France overcame a tough Uruguay side with a 2-0 victory courtesy of goals from Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and Ateltico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann. The game lacked the drama of most round of 16 encounters, but tactically there was more to assess. Without the injured Edison Cavani, Uruguay lost a bit of their fear factor and the clinical edge that made them lethal on the counter. Uruguay set-up in the same 4-4-2 shape occasionally inverting their wingers. The wide players like Nandez and Laxalt hold a tremendous amount of responsibility in this scheme and the talent and ball carrying ability of players like Mbappe, Pogba, and Griezmann was too much for the resilient and tough Uruguay side to handle. A brilliant set-play saw Varane run free and direct his header into the top corner. From there, France only grew in their presence. Opportunties began to mount and Atione Greizmann found some space outside the box and unleashed a shot with his magic left foot. The goal was deflected, but nonetheless secured France’s comfortable victory.
Raphael Varane, dubbed the “Mr. Clean” and the “Minister of Defense” by his teammates, was in no doubt on a mission to send France through and continue to improve upon his already impressive trophy haul. Diego Godin and Jose Maria Giminez of Uruguay have been drawing much of the plaudits, but Umtiti and Varane have arguably been just as impressive. The French back line is young: Pavard (22), Umtiti (24), Hernandez (22), and Varane (25). Varane is the senior member and the leader of Les Blues backline. His performances, just like those with Real Madrid in the past year, have quietly been superb. If France can push on, and win the tournament, Varane will be at the fulcrum of that success.
The Real Madrid man has built a good partnership with Stuttgart’s Benjamin Pavard on the right hand side. Both are calm under pressure and composed with their passing. Pavard was a surprise inclusion in Deschamps XI heading into the tournament, but his performances have caught the eyes of big names like Bayern, Dortmund, and RB Leipzig. The youngster has been shepherded through games by Rafa and he has reaped the rewards. Varane, once the promising youngster, is now a leader and has come of age.
A semi-final encounter against Belgium or Brazil awaits, as France have begun to hit their stride.