NIZHNY NOVGOROD: France coach Didier Deschamps warned that there is more to come from his side after they comfortably beat Uruguay 2-0 on Friday to become the first side to reach the World Cup semi-finals.
A fine header from Raphael Varane and an Antoine Griezmann shot that was fumbled by Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera gave France victory over a South American side that sorely missed injured striker Edinson Cavani.
It is the first time France has been in the last four since 2006 and sets up a mouth-watering clash against either Belgium or Brazil.
Deschamps said his team had “again raised our level” after the 4-3 victory over Argentina in the last 16.
“I have a good team that still has plenty of room for improvement,” Deschamps told BeIN Sports. “You can see our lack of experience sometimes, but we have so many qualities too. “In any case, it definitely won’t be a failed World Cup now, and we’ll wait to find out our opponents and see what happens.”
France took the lead in the 40th minute from the unlikely source of Varane, as the defender glanced home a fine header from Griezmann’s free-kick. It was only the Real Madrid player’s third goal for France and represented redemption for Varane, who was largely blamed for the goal that saw France lose at the quarter-final stage to Germany four years ago. Griezmann, who counts several of the Uruguay players as close friends, scored a second in the 61st minute, but it was mostly due to a howler from Muslera.
The usually dependable stopper flapped at Griezmann’s 20-yard shot and agonisingly saw the ball float over the line. It was Griezmann’s third goal of this World Cup, but his first not from a penalty. That goal secured the victory but did not end the drama in Nizhny Novgorod, as Uruguay’s frustration boiled over in the 67th minute when Kylian Mbappe fell to the floor.
Uruguay skipper Diego Godin remonstrated with the teenager and asked him to get up, then tried to pull him from the turf, sparking a melee that involved most of the players. Deschamps even come onto the pitch to try to calm tempers. France’s victory was merited — they had the bulk of possession and always looked the more likely to score.
They might have opened the scoring as early as the 15th minute when Mbappe mistimed a close header. The lightning-quick Mbappe and Griezmann struck fear into the Uruguayan defence all afternoon.
In midfield, France’s N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba snuffed out any potential threat posed by Uruguay and up front for La Celeste, Luis Suarez cut an isolated and agitated figure.
Increasingly, Suarez vented his frustration with Argentine referee Nestor Pitana, who, coincidentally, was the official in charge of France’s quarter-final 2014 defeat. The Barcelona star was partnered by Cristhian Stuani after a week of will-he-won’t-he speculation surrounding Cavani ended with the Paris Saint-Germain striker failing to recover from a calf strain. Without Cavani, Uruguay posed little threat.
A tight and nervy game burst into life after Varane’s goal. Until that point Uruguay had struggled to get into the French penalty area, but within four minutes of the goal would have been level except for an exceptional save by Hugo Lloris.
The French skipper saved superbly with one hand from defender Martin Caceres, whose header from a free kick look destined to go in. Diego Godin could have scored from the follow-up, but that was the closest the South Americans would come to scoring all afternoon.
The Express Tribune's analysis of FIFA World Cup 2018's Groups G and H
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