World Cup: France reach semi-finals for the first time since 2006 after 2-0 win over Uruguay

Matias Vecino (left) of Uruguay in action against Raphael Varane of France.
Matias Vecino (left) of Uruguay in action against Raphael Varane of France.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
France's Paul Pogba in action with Uruguay's Jose Gimenez in the match on July 6, 2018.
France's Paul Pogba in action with Uruguay's Jose Gimenez in the match on July 6, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS
France's forward Antoine Griezmann (right) celebrates scoring his team's second goal with Kylian Mbappe.
France's forward Antoine Griezmann (right) celebrates scoring his team's second goal with Kylian Mbappe.PHOTO: AFP
Argentine referee Nestor Pitana separates players during the match.
Argentine referee Nestor Pitana separates players during the match.PHOTO: AFP
Uruguay forward Luis Suarez argues with France's defender Samuel Umtiti.
Uruguay forward Luis Suarez argues with France's defender Samuel Umtiti.PHOTO: AFP

Franz Beckenbauer may soon have company.

Didier Deschamps’ bid to become only the second man to win the World Cup as both captain and manager has gathered pace. 

First Argentina and then Uruguay have been beaten as France have turned themselves into the scourge of South America.

Les Bleus have found different ways of winning and different match-winners. 

Kylian Mbappe eviscerated Argentina. Antoine Griezmann eliminated Uruguay, registering a goal and an assist, even if he barely celebrated his strike.

It may have been from a combination of sympathy and surprise. Fernando Muslera, the goalkeeping stalwart of Uruguay’s fine decade, spilt a tame 25-yard shot. It looped up over him and in.

It meant Uruguay, who had conceded only once in 2018, were breached twice in 22 minutes. 

 
 
 

France’s opener was a moment of redemption for one of a generation who have promised more than they have delivered on the international stage. Four years ago, Raphael Varane lost a header to Mats Hummels when the German scored the lone goal of a World Cup quarter-final. Yesterday, Varane was the centre-back to strike.

While free-flowing football knocked out Argentina, set-piece expertise was required against their neighbours. Uruguay were obdurate opponents for France. At times, they were also unpleasant ones, nasty and niggly, goading and provoking. They swarmed around the French.

Early fouls on Olivier Giroud and Lucas Hernandez offered an indication of Uruguay’s approach. Luis Suarez, with an elbow to Benjamin Pavard’s ribs, offered most menace.

Yet Uruguay’s abrasive approach cost them. Rodrigo Bentancur was cautioned for bringing down Corentin Tolisso. The greater punishment was still to be exacted, though. Griezmann delivered the free kick, Varane met it with a glancing header that beat Muslera. France’s first attempt on target yielded a goal.

Uruguay trailed for the first time in Russia but responded almost immediately. Hugo Lloris produced one of the saves of the Cup when plunging to his right to repel Martin Caceres’ header. Still Uruguay could have scored, but Diego Godin lashed the rebound wide.

Then came Muslera’s mistake and, while Uruguay had kept Kylian Mbappe relatively quiet, with Diego Laxalt policing him and others riling him, Oscar Tabarez’s side had too much to do without one of their trump cards.

Uruguay were shorn of their match-winner against Portugal, the injured Edinson Cavani. It left too great a responsibility with Suarez but though substitute Cristian Rodriguez thudded a shot into the advertising hoardings, it felt an admission of defeat when defender Jose Gimenez was in tears even before the final whistle.

While Uruguay had tried to get France to lose their tempers, and Paul Pogba almost did, he was not sent off and the South Americans were sent home.