Uruguay and France will raise the curtains of the quarter-final stage at the 2018 Fifa World Cup when both the unbeaten teams and leaders of their respective groups will lock horns with each other in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia Friday. Both the former world champions are high on confidence.
Uruguay have won all their games so far, and have conceded just one goal. They qualified for the last eight after beating Euro champion Portugal in the last 16, riding on a brilliant brace by Edinson Cavani.
On the other hand, France have also played exceptionally well, knocking out two-time world champion Argentina in a last 16 thriller, inspired by Kylian Mbappe.
The match will be a reunion for Atletico Madrid club mates Antoine Griezmann and Lucas Hernandez of France, and Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez of Uruguay. PSG club mates Cavani and Mbappe will also cross paths if the former gets match-fit in the eleventh hour.
France, who outclassed the Argentines with their excessive pace, will try to extend their nine-match unbeaten run against south American sides at the World Cup. Their finishing has been clinical thus far, especially in the Argentina game, and the same will be expected by manager Didier Deschamps when they take on the Celeste.
As a player and manager, Deschamps has a wonderful World Cup record, losing only once in 16 games in the greatest show on earth. His sole World Cup defeat came in the quarter-final against Germany four years ago in Brazil. Deschamps believes it would be close to impossible to get back to the match if they concede first against Uruguay.
“It doesn’t change a thing if Cavani plays or not,” he warned.
He also has to decide the suspended Blaise Matuidi’s replacement.
There have been more red cards than goals the last five times Uruguay and France met. 😳 pic.twitter.com/MD51TqjaKr— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 5, 2018
France midfielder Steven Nzonzi exuded confidence following their 4-3 win over Argentina.
"We showed that we're a real team - a tough team and a strong team. Our goal is to go all the way and I think we have the squad and the players to do that. The energy within the squad is very positive. We have all the ingredients needed," said the Sevilla midfielder.
The tie will be an emotional one for Griezmann, who often expresses his love for Uruguay by labeling it as his “second country”. Godin is also the godfather of Griezmann’s daughter.
“I’m very emotional about them qualifying because I love the country and the people. I’ve got a lot of friends there. It’s going to be a great game to play in and a really emotional experience too,” explained Griezmann.
The last time the remaining eight teams in the World Cup reached the semifinals— 🇺🇾 Tom Fornelli 🇺🇾 (@TomFornelli) July 5, 2018
“I’ve always had at least one or two Uruguayans at my clubs, Diego is a great friend, I’m with him every day, on and off the pitch, and that’s why he’s the godfather of my daughter. He made me want to sign for the club,” said Griezmann.
Uruguay have reached the last eight in the World Cup finals six times, and failed to progress to the semi-final only once. Uruguay’s veteran manager Oscar Washington Tabarez, who became the World Cup’s oldest coach to take a team beyond the group stage, will take charge of his 186th match for the Celeste against the Les Blues. Overall, the France encounter will be Tabarez’s 21st for Uruguay at the World Cup finals. He will likely deploy a 4-4-2 formation with Cristhian Stuani likely to start upfront alongside Luis Suarez, in place of the injured Cavani.
France’s strengths were not lost on Uruguay midfielder Lucas Torreira on the eve of the clash.
He said, "It's going to be a very difficult match. They have very important players in the midfield, with a lot of speed. We analyse their virtues and weaknesses, so we can harm them."
Uruguay will be confident heading to the tie as they boast a great head-to-head record against France. France are yet to score a goal against Uruguay in over 50 years. The Les Blues have lost two and drawn four of their six encounters between 1966 and 2013.