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Uruguay AND France meet in battle of contrasting styles   

By Michael Place NIZHNY NOVGOROD Russia (Xinhua) -- If ever there were a battle of contrasting styles, Friday’s Uruguay-France World Cup quarterfinal clash is it.

Under the unassuming leadership of Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay have reaped the benefits of defensive solidity, tactical discipline and enviable team spirit, not to mention a couple of world class strikers.

The Celeste have conceded just one goal at this tournament on their way to four straight victories, making them the competition’s most frugal outfit alongside Brazil.

The linchpins of the backline have been Atletico Madrid’s central defensive pairing of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez. They have been ably assisted by full backs Martin Caceres and Diego Laxalt.

Uruguay’s willingness to concede possession and hit teams on the counter-attack has meant that a lack of world-class talent in midfield has not really mattered. Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, while not setting the tournament alight yet, have done what has been required, netting five goals between them so far.

The potency of that strike force is likely to be halved in Nizhny Novgorod on Friday, with Cavani struggling to overcome a hamstring injury.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker’s absence would put a greater onus on Suarez to perform but with Uruguay’s strength in defence, one solitary goal from the Barcelona forward might be all his side needs.

While France also boast an impressive backline and midfield, it is their attack that is most lethal.

Having plodded through their group matches, Les Bleus exploded to life with a 4-3 victory over Argentina in the round of 16. Kylian Mbappe was particularly impressive, netting a brace and drawing a penalty. Antoine Griezmann has only scored twice in this tournament so far, both from the spot, but one suspects that it is only a matter of time before the 27-year-old brings his A game to Russia. It would not surprise to see him do that against his Atletico colleagues Godin and Gimenez.

France will be missing their Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi for the match due to suspension.

Possible line-ups

Uruguay: Fernando Muslera; Martin Caceres, Jose Maria Gimenez, Diego Godin, Diego Laxalt; Nahitan Nandez, Lucas Torreira, Matias Vecino, Rodrigo Bentancur, Luis Suarez, Cristhian Stuani

France: Hugo Lloris; Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez; N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba; Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Corentin Tolisso; Olivier Giroud



Deschamps: Uruguay very different from Argentin

By Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- France coach Didier Deschamps expects a tough game when his side faces Uruguay for a place in the semifinals of the World Cup on Friday.

Uruguay have conceded just one goal in their four games to date and knocked Portugal out of the tournament in the last round, thanks to two goals from Edison Cavani, while the French beat Argentina in a victory that was clearer than the final score might suggest.

However, although Uruguay and Argentina are neighbors, Deschamps said in his pre-game press conference on Thursday that they are miles apart in footballing terms.

“This Uruguay side has a very different profile to Argentina. We will have to be patient. They are extremely organized in defense, they don’t concede many goals. But they also know how to attack and they’re very good with their counterattacks,” said Deschamps.

The France coach said that the speed with which Uruguay were able to get the ball forward was “really admirable, and they have two extremely talented strikers. We need to be patient, but we’ll need to have more than patient if we’re going to beat them.”

Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani are Uruguay’s strikers, and although Cavani was photographed in training on Thursday, he is a doubt after limping out of last Saturday’s match with a calf injury.

“Cavani has been a great figure at PSG. He’s a winner, he’s a leader, he’s respected in France as a player and also as a man,” said French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to the press.

Lloris said that “Cavani and Suarez are among the most beautiful attacking pairings in the world. They’re a very difficult team to handle and very strong on the counter,” but he added that if Cavani didn’t play whoever replaced him, Maxi Gomez or Cristhian Stuani, “can play at a very high level. We’re getting ready for everything, whether he (Cavani) plays or doesn’t play.”

“It’s going to be a big game. Uruguay are a very strong team, it’s going to be a real struggle and we’re going to have to be focused in all aspects of the game,” said the French goalkeeper.


French scorer Kylian Mbappe can get better: Deschamps 

NIZHNY NOVGOROD Russia (Xinhua) -- Kylian Mbappe has only just begun to realize his enormous potential and still has scope for improvement, according to France coach Didier Deschamps.

The 19-year-old scored a brace and drew a penalty in France’s 4-3 win over Argentina in the World Cup round of 16 last Saturday. It was the first time that a teenager has scored twice in the same World Cup match since Pele in 1958.

“What Mbappe did against Argentina was very good and helped to show the world what he can do,” Deschamps told a news conference ahead of his team’s World Cup quarterfinal against Uruguay here on Friday.

“What he [Mbappe] has done so far is fantastic. But he can continue improving a lot. Kylian is very intelligent but he is still learning and regardless of his talent at this stage of his career he must continue to learn.

Deschamps would not speculate over the fitness of Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani, who is battling to overcome a hamstring injury.

“If he doesn’t play there are other exceptional players ... I cannot know what is going to happen. I will prepare my team for any situation,” Deschamps added.


Uruguay keep France guessing over Cavani fitness

NIZHNY NOVGOROD Russia (Xinhua) -- Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez has refused to reveal if Edinson Cavani will play in his team’s World Cup quarterfinal against France as the striker battles to recover from injury.

Cavani was forced off with a hamstring strain late in Uruguay’s 2-1 victory over Portugal in the round of 16 on Saturday.

On Thursday, the 31-year-old provided hope that he could be available for Friday’s duel in Nizhny Novgorod as he trained lightly away from the main group during a 15-minute period open to reporters.

“He’s a very important player for us and he was really playing very well,” Tabarez told a news conference. “As soon as he got injured he began working hard to recover and fulfill his dream.

Cavani has scored three goals so far in the World Cup, including a brace in the victory over Portugal. His absence would likely mean a starting berth is given to Girona forward Cristhian Stuani.

Tabarez added: “I’m not going to say anything more about Cavani, I don’t want to get into games... Soon you will know who will play and who will be on the bench... Forgive me that you’re not going to have all the information, as I have neither about the French.”

The 71-year-old declined to entertain thoughts that Uruguay could win their second World Cup and their first since 1950.

“We know what kind of country we are, how many inhabitants we have, our characteristics, our limitations,” Tabarez said. “We are never the favorites... If we think about winning the World Cup, we need to keep that for private moments. If not, it is not good for our focus and our concentration.”

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