Who? Uruguay - France
Where? Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod
When? July 6, 16:00 (CET local time)
Uruguay (Gilad Seroussi)
We are still on our journey! It was very difficult, Uruguay even conceded a goal for the first time in Russia 2018, but in the end the European champions couldn't breach the formidable Uruguayan defense that kept its marginal advantage until the final whistle. On we go to our next battle, and each time the bar is set higher, now facing the mighty French who sent Uruguay's neighbors home.
Tabarez is satisfied with the formation and style of play in the last two games; a combative take of the traditional Diamond formation, with Bentancur as the untraditional No. 10. But upfront there will probably be an important change, as it doesn't seem likely that Cavani, el Matador, will be fit for the important match. Maybe not in his most clinical version in the group stages, but Cavani is playing very well so far in the World Cup and scored the last 3 goals for Uruguay. In recent training sessions Stuani took Cavani's place alongside Suarez, and he will probably do so against France. While not as good as Cavani, Stuani had a terrific season in Girona, arguably the best in his career, and he will add protection when defending set pieces and threat in attacking set plays; something not to be treated lightly, as it's probably Uruguay's main threat apart from the quick transitions.
Without El Matador, Laxalt's brilliant performance in the last couple of games will be even more crucial for Uruguay's quick attacking efforts. Another key player is Lucas Torreira, who will need to fight off, again, the opponent's midfield and attacking lines packed with quality and physically intimidating players (not only for the 1.78 meters youngster). He did really well before, but as I said the bar is set higher now.
If in the group stage I could have written about Uruguay under the new label of "favorites", this label is long gone by now. But they've won the respect of their opponents being a formidable, tough and organized team, where each player runs until he can't run anymore. Once again Uruguay will set off to prove it's not only about talent and individuals. Vamos Uruguay noma!
France (Omri Tancman)
When thinking of one French player who could easily be integrated and blended within the Uruguayan national team, one name comes up immediately and that is Antoine Griezmann. For Griezmann the blending goes far beyond his ability. In his case, the blending is cultural and historical.
After being rejected from several clubs in France when he was younger, Griezmann decided to cross the border and take his chances with Spanish club Real Sociedad. The first coach who gave him any chances was a Uruguayan, Martin Lasarte. Furthermore, one of his closest teammates at the time, who used to drive him to practices was Uruguayan either, Carlos Bueno. Bueno and Griezmann have established friendly relationship, and one of their current results is Griezmann’s habit to drink Mate, the famous South American drink.
But Griezmann’s ties to Uruguay do not end with his period in Sociedad. Since 2014 he is collaborating with Uruguay’s starting center backs, Godin and Jimenez. Apparently, these close ties and maybe somewhat South American fighting mentality of Griezmann, enabled him to even tweet some cheerful tweets supporting his fellow Uruguayan teammates which will become rivals on Friday.
With the last two meetings in world cups between France and Uruguay ending scoreless, perhaps the best man to break the draught is the one who knows best is opponents from the inside. In this case it is Greizmann.