FRANCE finally showed their potency in attack during the remarkable Round of 16 contest against Argentina, with Kylian Mbappe igniting the World Cup.
Repeating the effort will become even tougher against the stingy defensive structure of Uruguay, who have only conceded one goal so far through four games.
The South Americans hopes however hinge on the fitness of superstar striker Edison Cavani and his ability to overcome a calf injury.
In the second game of the night perennial Cup powerhouse Brazil will look to topple the mighty Belgium and keep their hopes of claiming a sixth crown alive.
First half underway
Uruguay are storming into the box against a nervous looking France defence which hasn’t looked anywhere near its best throughout the World Cup.
Two seperate occasions saw Uruguay end with great chances to get the scoring underway extremely early, but France were able to hold them out.
Kylian Mbappe has continued to show off his Usain Bolt like pace as he breezed past his defender on more than one occasion.
Golden chance goes begging for Mbappe who found himself in more room than he realized and in the end his free header sailed over the bar.
Bugs have plagued several games throughout the Cup and they’ve struck early in this quarterfinal contest. Going after French goalkeeper Hugo Loris.
MMM. Bugs. pic.twitter.com/FogA6xzBJt
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) July 6, 2018
Bad news for Rodrigo Bentancur after picking up a yellow card for a sloppy challenge on Corentin Tolisso. The card means if Uruguay are to advance to the semi-final, Bentancur will miss the clash.
The resulting free-kick was angled in by Griezmann and a perfectly placed header from defender Raphaël Varane saw the ball end up in the back of the net.
“The villain of the quarterfinal four years ago. He could be the hero for France this time,” SBS commentator Martin Tyler said.
— SBS – The World Game (@TheWorldGame) July 6, 2018
Minutes later it was Uruguay who almost had the instant reply off of their own free-kick but somehow Loris was able to keep it out.
At full stretch he batted the ball away before Diego Godin blasted the ball high into the stands.
France’s nightmare record
When France are knocked out of a major tournament, the side that topples them goes on to win the crown. At least that’s how things have unfolded over their past five tournaments.
Their losses have been to Greece (Euro ‘04), Italy (World Cup ‘06), Spain (Euro ‘12), Germany (World Cup ‘14) and Portugal (Euro ‘16).
Matters worse for them is they’ve never beaten Uruguay in a World Cup clash, they’ve drawn twice and lost once.
Over their past five encounters against Uruguay, the men in blue have attempted 77 shots on goal, but have failed to hit the scoresheet.
Uruguay dealt horror blow
In search of their third World Cup title, Uruguay’s hopes have taken a serious hit with the loss of superstar striker Edinson Cavani ahead of their clash with France.
Cavani failed to overcome a calf injury he picked up in the dying stages during the Round of 16 clash against Portugal.
— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 6, 2018
Cristhian Stuani has been brought into the starting line-up in place of Cavani for the South Americans.
France head into the contest with one change in Corentin Tolisso selected as the left winger for the clash.
FIFA’s heartfelt offer
FIFA has sent a letter to the president of the Football Association of Thailand inviting the young soccer players and their coach trapped in a cave to the World Cup.
The letter, signed by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, also sends the best wishes of the organisation to the boys and their rescuers and says the invitation stands should they be rescued in time and are healthy enough to travel.
The letter says the team’s appearance at the final would “undoubtedly be a wonderful moment of communion and celebration.”
The boys have asked the navy SEALs taking care of them in the cave for details about what has happened in the World Cup.
Star striker racing the clock
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez is not saying whether striker Edinson Cavani has recovered from a left calf injury to play against France in the World Cup quarterfinals.
Tabarez says on the eve of the game that he doesn’t want to reveal “that information” because he believes it will give France an advantage to know if the Paris Saint-Germain striker will play.
“I cannot give you all my information,” Tabarez said Thursday. “We don’t get all the information from the French team.”
The veteran coach adds “in less than 24 hours, you will know who will play and who will be on the bench.”
Cavani has scored three of Uruguay’s seven goals at the World Cup, including both in a 2-1 win over Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the round of 16.
He was injured near the end of that game last Saturday.
The 31-year-old did train with his teammates in Nizhny Novgorod earlier Thursday, although he worked out alone for part of the session that was open to journalists.
French defender Adil Rami was less optimistic for the hopes of Uruguay in regaining the world class striker.
“It’s not bad for us that he’s injured,” Rami said according to Goal.
“I had the same kind of injury and it took time. So if he plays against us, he’ll have destroyed science, so stop making us believe that he’ll play.”
Today we’ll find out what #FRA are really made of.
With Edinson Cavani probably not fit to start you have to give them the edge but how can you write off a #URU team that is so solid, has Luis Suarez & has more fighting spirit than any team at the World Cup.
— John Bennett (@JohnBennettBBC) July 6, 2018
Former Middlesbrough striker Cristhian Stuani may get the chance to step out of the shadows for Uruguay should Edinson Cavani fail to recover from a calf problem in time for the game against France.
Everything points to coach Oscar Tabarez choosing the Girona player to partner Luis Suarez up front for Friday’s World Cup quarter-final.
Stuani has scored five goals in 42 games for Uruguay since making his debut in 2012 at 26, but has also been used by Tabarez in a midfield role.
At 31, he comes to the World Cup on the back of a successful first season with Girona in the Spanish Primera Division with 21 goals in 33 games.
He arrived at Girona from Middlesbrough, where had spent two seasons in the Championship and Premier League following three years and more than 100 games with Espanyol in Spain.
Stuani could come in for Cavani who is not expected to start after suffering a calf injury during the win over Portugal. #URU
Matuidi [susp] is the only known absentee for #FRA although Mendy has been struggling due to a minor muscular problem and Sidibe with knee inflammation.
— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) July 6, 2018
Spanish reports have now linked Stuani with a move to Atletico Madrid, but the forward said: “My thoughts are 100 per cent with the World Cup. I do not think about the future too much.
“I have a contract with the club, I’m calm, football is like that and you never know, but I want to focus on the national team and enjoy this moment.”