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France, Looking Like a World Cup Heavyweight, Advances

July 06,2018 21:14

France advanced to the semifinals of the World Cup for the second time since winning the title on home soil in 1998, clinically dispatching an undermanned Uruguay, 2-0, at Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. France willplay the winner of Friday's second ...


“I told all my players after the match that they can be very proud, keep their heads high,” said Óscar Tabárez, the 71-year-old coach who has transformed Uruguay’s soccer fortunes since taking charge of the team 12 years ago. “I don’t have anything bad to say against them. We all saw that it was not a very common goal, but Muslera has been a very important pillar in all our work up until now.”
In reality, France did not need to play particularly well to overcome a second South American team in the knockout stages. It didn’t, for example, require Kylian Mbappé, its 19-year-old attacking phenom, to show anywhere near the threat he did in the swashbuckling 4-3 victory over Argentina in the round of 16.
A subdued performance from Mbappé was in keeping with a generally low-key game that was played at times in an eerily quiet atmosphere that did nor reflect the prize on offer to the victor.
It was perhaps apt that it was Griezmann who did as much as any other player on the field to liven the proceedings.
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Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera conceded a goal to France’s Antoine Griezmann. Credit Natacha Pisarenko/Associated PressGriezmann, 27, arrived at the stadium clutching a gourd containing mate tea and a flask of hot water, a strange accouterment for a member of the French contingent to carry but a perfectly normal one for an Uruguayan, for whom the tea is a national staple. It symbolized a peculiar fondness, verging on devotion, that the skillful forward has developed for the tiny South American country.
Normally Griezmann commemorates his goals with choreographed celebrations, but on this occasion, he demurred. The reasons were manifold. The coach who set him on his path to stardom was from Uruguay, as are José Giménez and Diego Godín, the central defensive pair who are Griezmann’s teammates at the club level but lined up against him on Friday. Godín is also godfather to one of Griezmann’s children.
“When I started as a professional I was supported by a Uruguayan who taught me about the good and the bad, so I have a lot of respect for Uruguay as a country and I was also playing against my friends,” Griezmann said after the game. “I thought it was normal not to celebrate my goal.”
A game shorn of the drama that has defined much of the tournament was defined by two almost identical moments shortly before halftime.
First, Varane stole ahead of Vecino before beating Cristhian Stuani to the ball to head beyond Muslera, who could not get near the ball as it sped into the goal. Five minutes later, Hugo Lloris, in the French goal, produced a world-class save to keep out Martín Cáceres’s header, which seemed destined to creep into the bottom corner of the net.
Lloris’s performance for France stood in contrast to that of Muslera, who even before his mistake looked vulnerable, failing to deal with crosses into the box that on another occasion French forwards would probably have pounced on.
“Only those that don’t do anything, don’t make mistakes,” Tabárez said in comments typical of his long tenure, in which he has stood by his players even when they have erred. “I told all my players after the match that they can be very proud, keep their heads high. I don’t have anything bad to say against them.”
Tabárez declined to reveal what he said to Muslera, choosing instead to describe him as a vital element in a multiyear process that has allowed Uruguay to return to the top ranks of world soccer.
Tabárez is referred to as el Maestro in Uruguay, not only for his schoolteacher roots, but also for the professorial way in which he has nurtured a generation of players to become the pride of a country of 3.5 million inhabitants sandwiched between the South American superpowers Argentina and Brazil.
Speaking before the game, Tabárez, who walked with a crutch as he battles a chronic illness that affects his nerves, explained that for a nation like his, obsessed with soccer but suffering from shortages of people and infrastructure, it was important to imbue the squad with characteristics particular to the country’s place in the world, its reality.
Without access to the number of high-quality players its South American neighbors can typically call on, Uruguay has built its success on a blend of street smarts, toughness and determination, a combination known locally as the “claw of the Charrúa,” a reference to the indigenous population that inhabited the country at the time it was colonized by Europeans.
Against France, Uruguay, missing Edinson Cavani, a half of its feared strike force, the other member of which is Luis Suárez, belatedly showed its fighting spirit, and only then to participate in an ugly multiplayer melee after Mbappé and a substitute, Cristian Rodríguez, clashed.
Tabárez will return to Uruguay as a record breaker. No other coach has overseen more World Cup games. Whether that run is now over, and the fruits of more than a decade of hard work — Tabárez oversees all elements of Uruguay’s soccer program — will be left to someone else remains unknown. Tabárez said it was not the time to talk about his future.
For France, on the other hand, the focus remains on the present. The team, among the youngest at the tournament, looks fresh and full of possibilities.
“We have some margin to get even better,” Deschamps said.

Here’s how France eliminated Uruguay (by Victor Mather and Kevin Draper):
90’: + 5 for Uruguay
Five minutes of stoppage time here, but it would be a miracle if Uruguay notched one goal, let alone two.
89’: Griezmann Takes Another One
Can Antoine Griezmann make it three from a free kick? No, over the bar.
87’: Mbappé Comes Off
France is killing this game off extremely effectively. And that’s all for Kylian Mbappé, who will be replaced by Ousmane Dembele.
84’: No Punch for Uruguay
Jonathan Urreta tries to get a little fancy and finds some room, but a bad touch lets him down. Uruguay don’t look very threatening right now without Edinson Cavani.
Kevin Draper: Luis Suarez is dummying the ball and trying other inventive things, but Uruguay can’t generate anything. They haven’t even managed a shot on goal this half, despite being down for the majority of it.
79’: Changes for France
Sevilla defensive midfielder Steven Nzonzi is coming on for Corentin Tolisso, as France looks to solidify their defense and wrap this game up.
77’: Giroud Fires … Wide
France keeps the ball away from a frustrated Uruguay for minutes. The move segues into a nice dribble by Mbappé, but Giroud finally ends it by stonking a volley wide.
Kevin Draper: Uruguay doesn’t seem particularly confident in their ability to bypass the French midfield. They are either playing long balls and hoping one of their forwards can knock them down, or sending crosses in from the wing.
73’: Uruguay Makes Final Sub
Uruguay makes their final change, bringing on Monterrey winger Jonathan Urretaviscaya for Nahitan Nández. France still has all three changes available.
Kevin Draper: France is sitting back a bit and letting Uruguay control more possession, but are still knocking the ball around and attacking when they get a chance. Uruguay is going to have a few more chances, but France will have just as many.
74’: France Close!
France has numbers in the box, and Tolisso makes the possibly wrong decision to shoot rather than pass. The decision looks even worse when the shot flies over the bar.
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France’s Kylian Mbappe on the ground. Credit Damir Sagolj/Reuters68’: Fight!
After contact with Rodriguez, Mbappé goes down, and that sets off both sides, as players tangle and there is shouting, pushing and shoving. Godin urges Mbappé to get to his feet. For a moment, it calms down, then starts up again. Yellow card for both Rodriguez and Mbappé.
60’: GOAL! Griezmann Makes it 2-0
France breaks with a four-on-four and Griezmann tries one from distance. It should be a relatively routine save for Muslera, but it hit his hands, pops up, goes over his head and into the goal. A goalkeeper howler!
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France’s forward Antoine Griezmann celebrates with teammates after scoring their second goal. Credit Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesKevin Draper: No complicated analysis needed on the goal: That was a disaster for Uruguay, and leaves them with little chance of a comeback. They’re going to have to really throw men forward and chase this game, a position they aren’t used to being in at this World Cup. In fact, this game is the first time they’ve trailed at all during the World Cup, let alone by two goals.
59’: Changes for Uruguay
Celta Vigo striker Maxi Gómez and Peñarol winger Cristian Rodríguez have come in for Cristhian Stuani and Rodrigo Betancur.
Starting for the injured Edinson Cavani, it is safe to say Stuani never got into the game, and it would be surprising to learn he had more than about a dozen touches.
Uruguay manager Óscar Tabárez has apparently decided the unit on the field wasn’t likely to score, and so he’s playing his hand early.
59’: Uruguay Stronger Now
Uruguay gets some possession and zips the ball around the box a bit. But the move is foiled by a woeful shot by Caceres, miles in the sky.
56’: Uruguay Strikes Back
Bentancur, whose foul set up the free kick that gave France its lead, appears to try to make amends with a long range shot, Too high.
Kevin Draper: Uruguay seems to be playing faster this half, leading to attacking opportunities, but also to fouls and bigger gaps in the midfield.
53’: Pavard Goes High
France is bossing the game a bit now. A corner is cleared, but Pavard drills a shot from distance on the rebound. Over the bar.
51’: Dangerous Free Kick for France
Kylian Mbappé sends a free kick into a tangle of French and Uruguayan bodies, but the first contact is with keeper Muslera’s fist.
Kevin Draper: For a team with such an intelligent defense, Uruguay gives away a number of free kicks in dangerous areas, which seems especially stupid considering that’s how France got the only goal in this game.
48’: Danger for Uruguay
Uruguay almost blunders into giving away a goal. Goalkeeper Fernando Muslera was way too casual on the ball, and Griezmann came close to blocking his rushed clearance into the goal.
47’: Free Kick for France
First free kick of the half to Antoine Griezmann: he loops it over his attackers and straight to the keeper.
46’: Here We Go
Uruguay immediately tries to push forward but France’s midfield takes it away and push forward.
Who Is Cristhian Stuani?
From Gonzalo Higuain to Luis Suarez to Edinson Cavani, modern Uruguay has always had world class strikers. But with Cavani is out, it’s time to get to know his replacement, Cristhian Stuani.
Stuani is a bit of a journeyman, bouncing around Italy, Spain and England before finding a home at Girona. He scored the 5th most goals in La Liga this season, behind guys like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. He made a number of substitute appearances for Uruguay at the last World Cup, and has been a regular on the national team for the last six years.
The Numbers
The halftime stats offer some hope for Uruguay. France has played the deliberate short-passing game, completing 209 passes to Uruguay’s 114. But Uruguay’s more direct style has kept it on par in shots: it has 7 to France’s 6. Moreover, Uruguay has four shots on target; France has just one, its goal.
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Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris of France makes a save in the first half. Credit Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA, via ShutterstockHalftime: France 1, Uruguay 0
Kevin Draper: Despite being down a goal, that was a pretty good first half performance for Uruguay. They completely neutralized Kylian Mbappé, and snuffed out practically every dangerous-looking French attack, while getting a number of shots on goal at the other end of the field.
45’: Great Save by Lloris!
Save of the game! Torreira takes a free kick and Caceres is there for a close-in header. But Lloris dives right and makes a one-hander. The ball dribbles loose and Godin arrives, but can’t bundle it in. Great chance for Uruguay.
42’: Uruguay Pushing Now
Uruguay pushes forward in response and Nandez fires a sudden shot from 35 yards that is right on target. But Lloris is up to it and makes the save.
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France’s Raphael Varane scored in the first half. Credit Damir Sagolj/Reuters39’: GOAL! France Leads 1-0
France 1-0. Griezmann takes the free kick off that foul, lofts it in, and Varane rockets it in with his head.
Kevin Draper: That French goal was just what this game needed to liven up a bit. Uruguay hoped it could win 1-0 with an impenetrable defense and a moment of Luis Suarez magic, but now it’ll have to chase the game.
39’: Yellow for Betancur
Bentancur picks up a yellow for taking down Tolisso from behind. Tolisso executed a nice double roll on that foul. Dangerous free kick for France!
35’: Vecino Blocked by Lloris
Uruguay gets a good chance out of nothing, as the last in a succession of 50-50 balls bounces to Matías Vecino in the box, and he gets off a half-volley that ultimately doesn’t trouble Hugo Lloris enough.
35’: France on the Breakout
Samuel Umtiti passes forward, and Mbappé nabs the ball at the corner. He has a little space for once and shoots a ball past the outstretched hand of Muslera. It rolls across the length of the box slowly, without a lot of defenders around. But absolutely no French players are in sight.
34’: Yellow for Hernandez
Lucas Hernandez of France blatantly grabs the jersey of Nandez to slow him down. Nothing subtle about that. A clear yellow card.
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France’s Kylian Mbappe and Uruguay’s Matias Vecino. Credit Jason Cairnduff/Reuters31’: Mbappé Misses a Chance
Pavard, who has been active, sends in a nice cross with three Frenchmen in the box, Giroud, Mbappé and Tolisso. But it kind of rolls over Mbappé’s feet and skitters out of play. That could have been a good chance.
27’: Uruguay Hassling Mbappé
Kylian Mbappé and Diego Laxalt get tangled at the sidelines. They don’t seem happy with each other This game has been physical, with a number of stoppages for injured players.
Kevin Draper: Uruguay’s early brightness has dulled, and the match is becoming the French-controlled affair we expected. France has 63 percent of the possession and twice as many completed passes, as they are probing for openings while Uruguay makes riskier, longer and more direct passes when they get the ball.
26’: Another Corner for France
Kylian Mbappé slides into a dangerous area, but Uruguay clears it for a corner. Again, Griezmann takes it, but this time goes short.
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Uruguay’s Martin Caceres, left, Nahitan Nandez and France’s Olivier Giroud. Credit Franck Fife/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesRough Start
We are 24 minutes in, and there have already been 11 fouls committed, six of them by Uruguay. No yellow cards yet, but with the rate players are slamming into each other a half second late, they’ve got to be coming.
23’: Pavard Pushing
Benjamin Pavard pushes forward and forces a corner for France. Griezmann sends it in, but it’s cleared readily.
19’: Pogba Sends One Sailing
France puts together some good passing in the Uruguay half, but when Paul Pogba gets the ball he launches a shot from 35 yards that sails far over.
Kevin Draper: Uruguay’s defense took seriously how badly Kylian Mbappé pillaged Argentina’s defense in the last game, or perhaps Uruguay’s defense is just better (probably both). Either way, they haven’t allowed him to get behind them or make any marauding runs. France’s attack has mostly been crosses into the box.
15’: France Counters
On the other end, Olivier Giroud heads a ball across the goal to Kylian Mbappé, but he can only loop his header over goal. It probably didn’t have enough power to trouble Fernando Muslera anyway.
15’: Uruguay Threatens on Corner
Lucas Torreira takes a corner for Uruguay, and Gimenez gets off a decent header, perhaps lacking pace. Hugo Lloris dives and punches it away.
11’: Free Kick for France
After some rolling around by France, Antoine Griezmann gets a free kick lofts one in; Varane gets a head on it but it goes wide.
8’: Giroud Up Front
France gets the ball in to Giroud in front of goal, but he gets only the barest of toes on it. Giroud is playing all by himself up front in the dead center.
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France’s Benjamin Pavard duels for the ball with Uruguay’s Cristhian Stuani. Credit Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press6’: Uruguay Advances
Uruguay advances, and Stuani shoots a cross right past goal, but there’s no one there! Agonizing for Uruguay, which may have to fight for chances in this game.
Kevin Draper: Uruguay is a stout defensive team and missing one of their strikers, and so the conventional wisdom says they would bunker down and turn this game into a slog. But they have already gotten in behind France’s defense twice, and their attack isn’t as Luis Suarez-focused as you might expect.
4’: Chance for Uruguay
Four minutes in, the first good chance of the match goes to Uruguay, after France flubs a ball in the midfield.
Giroud Down
As Olivier Giroud writhes on the ground, a reminder: If you think Neymar is the only player who oversells his flops, keep a close eye on Luis Suarez today.
Kickoff!
Uruguay in sky blue, France in white. Edinson Cavani is on the bench, but he could be used as a sub for Uruguay.
Those Anthems
It’s the World Cup of soccer, but in a way it’s also the World Cup of national anthems, as the patriotic tunes get a workout before every game. You all have your favorites, but I vote for 1. France, Les Marseilles. To the barricades! 2. Germany, written by an actual good composer, Haydn. 3. Uruguay. So jaunty! 4. Russia, Stirring. Missing in action, sadly: Canada. — Victor Mather

Interactive Feature
Messi’s gone. Ronaldo’s gone. Germany’s long gone. But Spot the Ball has survived the World Cup knockout round! To celebrate, we’ve pulled some photos from the round of 16 and made one very important change — we removed the ball. See if you can guess where it was.

OPEN Interactive Feature

World Cup 2018 (Soccer),Soccer,France,Uruguay

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