Analysis: Opportunists France unlock Uruguay's defensive resilience
Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar
Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps pulled off a masterstroke by starting Corentin Tolisso in the fixture against the South Americans.
France became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup 2018 with a compelling 0-2 victory over Uruguay on Friday. A Raphael Varane header and an Antoine Griezmann goal, through a horrific mistake from Fernando Muslera allowed Les Bleus to qualify for their first semi-finals in over a decade.
While many had predicted this kind of an outcome, the match wasn't as easy as the result might make it look. Uruguay proved themselves to be a difficult team to breakdown, but Les Bleus took advantage of their lapses in concentration and capitalized on their mistakes perfectly. The game itself got off to a really heated start, with Uruguay's hard-hitting nature of football being on display in the early minutes.
Watch: Uruguay 0-2 France highlights
They seemed to be pumped up for the game and had a really fiery start to the game, before France got control of it and slowed things down. While Uruguay successfully neutralized the threat of Kylian Mbappe, they struggled to attain possession and win the midfield battle, which is of utmost importance against a team like France.
Les Bleus seemed to have fun playing the game to themselves and utilized Uruguay's decision to keep a tight shape by often spraying the ball into the wings, hence stretching their defensive line. While Mbappe was not as dangerous as he was against Argentina, he played really well on the right flank and caused many problems for Diego Laxalt. He also forced Uruguay to send cover to the left, hence freeing up space elsewhere.
Watch: Griezmann scored a goal against Uruguay
While Mbappe was tightly marked, that helped Antoine Griezmann to play a much more free role, something he thrives on. Griezmann moved all over the midfield and was a constant threat for Les Bleus, with his movement and passing being difficult to comprehend for Uruguay. The forward ended up with fantastic results, providing a great assist and also later getting rewards for his hard-work with the fortunate goal.
But Didier Deschamps' masterstroke before the game was replacing the suspended Blaise Matuidi with the much fresher Corentin Tolisso, who was pivotal to France's success on the day. Tolisso might have been drafted in on the left-wing/left central midfield role, but he worked really hard to be the ball-winner for France.
He made two interceptions and won the ball back numerous times, also helping to drive them forward by creating a few chances. Like Griezmann, he got his reward in the form of the assist he provided for the second goal and must have impressed his manager with a hard-working display.
France's midfield as a whole was far superior to that of Uruguay, who decided to play a three-man midfield of Lucas Torreira, Rodrigo Bentancur, and Matias Vecino. But, the might of Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante, who were both superb in their roles, was too much for those three. Griezmann's deep-lying role and Olivier Giroud's bullish style didn't help Uruguay either and their decision to sit deep cost them dearly through Griezmann's goal, which effectively killed the game.
In the attack, nothing seemed to be working for Uruguay, who really lacked a proper creative outlet. The absence of an Edinson Cavani was quite apparent in their game and despite trying everything, they only managed to create that one chance when Martin Caceres' header was superbly saved by Hugo Lloris. They weren't helped by France's stunning defensive performance, with full-backs Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez being fantastic.
The game itself was a rather cagey one for both sides and not as open as in the previous round. There were barely a few chances created, but France showed their evolution in having developed the clinical nature they sorely missed at Euro 2016. It was their depth in midfield and star-studded attack which was too overwhelming for Uruguay and convincingly won them the game.
Published: Sat Jul 07, 2018 12:56 AM IST