France are into the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 2006 after seeing off Uruguay with the help of a terrible error by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
In terms of excitement, this quarter-final tie did not come close to Les Bleus’ win over Argentina in the last 16 but will still be remembered for the contrasting fates of the two goalkeepers, with Hugo Lloris producing a contender for save of the tournament while his opposite number made a mistake that was even more memorable.
Raphael Varane headed France into a first-half lead from a free-kick that came straight off the training field, with Antoine Griezmann checking his run before delivering the perfect cross for the Real Madrid defender to glance home.
Uruguay, with injured striker Edinson Cavani failing to even make the bench, almost struck back immediately from a free-kick of their own, but Lloris produced a brilliant diving stop to deny Martin Caceres, before Diego Godin blasted the rebound over.
The second half started with France continuing to control possession, but they were gifted the goal that made certain of their victory.
There seemed little danger when Griezmann let fly from the edge of the area but Muslera misjudged the flight of the ball, flapped at the shot, and saw it loop slowly over the line.
Uruguay, roared on by their huge travelling support, threw bodies forward in the closing stages but could not seriously trouble Lloris again.
Their run of four successive victories is over, as well as their hopes of reaching the final in Moscow on 15 July.
It is France who march on, and they will face Brazil or Belgium in the semi-finals in St Petersburg on Tuesday. Those sides play their quarter-final later today (19:00 BST).
France do what they need to win
France manager Didier Deschamps has been criticised back home for his conservative tactics, but this time he got his approach exactly right.
This was an efficient, rather than a spectacular, display but it was exactly what was needed against stubborn South American opposition.
There were no more fireworks from Kylian Mbappe, for example, although he did waste a glorious chance to open the scoring when he badly mistimed a header.
Instead, France took control of the game in midfield, found a way to hurt Uruguay from the right flank and then struck their first decisive blow from Griezmann’s well-worked set-piece.
France’s second goal gave them breathing space, and added gloss to the scoreline, but they rarely looked troubled in any case and with defensive resilience as well as attacking flair, they will make formidable opponents to whoever they face next.
Uruguay simply outclassed by France
Uruguay’s hopes of reaching the last four of the World Cup for the first time since 2010 were always going to be hit by Cavani’s enforced absence through a calf injury.
While their famed defensive organisation was again evident in Nizhny Novgorod, ultimately they paid the price for having a blunted attack.
Their failure to score for the first time in this tournament was not for the want of trying, however, with eight of their outfield players having attempts at goal.
Noticeably, Luis Suarez was not among them, and although he charged around to try to make things happen for his side in the final third, inspiration eluded him, as it did his team-mates.
Other than Caceres’ header, and Godin’s wild miss with the follow-up, Uruguay were largely kept at arm’s length, and not even the noisy support they received from the stands could change the feeling they were simply outclassed.
What they said
France manager Didier Deschamps: “We had done something big against Argentina and today we have again raised our level. I have a good team that still has plenty of room for improvement.
“You can see our lack of experience sometimes, but we have so many qualities too.
“It definitely won’t be a failed World Cup now.”
Uruguay boss Oscar Tabarez: “We don’t play as well as our rivals, that’s why we lost.
“The boys really gave everything, but France were able to control the match very well. After the second goal, there was a huge gap between the teams.”
Match stats – 10 games unbeaten against South American sides
- France have reached the World Cup semi-final for the sixth time, progressing to the final twice (1998 and 2006)
- France have become only the second team to beat three different South American sides in a single World Cup tournament, after the Netherlands in 1974
- France are unbeaten in 10 World Cup matches against South American sides (W6 D4), since a 2-1 loss v Argentina in 1978 – the joint longest run alongside Italy (1982 to 2010)
- Uruguay received more yellow cards (two) than they had in their previous four World Cup games combined (one)
- France have now scored with each of their last six shots on target at the World Cup
- This was Uruguay’s first competitive game that Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez did not start together since March 2017, a 4-1 defeat by Brazil
- France have lost none of the 20 games in which Antoine Griezmann has scored for them (W18 D2)
- Griezmann has scored seven goals in his last six appearances in the knockout stages of major tournaments
- Varane’s goal was his third for France, with all three of them being headers
- Uruguay forward Luis Suarez failed to have a single touch in the opposition box, and also failed to register a single shot
Source: BBC NEWS