FIFA World Cup 2018: Rio error off Raphael Varane’s back after France victory
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FIFA World Cup 2018: Rio error off Raphael Varane’s back after France victory

When Raphael Varane headed France ahead vs Uruguay in the FIFA World Cup 2018 quarter-final, it was redemption of sorts for the defender after an error in 2014 saw Les Bleus get knocked out.

football Updated: Jul 08, 2018 02:51 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Nizhny Novgorod
FIFA World Cup 2018,World Cup 2018,Raphael Varane
It was a costly mistake from Raphael Varane that played a key role in France’s ouster from the last tournament.(REUTERS)

When the final whistle blew at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium here on Friday, it was redemption of sorts for one particular man on the field.

Not only had Raphael Varane scored the opening goal but he also marshalled the defence expertly as France beat Uruguay 2-0 to book a place in the semi-finals.

Four years ago, when France met Germany at the same stage of the World Cup, Varane had been tasked with marking Germany’s Mats Hummels during a free-kick.

It hadn’t turned out well for the French defender as Hummels out-jumped him and headed in what turned out to be the winning goal of the match.

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It was a costly mistake from Varane that played a key role in France’s ouster from the tournament. Back then, France had a young side that wasn’t expected to be on the same plane as the experienced Germans.

Four years later, Didier Deschamps has led another young team to the tournament but like Varane, it is a team with players wiser from their experience in Brazil.

“To be honest, he had been beaten by a player who had already beaten many defenders in the past,” Deschamps said, looking back to the quarter-final in Rio.

“In any case, I am very happy for Raphael. He has gained four years of experience. I think that’s become clear. All these players (who were involved in 2014) have grown, not necessarily in height but in experience. So we have more maturity and more baggage.

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“That’s what I told them at the end of the match actually. I remembered the situation from four years ago; I had also suffered with them. Today, it’s the opposite situation. This is football for you; it’s often in the tough times that you learn the most. Both for him and for us, it’s good that he managed to score that first goal,” said Deschamps.

More important than his goal, however, it’s the sense of tranquility Varane has brought to the French backline that is proving to be key in the country’s quest for a second World Cup title.

In a team of youngsters, Varane has emerged a true leader at the back. While France conceded three goals against Argentina, which included an outlandish strike from Angel Di Maria and an inadvertent finish from Gabriel Mercado, they haven’t conceded a goal in any other game this summer in Russia.

While it is the French attack fans have been gushing about Varane and Samuel Umtiti have quietly gone about their business in central defence.

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The likes of Corentin Tolisso, Blaise Matuidi and N’Golo Kante, at times even Paul Pogba, have played their parts in providing an added layer of shield to the backline.

On Friday, when Uruguay started well, Varane and Umtiti managed to keep Luis Suarez silent. Without any significant involvement from Suarez, Uruguay’s attack seemed to lack bite.

The Barcelona forward was instantly closed down in possession and was kept an eye on when without the ball. Suarez often moved away to the flanks and Uruguay’s attacks fizzled away towards the second half.

With Belgium up next in the semi-finals, Deschamps will hope Varane’s maturity as a defender comes to the fore against the likes of Romelu Lukaku.

First Published: Jul 07, 2018 19:45 IST