 16.

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France star Antoine Griezmann knows Godin and Jose Gimenez, Uruguay’s other defensive mainstay, all too well given that they are teammates at Atletico Madrid.

Which is why he is not very pleased with the prospect of facing them. “They are going to take their time; they are going to fall on every contact. They are going to talk to the referee. This is their game and this is what we do at Atletico. So, we are going to watch their games and we will have to get used to it because the match will be annoying,” Griezmann told reporters one day after France beat Argentina.

There are a few similarities between Atletico and Uruguay but the biggest is the way they have defended teams out of games. And so far, a team whose reputation for rough play preceded its coming to Russia has seen only one player booked.

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On Saturday, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal struggled to create chances and were left frustrated throughout their Round of 16 clash against Tabarez’s side.

France have more pace and will present a tougher challenge. They also have the tools to break down Uruguay’s resolute rearguard and will be high on confidence after recovering from being a goal down to beat Argentina.

To compound matters for Uruguay, Edinson Cavani, the star of the pre-quarter final, hurt his calf in the second half. Uruguay released a statement three days later saying there was no muscle rupture but the Paris Saint-Germain forward is unlikely to be fit to start. That could put the onus of leading the line on Luis Suarez.

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But while Argentina played into France’s hands, allowing them time and space to counter and using a high defensive line at times, Deschamps’ side will expect no such favours from Uruguay.

Kylian Mbappe, Griezmann and Olivier Giroud, in the case the latter starts, will get little time and space when they have the ball. And that is where Paul Pogba can make an impact by getting the ball oftener to Griezmann and Mbappe. He had a good game against Argentina but the Manchester United midfielder is yet to hit peak form this summer.

First Published: Jul 05, 2018 17:34 IST