The first quarter finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia will be between Uruguay and France. Uruguay the South American candidates have the meanest defence in the World Cup with just one goal conceded so far in the tourney – conceded against Portugal in their round of 16 tie. Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez spearhead Uruguay’s attack and have a telepathic understanding of each other; they are also rightly among the top five strikers in the World. Uruguay’s midfield is not very technical and creative barring Rodrigo Bentancur but they are aggressive and combative and win a high number of second balls. Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez lead that mean defence, also colleagues at Spanish club Atletico Madrid. Uruguay play like the Spanish outfit and seem to be allergic to conceding goals.
France on the other hand is a team with bags of talent and are high on confidence after their 4-3 victory over Argentina. The thrilling ability of Golden boy, Kylian Mbappe will be one that will trouble the Uruguayan backline. Antoine Greizmann and Oliver Giroud will add more depth in attack, while Paul Pogba will marshal the midfield with Ngolo Kante. Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane lead the French defence, as talented as the pair is there are still cracks in that defence.
My prediction is a 2-1 victory for France, I feel the French quality in midfield and attack will outmatch the South Americans. However, I will not rule out a Uruguay win.
- Uruguay and France are facing each other for the fourth time at a World Cup, but for the first time in the knockout stage.
- The last two World Cup meetings have both ended 0-0 in the group stage in 2002 and 2010. Uruguay beat the French 2-1 in 1966.
- The Uruguayans won the last encounter 1-0 in June 2013. Luis Suarez scored the winner in a friendly in Montevideo.
- France’s only victory over Uruguay in eight previous matches was a 2-0 win in a friendly in Paris in August 1985.
- Uruguay could equal a national record by winning five consecutive games at a single World Cup. The last time they won their opening four games was in 1930, which was enough to win the tournament.
- They are aiming to make the semi-finals for a fifth time and for the second time in the last three tournaments.
- La Celeste have won their last two quarter-finals in 1970 and 2010. Their last defeat at this stage came in 1966 when they lost 4-0 to West Germany.
- Of Edinson Cavani’s 45 international goals, 12 have been assisted by Luis Suarez.
- Since 1966, only Poland’s Grzegorz Lato and Andrzej Szarmach and Germany’s Michael Ballack and Miroslav Klose (both five) have combined for more World Cup goals than Cavani and Suarez’s four.
- Goalkeeper Fernando Muslera has kept three clean sheets in four games and has made a total of 10 saves so far.
- France are aiming to reach the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 2006.
- France progressed from four consecutive World Cup quarter-finals until losing to Germany at the 2014 tournament.
- They are unbeaten in their last nine World Cup matches against South American sides (W5, D4), keeping a clean sheet in seven of those games.
- Kylian Mbappe has scored three goals so far in this tournament – he is the first teenager to score this many in a World Cup campaign since Pele netted six for Brazil in 1958.
- Only Pele and Germany’s Edmund Conen (four goals in 1934) have scored more as a teenager.
- Antoine Griezmann has scored six goals in his last five appearances in the knockout stage of major tournaments (World Cup and European Championship).
- But he has just two goals from 12 attempts in Russia so far and both were penalties.
- France are unbeaten in every game in which Griezmann has scored (W17, D2).