France is headed to the World Cup semifinals, and it's going in rather comfortable fashion.
Les Bleus handily defeated Uruguay 2-0 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, on Friday, riding a goal in each half–with help in the form of a howler from the opposing goalkeeper–en route to the victory. In a World Cup defined by drama and late theatrics, this one was relatively straightforward.
Raphael Varane's header off a 40th-minute free kick opened the scoring, while Hugo Lloris's sensational save allowed it to hold up entering halftime. Antoine Griezmann doubled the lead with help from a Fernando Muslera miscue, and France saw out the result from there to secure the win and eliminate La Celeste. More importantly for France, none of the four players sitting on a yellow card received another one, meaning it will have its full complement of players available for the semifinals against Belgium.
Uruguay, which was without injured forward Edinson Cavani, started well and had the match's opening chance in the fourth minute, with France desperately defending after Luis Suarez's ball over the top played Diego Laxalt into a dangerous position on the left. France survived multiple moments with the ball in its own box, but cleared the danger before Uruguay could test Lloris.
Uruguay continued to pressure a minute later, with Cristhian Stuani, who started in place of Cavani, pushing a chance from the right just wide of the far post.
France's first chance came in the 15th minute, and it came through Kylian Mbappe, who wished he had another crack at it. Olivier Giroud looped a header across the box to Mbappe, who stood unmarked some eight yards from goal. His leap wasn't properly timed, though, and all he could do was loop a header over the bar instead of directing a chance with power on frame.
The match continued to play out at a pace that favored Uruguay–choppy, slow with few chances. The most notable moment of the opening 25 minutes came when a massive bug flew into Lloris's mouth. Aside from that, Uruguay's organization stifled France's attack, despite Les Bleus having the better of the possession battle.
France nearly carved out a moment of danger right before the half-hour mark. Right back Benjamin Pavard, whose sensational strike helped spark the second-half surge vs. Argentina, sent in a teasing cross from the right that bounced through the box, but no France attacker could latch onto it, and it was steered to safety by Martin Caceres.
Lloris was called into action in the 35th minute, when Matias Vecino tested him from the right side of the box, but the France goalkeeper didn't have much trouble with smothering the chance and avoiding any spills out in front of the net.
Uruguay's Rodrigo Bentancur was hit with his second yellow card of the tournament–ruling him out of a semifinal should Uruguay advance–in the 40th minute, setting up France for a free kick after the foul on Corentin Tolisso. France took full advantage, with Griezmann's curling ball met by a Varane glancing header, which beat Muslera to make it 1-0.
Uruguay nearly pulled even off a free kick of its own minutes later, if not for a massive save from Lloris. Caceres was first to a ball over the top and directed his header toward the lower left-hand corner of the goal, but Lloris went full extension to his right, getting his hand on the ball to swat it to safety.
France doubled its lead on the hour mark, with help from Muslera. Griezmann sent in a powerful, knuckling shot that was speculative at best, but Muslera had trouble parrying it, instead inadvertently hitting it into his own net to make it 2-0 France.
Things got heated soon after, when it appeared that Mbappe made a meal out of slight, inadvertent contact by Nahitan Nandez, going down and holding his groin region. Both teams nealy came to blows, with Suarez and Paul Pogba both in the center of the action, before cooler heads prevailed.
Uruguay remained stifled in trying to mount a comeback, with the match never really hitting another gear. Muslera's howler took the air out of Uruguay's sail, and France defended well while continuing to control the possession, looking every bit like the confident favorite many tipped to go on a deep run.
Here were the lineups for both teams:
Here are the rosters for both sides:
Goalkeepers: Martin Campana (Independiente), Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama)
Defenders: Martin Caceres (Lazio), Sebastian Coates (Sporting Lisbon), Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico Madrid), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Maximiliano Pereira (Porto), Gaston Silva (Independiente), Guillermo Varela (Penarol)
Midfielders: Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus), Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro), Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors), Gaston Ramirez (Sampdoria), Cristian Rodriguez (Penarol), Carlos Sanchez (Monterrey), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria), Matias Vecino (Inter Milan)
Forwards: Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain), Maximiliano Gomez (Celta), Cristhian Stuani (Girona), Luis Suarez (Barcelona)
Manager: Oscar Tabarez
Goalkeeper: Alphonse Areola (PSG), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille)
Defenders: Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Adil Rami (Marseille), Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), Steven N'Zonzi (Sevilla), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich)
Forwards: Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Kylian Mbappe (PSG), Florian Thauvin (Marseille)
Manager: Didier Deschamps