France advance to the semifinals after beating Uruguay 2-0
Many had France as one of the pre-tournament favorites and here they are at the semifinals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Major news came just before kickoff as Uruguay’s star striker Edinson Cavani was ruled out for this match, and boy did Uruguay miss him throughout this match. Without Cavani, Luis Suarez was the sole offensive threat for Uruguay. Without Cavani it was much easier for the French to defend this Uruguayan team, as they really only had to focus on Luis Suarez. With this in mind, Uruguay’s game plan was to sit back and hit France on the counter attack led by Suarez and rely on set pieces to score. Uruguay is usually ok with not having the majority of the possession, but without their one-two punch (Cavani and Suarez) it was always going to be hard to score goals. France opened the scoring in this game in the 40th minute; Antoine Griezmann crossed in a ball into the box off a set piece where Raphael Varane scored a strong header to give the French the 1-0 lead going into halftime. In the 44th minute Uruguay almost equalized as Martin Caceres’s header was denied by Hugo Lloris, which was a fantastic save from the French goalie. In the 61st minute the French would double their lead as Antoine Griezmann’s shot from the box somehow goes in after experienced Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera fumbled the shot and the ball ended up in the back of the net. This was not the most beautiful game the French have played, but they got the job done and are now heading to the semifinals. This is France’s first semifinals appearance at a World Cup since 2006. Uruguay will ponder whether Cavani would have been the difference in this game, I believe he would have. Not only is he a world class striker who would have definitely helped Suarez, he is one of those rare strikers who go back and help defend. His presence was missed for Uruguay. For the French they finally got the Antoine Griezmann at his best, as he was the man of the match because of his goal and assist he provided in this match. Mbappe did not have the best of games but that is why other stepped up, like Pogba, Griezmann and the French defense as a whole was excellent. It looks like this French team, who looked very shaky and uncertain in the group stage, is getting things together at the right time. France will face the winner of the Brazil-Belgium match in the semifinals.
Belgium knockout pre-tournament favorites Brazil to advance to the semifinals
Even though Brazil has gotten better with each game they still had one problem, putting the ball in the back of the net. And that problem proved to still be a one, actually a major problem. This was the best quarterfinal match up on paper and everyone was excited for this one. Belgium took the lead in the 13th minute through, yet another, own goal by Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho who failed to clear the corner; he tried to head out the ball but the ball ended up hitting his shoulder which ended up in the goal. Apparently this did not wake up the Brazilians as in the 31st minute off a counter attack lead by Romelu Lukaku who muscled his way to the other side of the field laid off a pass for Kevin De Bruyne who took a strike just outside the box to give Belgium a commanding 2-0 lead against the five time world champions Brazil. Brazil came out of halftime with a different approach, attack and score goals at all costs. Belgium decided to sit back and defend their two goal lead and hope to score a third goal off a counter attack to finish this game off. Early in the second half Brazil was denied a penalty after Vincent Kompany took down Gabriel Jesus in the box, which really should have been a penalty for Brazil. This would have been huge for Brazil; if they were to score there they would have a little bit over 30 minutes to find the equalizer. In the 76th minute substitute Renato Augusto scored a header from a wonderful lob pass from Coutinho to make it 2-1. Brazil would have two more excellent chances to tie the game in the last 15 minute, including a great chance for Coutinho who tried to first time the shot which went way wide. Brazil was not able to find the equalizer and are going home after losing to Belgium 2-1 in the quarterfinals, making this the third World Cup out of the past four that Brazil have lost in the quarterfinals. Many expected this Brazil to lift up the World Cup trophy this summer but now will have to look towards the next World Cup in 2022; at that point it will be a 20 years since Brazil last won the World Cup. With both Brazil and Uruguay going out only six teams remain in the World Cup, all six are European nations. This game marked the arrival of Belgium’s golden generation and with this win they have full confidence they can go all the way and win this World Cup. Belgium will now face France in the semifinals in Saint Petersburg on July 10th at 2PM ET.
Dino Pavleka: @dino_ATL
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