Cavani likely to miss the match
France got off to a slow start at the World Cup but four goals against Argentina last weekend will be a stark reminder to Uruguay of what they are capable of producing when the two sides meet in the quarter-finals on Friday.
Didier Deschamps’ men were always among the tournament favourites but an underwhelming set of warm-up internationals plus a timid start in Russia suggested their reputation rang louder than reality.
That was dispelled last Saturday in Kazan as 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe and cohorts thrilled in a 4-3 victory over Argentina in the last 16.
Not only did the French midfield cleverly nullify the threat of Lionel Messi, but upfront the pace of the teenager and his combination with team mates showed what their squad can achieve.
No more will that be needed than against Uruguay, who have conceded just once in the tournament and pride themselves on their stingy defence. “They are a compact block, tightly aligned next to each other and with a massive solidarity,” added Stephan.
But if any side has the armoury to break them down, it is France, with Mbappe at the attacking helm and Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud alongside.
Mbappe feeds off team mates as much as he contributes to the collective.Nineteen-year-old Mbappe scored two goals in the Argentina game, becoming the first teenager since Brazilian great Pele in the 1958 final to score two goals in one World Cup match.
But it was his amazing 70-metre sprint earlier in the match, to win France a penalty, that stunned viewers worldwide.
“I was wondering whether he was riding a scooter,” joked France midfielder Florian Thauvin of the teenager whom Uruguay’s defenders must be having nightmares about.
On the surface, though, Uruguay look relaxed and their experienced central defenders Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin are relishing the chance to foil both Mbappe and their friend and Atletico Madrid team mate Griezmann.
“We want to deny them space, stop them playing, make their strikers uncomfortable – that’s our weapon,” said midfielder Diego Laxalt at the Uruguay camp in a hotel outside Nizhny Novgorod which, oddly, is painted in the colours of Brazil.
With an impressive strike partnership of their own in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, the Uruguayans believe they can surpass their most recent best of a semi-final in 2010 – though Cavani is sweating on a calf injury that may keep him out.
‘Les Bleus’ will be inspired by the two-decade anniversary of their only World Cup win in 1998, while double winners Uruguay’s modern generation are desperate to recreate the black-and-white-era glories of their 1930 and 1950 trophies.
Meanwhile, Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani is likely to miss his side’s World Cup quarter-final against France on Friday after suffering a calf injury in the last-16 win over Portugal.
The Uruguayan Football Association (UFA) posted photos of Wednesday’s training session on social media, with Cavani a notable absentee.
After tests on Monday, doctors confirmed the Paris Saint-Germain star had suffered bruising to his left calf, although he had not torn a muscle.
With the 31-year-old Cavani set to be sidelined, Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez will likely play Cristhian Stuani up front alongside Luis Suarez for the two-time world champions.
France will be without suspended midfielder Blaise Matudi for the match while four players (Olivier Giroud, Benjamin Pavard, Paul Pogba and Corentin Tolisso) are one booking away from a one-match ban. Uruguay have had only one caution in the tournament, handed to Rodrigo Bentancur. The winners will play Brazil or Belgium, who meet in their quarter-final in Kazan on Friday evening, for a place in the July 15 final.