France came into this quarterfinal match up the favorites, and they eventually lived up to that billing. The victory looks more comfortable on the score sheet than it was on the pitch, as the Uruguayans put up a strong fight. As fans have come to expect of Uruguay, that fight was not entirely metaphorical.
The Uruguayans got off on the front foot. With Cavani out, the early attack from the South Americans came in the form of low crosses that put the French under pressure. Jose Gimenez had a weak header from a corner kick that Hugo Lloris dealt with comfortably.
More than their attacking, Uruguay stamped their mark on the match with some hard challenges early. Among them was a hard tackle that Giminez put in on Olivier Giroud in the second minute. He was one of just three Frenchmen to hit the ground from tackles in the first ten minutes alone. For a while, it looked as though the match may get out of control.
For more than half an hour, the best French opportunity went to Kylian Mbappe, who bottled an opportunity in the Uruguay box even though he had plenty of room. That changed just before the half, though, when Rodrigo Bentancur fouled Corentin Tolisso 35 yards from goal. Antoine Griezmann laced a dangerous ball into the area. Raphaël Varane rose to meet it in heavy traffic and headed it home to put the Europeans ahead. Uruguay nearly answered just four minutes later, but Lloris made a brilliant save to deny a Martín Cáceres header.
France got off to the better start in the second half. Griezmann put Fernando Muslera under pressure as the Uruguayan keeper lackadaisically handled a bass back just five minutes in. Ten minutes later, Griezmann did break through with a shot wired from outside the area. Muslera should have handled it easily, but instead his hands only slowed the ball down.
The second goal settled the match. The French enjoyed most of the possession from then on, with Uruguay’s most serious threats coming to the fitness of French players as they put in still more hard challenges. The match marked just the the first time in Luis Suarez’s 13-match World Cup career that he didn’t get a touch in the opposition box.