- A tale of two goalkeepers in Nizhny Novgorod
- France's Raphael Varane put in a commanding performance at both ends
- “I have a high quality squad" said Didier Deschamps
By Adrien Gingold with France
Uruguay were generally expected to be resolute at the back and clinical up front during Friday’s quarter-final at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, but in the end it was France who proved to be defensively sound and efficient in front of goal. La Celeste’s failure to penetrate the French rearguard was in large part due to the excellent performances of Raphael Varane and Hugo Lloris, both of whom shared their thoughts with FIFA.com after the match.
Lloris was involved in one of the encounter’s pivotal moments at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, diving full-length to save a header by Martin Caceres that appeared certain to hit the back of the net. In contrast, the subsequent handling error made by his opposite number, Fernando Muslera, allowed the European side to double their lead and eventually seal a memorable win.
“At this level, it’s all about concentration, really,” explained Lloris. “Today we were really strong, mentally speaking. We knew that we needed to score first, and we did. The second goal was just one of those things; it’s bad luck for Muslera, a goalkeeper that I really like – one of the greatest in Uruguay’s history. The lesson we’ll take from this is that every match is a challenge, and the further we go in the tournament, the more results come down to minor details.”
Many French fans had been expecting Uruguay's central defensive pairing of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez to play a crucial role in the match. Instead, they had the pleasure of seeing their own elite centre-back, Raphael Varane, not only put in a masterful display in the heart of the French defence, but also make a telling contribution at the other end. The Real Madrid man rose to head home Antoine Griezmann’s free-kick for the opening goal – his third for his country – in the 40th minute of the game.
“We knew that set pieces were one of their main strengths, but we showed that it’s one of ours too,” noted the defender, who went on to reveal the secret behind the goal. “I told Antoine to do a little feint and then stick the ball right on the penalty spot. It was something we’d worked on in training.”
France are still unbeaten at Russia 2018 and march on to the semi-finals, much to the delight of Didier Deschamps who became the longest-serving France coach (in terms of matches) in history after the Round-of-16 match against Argentina, and who extended his total number of games in charge to 81 on Friday.
“I don’t necessarily have convictions, but I’ve always been certain about some things,” he said. “I’ve got a high-quality squad. I’m really so proud of them, because they’re the ones who made this happen. They’ve merited this victory.”
Many observers would suggest that Deschamps, who laid the foundations for a solid result and performance in a match that originally promised to be extremely tight, also fully deserves credit for the win.