World Cup 2018: Miserly Uruguay present a challenge for France

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The French are yet to peak in the competition but they can pick no better time to do so than against the stingy Uruguayans...

Friday will see France and Uruguay ready themselves for a titanic quarter-final bout at the World Cup 2018.

France head into the game as firm favourites. Win a thumping defeat of Argentina (4-3) in the previous round, the French will have La Marseille on repeat as they seek their first world champions title in nearly 20 years.

Les Blues, under Didier Deschamps, will look to carve out openings as they did against their previous South American opponents. Kylian Mbappe will be expected to use his lightning pace and quick feet that set the stage alight on 30th June against Argentina. Antoine Griezmann, with two goals to his name, and Olivier Giroud are expected to start alongside the Paris Saint-Germain attacker.

The question remains if France’s midfield can set a dominating tone in this fixture with Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante expected to create at will and plug gaps respectively in the middle of the park. Blaise Matuidi will sit out the fixture owing to a second yellow he’d picked up. His place could be filled in by Corentin Tolisso, who was an able deputy in his compatriot’s position.  

The defence should remain unchanged with Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane forming a strong centre-back relationship while Benjamin Pavard’s world beater effort and all-round solid display will have certainly gained him newfound respect in the French contingent. He is expected to begin at right-back while Lucas Hernandez will man the fort at left-back.

If the pressure on France is immense, Uruguay have their own terms and conditions to fulfil from a football-mad nation back in Latin America. The coastal nation land-locked by two of the world’s greatest heavyweights will look to go further in the world’s most prestigious competition.

Mbappe v Suarez

However, they’ll need to do so possibly without their talisman – Edinson Cavani - who picked up a niggle in their hard-earned win over Portugal. The 31-year-old will be sorely missed after his spectacular match-winning brace.

In his place, Luis Suarez of Barcelona is expected to carry the gauntlet while Oscar Tabarez, the 71-year-old Uruguayan coach, is expected to throw-up no surprises for his starters in this do-or-die clash.

If Cavani misses out, it will tempt a change of formation into a five-man midfield, with the number 9 Suarez as the lone man up top. Rodrigo Bentacur will retain his place while Lucas Torreira, Nahitan Nandez and Matias Vencino will be expected to anchor and shut-out and French incursion into the middle of the park.

Tabarez has the option of employing Christian Stuani and dropping Suarez deeper or if he wants to introduce Cristian Rodriguez into the middle of the park and nullify the French further up the field. The second seems more likely.

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The back four which so effectively shut out Ronaldo’s Portugal are all expected to begin, with Diego Godin, Jose Gimenez, Diego Laxalt and Martin Caceres all providing cover to 32-year-old Muslera in goal.

Will France shirk off their Euro 2016 final defeat and rise up to the occasion or will Uruguay steadily all but catapult themselves into the big time, with a legitimate shot at making their nation a ‘three-time winner’ of the greatest football spectacle in the planet?

All to play for in Nizhny Novgorod, with kick-off at 10:00 PM Malaysia time. 

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