France beat Uruguay 2-0 to secure World Cup semifinal spot
Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann struck either side of halftime as France earned a World Cup semifinal berth with a 2-0 victory over Uruguay here on Friday.
France beat Uruguay 2-0 in the World Cup quarterfinal on July 6, 2018, in Russia. [Photo: IC]
Varane sent a glancing header into the bottom corner after a Griezmann set piece before the Atletico Madrid forward saw his long-range 61st-minute strike slip through the hands of Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
France have now set up a semifinal clash against the winner of Friday's other quarterfinal between Brazil and Belgium.
"We knew that [their defenders] are very strong in the air so we tried to put tall players up front and give them trouble," Griezmann said after the match. "We knew we didn't have to accept their style. We had to stay positive."
It was Uruguay's first defeat of the tournament and marked only the second time out of seven that they have lost a World Cup quarterfinal.
Celeste coach Oscar Tabarez admitted that France were the stronger team and deserved to win.
"We were lacking what all teams lack when they lose," he said. "We didn't play as well as our rivals. We really made a huge physical effort in the first 20 minutes but then we weren't able to exploit the chances that we had. Then they scored and that had a huge impact.
"We made some substitutions but we weren't able to change the situation. The boys gave everything but France were able to control the match very well and after the second goal there was a big difference between the two teams. We couldn't control their strengths and they were the better team."
The South American side were dealt a blow before the game when striker Edinson Cavani was left out of the match day squad, having failed to recover from a calf injury. He was replaced in the starting eleven by Girona forward Cristhian Stuani.
France also made one enforced change to the team that beat Argentina 4-3 in the round of 16, with Bayern Munich's Corentin Tolisso replacing suspended Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi.
Uruguay pushed France onto the back foot early and Stuani shot across the face of goal after receiving the ball on the right flank.
However France slowly gathered their composure and began to move the ball with more fluency. Their first clear chance came when Olivier Giroud met Benjamin Pavard's cross at the far post by nodding into the path of Kylian Mbappe, but the Paris Saint-Germain forward sent his looping header over the bar.
France finally broke Uruguay's resistance in the 40th minute after Rodrigo Bentancur hacked down Tolisso. Griezmann's delivery from the resultant set piece was inch-perfect and Varane rose highest to direct the ball into the bottom corner.
The goal prompted Uruguay to immediately spring to life. The Celeste had their best scoring chance of the half just moments before the interval when Martin Caceres' header forced a superb diving save from Hugo Lloris following Torreira's free-kick. The rebound fell for Diego Godin who fired his shot wide.
Uruguay emerged from the break with attacking intent and Bentancur sliced a shot wide after Samuel Umtiti's failed attempt at a clearance.
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez made a double change just before the hour mark in a bid to spark his team. Maxi Gomez came on for Stuani and Cristian Rodriguez replaced Bentancur.
But it was France who lifted another gear. They doubled their lead in the 61st minute when Griezmann found himself in space and drilled a speculative 30-yard effort straight at Muslera. But the Galatasaray keeper let what should have been a routine save spill straight through his gloves and into the net. Tolisso then sent a curling shot just over the bar as Uruguay suddenly looked deflated.
Tabarez introduced forward Jonathan Urretaviscaya in the 73rd minute, replacing midfielder Nahitan Nandez, as the Celeste began to probe the final third. But France stood firm to secure their place in the competition's last four.