France v Uruguay – Friday 7/6 10AM EST.
France and Uruguay have eliminated star-studded nations in the Round of 16. France dug deep and came back from 2-1 down against Messi’s Argentina to win the game 4-3, courtesy of a MOTM performance from 19-year old Kylian Mbappe. Uruguay for their part played a controlled and measured game against Ronaldo’s Portugal.
This should a very tight game. Both teams have solid defences and a very physical, compact midfield. There is no lack of firepower at the front either, with Uruguay counting on Suarez and Cavani while France has Griezmann, Mbappe, Giroud and Dembele. Both teams are known to play cautiously and can come up with goals out of nowhere as Argentina and Portugal learned in the Round of 16.
Griezmann is yet to really light up this World Cup like Mbappe has done and we do not expect him to do so against Uruguay. His good friends from Athletico Madrid form the Uruguayan center back partnership and Diego Godin, arguably Uruguay’s best player, is even Griezmann’s daughter’s godfather. They will know all about him and keep him quiet.
Edinson Cavani, MOTM against Portugal might miss this one due to an injury he picked up in the Round of 16. In his absence, 71-year old coach Oscar Tabarez might opt to reinforce his midfield and have only Luis Suarez at the top, which would make this game even tighter. You can be assured Diego Godin, one of the best center backs at this World Cup, will shore up his defence to prevent France’s varied attacks.
Speaking of France’s attack, Deschamps has a good balance in his team of attackers. Giroud can be very physical, Mbappe showed the World how much pace he boasts in the Round of 16 and Griezmann has been taking majestic free kicks and has so far scored all penalties for France. It will be a good spectacle to see these three clash with Uruguay’s defence.
We expect this match to be a tactical battle with little risk taken on both sides. France have the edge in midfield with the trio Kante-Pogba-Matuidi. Ngolo Kante has been very impressive in all the games he has played. From the bench, they can call upon Tolisso and Nzonzi, who have only embellished their reputation whenever they have played. If the French midfield are at their best, Uruguay might not be able to cope.
This game reminds us of France-Paraguay in the 1998 World Cup, where France had to rely on an extra time goal from center back Laurent Blanc to get past Chilavert. Things could turn out the same way on Friday. A certain Didier Deschamps played in that World Cup and captained France to victory. His experience winning the tournament will be invaluable to his players.
Prediction: 1-0 for France.