France created history. It not only scored its first ever goal against Uruguay in 50 years but also toppled the South Americans by two goals to nil to become the first team to enter semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup 2018 on Friday.
France has emerged as a giant killer of South American teams. First it eliminated Argentina in the round of 16 and today it disposed off the challenge of Uruguay.
For France, the pre-tournament favourites, the win came on expected lines as it assured itself a berth in the round of 16 with wins in first two group matches. In the third match, with an experimental side, it held Denmark to a draw, the first goalless game of the current World Cup. And in pre quarter finals, it defeated Argentina 4-3 in a pulsating game.
The first quarter-final played at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in saw Raphael Varane and Antoinne Griezmann scoring the two goals as France reached their sixth semi-final at the World Cup.
A Fernando Muslera howler in the 61st minute gave France a 2-0 lead in what turned to be one of several stunner of the current World Cup. Griezmann’s powerful shot headed straight to Muslera who surprisingly failed to collect it cleanly. The ball ended up at the back of the net.
Earlier, Raphael Varane had scored with a clinical header in the 40th minute to give France a 1-0 lead. The first half didn’t see any clear-cut chances for either of the teams.
In fact Uruguay had started with a clear win record in the group matches and looked unbeatable with a team that does not believe in conceding goals. But today was a new day. French wrote a new chapter in the history of World Cup.
Playing without their star striker Edinson Cavani, the South Americans may have felt handicapped in a game in which the French did not leave anything to chance.
Nahitan Nandez had a chance for Uruguay from close range. Uruguay were the better team in the first quarter but they hardly troubled French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Kylian Mbappe had a few good chances for France in the first half but he couldn’t convert them.
He had an excellent chance in the 20th minute when his header from six-yards went way over the goal post. After initial pressure from Uruguay, France got hold of the proceedings and started to dictate the play.
Speedy Mbappe exposed the Uruguay defence again in the 34th minute after outrunning Diego Laxalt in the right wing but his ball went past everyone. Lucas Torreira was alive to the danger then and cleared it.
The goal that came off Antoine Griezmann’s cross had found Varane in the box. Varane glanced his header out of Fernando Muslera’s reach and gave France the lead. Martin Caceres had a chance to equalise after Varane’s goal but the French goal keeper stretched to his extreme right to thwart the ball out for a Uruguay corner.