Uruguay and France do battle in the first of the quarter-finals at the Nizhy Novgorod Stadium. Sitting on the tougher side of the draw, both sides will be looking to set up a potential match-up with Belgium or Brazil.
France have played in fits and starts throughout the tournament thus far. Their group stage performances saw them start and finishing shakily against AUstralia and Denmark, although their second game against Peru was a less than convincing victory.
In the round of 16, they equated for an Argentinian squad who produced a miracle to qualify for the knockout stages. In a topsy-turvy clash they claimed an astounding 4-3 victory as the explosive speed and skill of Kylian Mbappe proved to be a point of difference.
Uruguay has continued to impress yet the question mark over the fitness of one member of their dynamic duo is a real concern. It seems likely that Edinson Cavani will not play, leaving Luis Suarez as the dominant threat up front. This scenario shouldn’t be fatal for the Uruguayans, and their defensive structure and organisation should be enough to keep them well in the match for a long period.
The South Americans have only conceded just one goal in the tournament to this point and against a French side that still hasn’t struck consistent attacking rhythm, it is an interesting contest to align.
Key Battle – Uruguayan defence vs French attackers
The key to this match rests on the Uruguayan defence against the expensive and talented French forwards. If Uruguay do find a goal can the French respond? To win the World Cup, they will need to gel more effectively in attack and it needs to happen quickly.
Didier Deschamps will need to find the right balance up front and if he can coordinate Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe, France do have the weapons to topple the South Americans.
The trouble is, this is a brave and talented Uruguayan side and one looking hungrily towards their third Cup title.
Apart from the injury to Cavani, Uruguay have no other concerns and will play the same rigid defence that has stood firm all tournament and owns over 350 international caps.
Expected Uruguay XI: Muslera; Caceres, Gimenez, Godin, Laxalt; Nandez, Torreira, Vecino, Bentancur; Stuani, Suarez
France have all their tools at the manager’s disposal aside from Blaise Matuidi, who sits out due to suspension. The biggest challenge for the manager will be, once again, finding a place in the tool box for all the weapons he possesses and getting them working on the same project.
Expected France XI: Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Lucas; Kante, Pogba, Tolisso; Griezmann, Mbappe, Giroud.
The last time these two came together the game ended in an uninspiring scoreless draw at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Head to Head
Draws dominate the history between these two nations and it looms as another tight affair and with France only shading Uruguay historically to the tune of two wins to one, with four draws played out, the numbers don’t present a compelling pattern or trend.
Uruguay will win the first of the quarter-finals and it will happen in one of two ways. If they are able to find the net themselves in normal time, they have the defensively capabilities to park a few Montevideo public buses on the edge of the box and withstand the French attacks.
Alternatively, if the trend of draws continues, they will outlast the French in another of the dramatic penalty shootouts that are becoming quite popular in Russia 2018.
Uruguay 1 France 0