Uruguay vs. France
Quarterfinal, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod
Uruguay’s worst fears were realized Thursday when news broke that star striker Edinson Cavani was likely to miss Friday’s quarterfinal against France because of a calf injury suffered in its round-of-16 win over Portugal. Cristhian Stuani replaced Cavani after he suffered the injury against Portugal and will slide into the starting lineup against France. Cavani scored both of his team’s goals in the Portugal game and has three of Uruguay’s seven for the tournament, so his finishing presence obviously will be missed, though Stuani scored 19 goals for La Liga side Girona in 2017-18.
Cavani will start the game on the bench, but he did send out a rallying cry to Uruguay’s fans on Twitter, writing “we always feel your heat in each game.”
It’s been defense, however, that has carried Uruguay to the round of eight, as it has conceded just one goal in its four previous matches, tying Brazil for the fewest allowed. The task Friday will be bottling up France’s Kylian Mbappe, who became the second teenager in history to score twice in a World Cup game in Les Blues’ round-of-16 win over Argentina (joining some guy named Pele). Argentina gave Mbappe too much room to roam, something Uruguay will look to avoid.
“If you let France have space it will be very difficult,” Uruguay Manager Oscar Tabarez said this week.
Both sides have historical trends that point in their favor. France enters with a nine-match unbeaten run against South American teams at the World Cup, last failing to defeat a CONMEBOL side in the 1978 group stage. Uruguay, meanwhile, has advanced to the semifinals in five of its past six trips to the quarterfinals.
Uruguay: Muslera, Gimenez, Godin, Caceres, Bentancur, Nandez, Torreira, Vecino, Laxalt, Suarez, Stuani.
France: Lloris, Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez, Pogba, Tolisso, Kante, Griezmann, Giroud, Mbappe.
Of note: Stuani fills in for Cavani on Uruguay’s attacking line. For France, Corentin Tolisso replaces Blaise Matuidi, the central midfielder who is sitting out on a yellow-card suspension. Tolisso has played all of 15 minutes in Russia, and Nabil Fekir is seen as a possible substitute as the game goes on.
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When: Friday, 10 a.m. Eastern.
How to watch on TV: FS1.
How to stream online: Fox Sports, the Fox Soccer Match Pass apps and FoxSportsGo.com.
How to watch in Spanish: Telemundo.
How to watch in Canada: Bell Media’s TSN and CTV networks, the TSN GO app and TSN.ca/live.
The winner will face the Brazil-Belgium winner in the semifinals Tuesday in St. Petersburg.
- Previous results: Defeated Egypt, 1-0. Defeated Saudi Arabia, 1-0. Defeated Russia, 3-0. Defeated Portugal, 2-1, in the round of 16.
- Best World Cup finish: Champion, 1930, 1950.
- Notable: It’s the second time over the last three World Cups that Uruguay has advanced to at least the quarterfinals.
- FIFA world ranking: 14. Elo world ranking: 5.
- Previous results: Defeated Australia, 2-1. Defeated Peru, 1-0. Drew with Denmark, 0-0. Defeated Argentina, 4-3, in the round of 16.
- Best World Cup finish: Champion, 1998.
- Notable: Les Bleus now have advanced to at least the quarterfinals three times since their championship in 1998.
- FIFA world ranking: 7. Elo world ranking: 2.
Players to watch
With Cavani out, everyone will be watching to see if Luis Suarez can pick up the slack up top for Uruguay. He’s scored twice in Russia and provided the pass that allowed Cavani to score his opening goal against Portugal. He also has yet to produce the antics that were his weird signature: His deliberate hand ball in the box against Ghana in the 2010 quarterfinals, the biting incident against Italy four years ago, etc. “I have to be one of the calm ones, because there are a lot of youngsters here now in the squad, some for the first time. I must lead by example,” Suarez told reporters this week. “With so many games in the national squad, I’ve learned a lot about how to handle this situation.”
France star Antoine Griezmann, meanwhile, has not scored from the run of play yet in the tournament, with his two tallies coming from the penalty spot. He’ll be going up against Uruguay captain Diego Godin, his Atletico Madrid teammate and the godfather of his daughter. In fact, Griezmann has had so many Uruguayan coaches and teammates over his pro career in Spain that he’s developed an affection for mate, a caffeinated drink popular in Uruguay, and speaks Spanish with a Uruguayan accent.
“Griezmann is very Uruguayan. He tries to look Uruguayan,” Uruguay midfielder Nahitan Nandez told reporters with a wink this week. “It could be a very special match for him. We hope that he behaves well on the field and that he remembers that he is Uruguayan.”
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