Sports desk: France reached the World Cup semifinals after a relatively straightforward win over Uruguay courtesy of goals from Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann.
Varane opened the scoring on 40 minutes before Griezmann made it 2-0 just after the hour mark following a dreadful error from Fernando Muslera in the Uruguay goal.
Edinson Cavani was only fit enough to start on the bench following the calf injury sustained in the round of 16 win over Portugal and replacement Cristhian Stuani toiled in his absence as Uruguay crashed out. France, winners in 1998, will face either Brazil or Belgium in the semifinals on Tuesday.
With Uruguay conceding just one goal in 2018 ahead of this match — to Pepe in their 2-1 win over Portugal — France faced the tough prospect of penetrating a resolute backline but in the end they prevailed, thanks in part to Muslera’s howler.
It took a while for Didier Deschamps’ men to find their stride and after a quarter of an hour, Les Bleus should have found the opener. Olivier Giroud’s header found Kylian Mbappe, who had all the time in the world to bring it down and shoot. Instead, he headed first time and the chance harmlessly bounced over.
Uruguay were tenacious without the ball without unduly troubling the France defence but five minutes before half time, they fell behind. Griezmann’s free kick found Varane, whose flicked header evaded Muslera.
Martin Caceres thought he had equalised with a header of his own from a free kick soon after but Hugo Lloris somehow denied him with an incredible reflex stop, and Diego Godin ballooned the rebound over the bar.
Uruguay pushed for the equaliser in the second half but things got worse on 62 minutes as Griezmann doubled France’s lead. The Atletico Madrid forward gathered the ball near the edge of the box and let fly, with Muslera attempting to parry it. To his horror, though, the ball squirmed through his grasp and over the line.
That left Oscar Tabarez’s men, two-time winners of the World Cup, facing a mountain to climb. And tempers soon boiled over when Mbappe fell to the ground after a brief touch from Cristian Rodriguez. Godin and Paul Pogba then got involved in the melee before the situation was diffused with yellow cards for both Rodriguez and Mbappe.
Uruguay, so tenacious in the opening stages, lost their energy as the game petered out as a glum-looking Cavani looked on from the bench. France, meanwhile, now turn their attentions to the last four and Tuesday’s semi in St. Petersburg.