Two vastly experienced goalkeepers took centre stage as France brushed aside Uruguay 2-0 to reach their sixth ever World Cup semifinals.
Echoes of Gordon Banks’ wonder save from Pele in 1970 reverberated around the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium when French keeper and skipper Hugo Lloris pulled off a superb save to preserve France’s 1-0 lead a minute to half time.
Uruguay custodian Fernando Musilera was the focus on 62 minutes when his poor concentration allowed Antoine Griezman’s long range drive to slip through his hands for France’s second goal.
Such diabolical goalkeeping was not expected from a custodian, who like his French opposite number Lloris was celebrating his 102nd international cap, and had conceded a solitary goal all tournament.
Didier Deschamps’ 1998 champions made one change from the team that beat Argentina in a memorable round of sixteen tie, with Bayern Munich midfield maestro Corentin Tolisso coming in for suspended Blaise Matuildi. The change did not affect their flow, as they reduced Uruguay who were without injured 46-goal striker Edinson Cavani, to scrapping for crumbs.
Oscar Tabarez’s 1930 and 1950 winners are a team built not to concede and they struggled to cope with falling behind.
The absence of Cavani was severely felt as replacement Christian Stuani failed to serve as a link ahead of Lucas Torreira, Rodrigo Bentacur and Nahirat Nandez, all of whom are more comfortable on the back foot.
With nine of France’s starting line up having won silverware with their clubs last season (Lloris and Stuttgart’s Benjamin Pavard are the exception), holding onto their lead was accomplished with minimum fuss.
A late yellow card to Kylian Mbappe was the only blot on an otherwise clean France copybook as they await the winner of Friday’s late kick off between Brazil and Belgium