FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from Uruguay vs France, 0-2

FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from Uruguay vs France, 0-2

by Sajeesh Soman / 8 months ago

FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from Uruguay vs France, 0-2


France reached their sixth semi-final in history as Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann scored apiece to send Uruguay packing.


The Celeste, missing Edinson Cavani through a thigh niggle, were a far cry from the robust outfit that dominated Portugal, and despite having Luis Suarez upfront, never really looked like scoring whilst also appeared nervy at the back.


Les Blues (17/1 favourites to win the World Cup) weren’t perfect either, but did just enough to get themselves over the line, and into the first semi-final appearance since 2006.


The major takeaways from the clash:


#1 Uruguay caught off-guard in another set-piece


From open play, Uruguay were virtually impenetrable coming into this game. They kept three clean sheets in the group and also kept Portugal at arm’s length. However, the resolve was broken when Pepe headed home from a corner after being left unmarked in the box. Now for the second game running, they came a cropper during another set-piece situation.


Antoine Griezmann let in a free-kick that Varane sprinted forward to head home. Once again, there was no one to track his run as the Real Madrid centre-back stole clear of the wall and got his head to Griezmann’s delivery for the opener.


So ironical that a team organised and well-drilled to a great extent is found so vulnerable during a set-piece. Twice.


#2 Uruguay missed Cavani


The only real concern for Uruguay ahead of the clash was the fitness of striker Edinson Cavani, who struck both goals in the 2-1 victory last weekend before picking up a knock in the calf. Just hours before the kickoff the fears were realised when the PSG star was ruled out as he was deemed not fit enough to feature. Not even as a substitute. This opened the door for Christian Stuani, who struck 12 times for Girona in La Liga last season, to start his first game in Russia but offered little going forward.


Suarez and Stuani failed to link up and that was hardly surprising, given the two have rarely paired in Uruguayan colours. The Barcelona ace too, cut a largely isolated figure upfront as he was devoid of proper service and was also beaten on the ball. In fact, he didn’t make a single touch inside the area for 90 minutes – the first time that Suarez has registered such a feat.


Uruguay did manage 4 shots on target in the game, but none of it was mustered by the front two. No Cavani, no party.

#3 A tale of two goalkeepers


Fernando Muslera and Hugo Lloris had both averaged two saves per game coming into the game and hence were always going to play a huge part in the clash. And so they did, but for contrasting reasons.


Uruguay failed to find the net today, but were denied a glorious chance to equalise in the first-half by Lloris. Martin Caceres headed a corner goalward, but the French shotstopper was completely outstretched to deny him on the line. It was one of the finest piece of goalkeeping we’ve seen in the competition so far, and deservedly earned a clean sheet at the end.


His opposite number Muslera though, had an evening to forget. Whilst he did reasonably well to punch clear the danger and also distribute the ball, all the good work was undone with one error in the second-half that literally knocked the stuffing out of Uruguay.


Antoine Griezmann tried a shot from just outside the box and Muslera tried to thump it away, but the ball instead sailed backwards and bounced off inside the line. The blunder was reminiscent of the one by Loris Karius in the Champions League final, and the repercussions of it, were similar too. Uruguay were now two down and trailed to the point of no return.


#4 Giroud draws another blank


France’s three pronged attack sees Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe playing off Olivier Giroud, who’s the focal point of the attack. The former Arsenal hitman made for a dubious inclusion in the 23-man squad despite a tumultuous campaign that saw him jump ships midway. Now, the struggles have seeped through in Russia as Giroud is yet to find the net even after 5 games.


On a day when even Mbappe had an off-day, he still managed to keep 88% accuracy in his passing and laid one key pass. Giroud though, barely troubled. He only impressed aerially, where he won 6 duels. From the open play, he did not manage to get even a single shot on target and was behind only Umtiti and Varane in terms of touches on the ball.


Whilst Griezmann today and Mbappe in the last game have shone and made a difference, Giroud continues to toil but to no avail.


#5 Umtiti and Varane in shoes of Godin and Gimenez


The French centre-back pairing of Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane is promising on paper, but there have been more glamorous pairings in the tournament like Ramos and Pique, or even Godin and Gimenez, largely touted to be the best centre-back partnership in the world. But the Uruguayan duo were slightly off coloured today and instead, Umtiti and Varane stole the show with resolute defending and a near-impeccable partnership.


Both are still very young and only have a few handful games together at the heart of the French backline, but the communication they shared today was terrific and left no space behind. Varane was commanding as ever while Umtiti tried to play the ball upfront with his long crosses. Together, they made 15 clearances to compound misery on a blunt Uruguayan side without Cavani, and their robust partnership is one of the reasons why Suarez failed to get a single touch in the box.


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