France is set as the first 2018 World Cup semi-finalist.
Raphael Varane’s glancing header from Antoine Griezmann’s free-kick and Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera’s terrible handling error on Griezmann’s long-range effort saw Les Blues breeze to a 2-0 victory on Friday.
The win means Didier Deschamps’ side will face the winner of Friday’s second quarter-final, Brazil versus Belgium, on Tuesday for a place in the final.
France was handed a boost before kick-off with news that key Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani was not fit enough to start, and the South American side looked much less threatening without the PSG man leading the line.
Though Luis Suarez tried his best to make things happen for Oscar Tabarez’s team, the game soon fell into a pattern of France dominating possession in the midfield, while Uruguay seemed content to sit and soak up pressure.
Teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe had already spurned a good opportunity when he headed onto the roof of the net before France struck five minutes prior to the break. The danger of Griezmann’s whipped free-kick was magnified by his stuttering approach, and Varane’s ghosting run evaded the defence’s attention, allowing him to steal in front of Cristhian Stuani and head home.
In truth, this was not a classic World Cup knockout tie. Uruguay’s best chance by some distance came moments after going behind, when Hugo Lloris stunned onlookers – and possibly both sets of players – by somehow getting down low to turn away Martin Caceres’ header. Diego Godin skied the rebound from a narrow angle.
In an astonishing 21 attempts, France had never lost a World Cup game it had been winning at half-time, and that streak was not about to end. The second half began in much the same way the first had finished until the stuffing was well and truly knocked out of a subdued Uruguay on the hour mark.
Griezmann tried an ambitious drive from distance and Muslera, too casual in his attempts to swat it away, misjudged the swerve of the ball. He deflected the shot into the net for the Atletico Madrid striker’s third goal of the tournament.
Muslera and his teammates were shell-shocked, and the remainder of the game was played at a somewhat pedestrian pace. There was no real threat of a comeback, and while the fires of Uruguay’s dreams were extinguished, France coasted home to seal a first World Cup semi-final spot since 2006.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)