France-Uruguay pits speed v defence in World Cup quarters

2018-07-04 16:48
Kylian Mbappe (Getty)

Russia - France picked up two trophies in 1998: One, of course, was the country's only Soccer World Cup title, won on home soil. It was also the birth year of Kylian Mbappe, the 19-year-old who's emerging as one of the biggest stars of the current World Cup in Russia.

"Well, that was a good year for him to be born, even if he didn't see much of the 1998 World Cup," joked French coach Didier Deschamps, who was the captain in '98.

"I'm very happy that Mbappe is a French citizen."

It will be France's searing speed led by Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann against Uruguay's defense anchored by Diego Godin on Friday in Nizhny Novgorod in the World Cup quarter-finals. The winner will face Brazil or Belgium.

Uruguay has only conceded one goal in four World Cup matches, and France has scored seven - most in the 4-3 victory over Argentina in the Round of 16.

In scoring twice against Argentina, Mbappe became the first teenager with multiple goals in a World Cup knockout game since a 17-year-old Pele did it twice (including a hat trick against France) in 1958.

It's a big stage with inevitable comparisons that Mbappe smiled about and then batted away.

"It's flattering to be the second one since Pele," said Mbappe, born in France to a father from Cameroon and a mother from Algeria.

"But let's put things in perspective. Pele's another category."

This is France's seventh quarter-final and its fourth in the last six World Cups dating back to 1998 and the famous side led by Deschamps, Patrick Vieira, Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry - the so-called "Rainbow Team" from a multicultural France.

"In a World Cup you have the top-level players," said Mbappe, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain.

"So, it's an opportunity to show what you can do and what your abilities are. There is no better place than a World Cup."

After three lackluster games in group play, France was electric in its most recent match, particularly in the second-half when it cut up Argentina's plodding defense. Five of France's starters in the first group match had never played in the World Cup, including Mbappe.

"You need some patience," Deschamps said.

Deschamps has compared playing Uruguay to facing Peru, who narrowly lost to France 1-0 in the group stages by a goal from Mbappe.

He termed Uruguay "solid and aggressive" in a French television interview, adding: "These are not qualities displayed by Argentina."

The match will showcase several cross-border friendships.

Griezmann plays at Atletico Madrid where his team-mates are Uruguayan defenders Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez.

Godin is also the godfather of Griezmann's daughter.

While Godin and Gimenez will try to stop Griezmann, Uruguay striker Luis Suarez will be opposing Barcelona team-mate Samuel Umtiti.

"I've always joked ... that I wanted to face Umtiti at a World Cup," Suarez said. "And it came true."

Suarez's running mate, Edinson Cavani, scored both goals in the knockout win over Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal but is nursing a hamstring injury, and it remains unclear if he will play.

His absence would be a blow to the South Americans, but defence is the real key with coach Oscar Tabarez expecting to see less of the ball.

"I think very often there's the mistaken belief that ball possession leads to scoring opportunities," said Tabarez, who took over in 2006.

"If you don't have ball possession, you can still inflict pain."

Read more on: france uruguay swc 2018 soccer

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