Immoveable defence, unstoppable Mbappe | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 06, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:52 AM, July 06, 2018

Immoveable defence, unstoppable Mbappe

The build-up to Friday's quarterfinal clash between France and Uruguay has been dominated by individuals, but it may be the South Americans' almost unbreachable four-man defence which decides the result.

While Uruguay sweat on the fitness of striker Edinson Cavani, it should be remembered that La Celeste's progress in Russia has been built upon their defence as much as their A-list attack.

And while France pin their hopes on Kylian Mbappe, it is unlikely that the teenage superstar has encountered a defence quite like Uruguay's.

The mouth-watering last-eight tie in Nizhny Novgorod is likely to be decided by a battle between Uruguay's stifling backline and the speed of Mbappe, 19.

Led by captain Diego Godin, and including Jose Gimenez, Martin Caceres and Diego Laxalt, along with goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, Uruguay's defence have the joint-best record at the World Cup.

They passed through the group stage without conceding a goal, and the only player to score against Uruguay was Portugal's Pepe in the last 16, and that was ultimately in vain. Brazil are the only other team to have conceded just the solitary goal so far.

Between them, the experienced defence have over 350 international caps between them. They are supremely well-organised and have already served notice that Mbappe will not have the same kind of freedom he enjoyed against Argentina.

"If you let France have space it will be very difficult," Uruguay's coach Oscar Tabarez said after securing a place in the quarter-finals.

And he has also insisted that he is happy to cede possession to France in a bid to make the last four.

France's conundrum against Uruguay is knowing best how to utilise Mbappe and his fellow attacking danger, Antoine Griezmann.

The French limped through their group stage but burst to life in their exhilarating 4-3 last-16 win over Argentina, inspired by Paris Saint-Germain's $220 million Mbappe.

“What he [Mbappe] did against Argentina was very good. It put a spotlight on him obviously, and to play like that in such an important match made a name for him," France coach Didier Deschamps said yesterday. "He's had time to digest this and I think he's recovered just like the rest of the team.

"But we must not now relax and think that everything is easy, that life is beautiful and that less effort is needed. But Kylian is smart, he's listening and he knows all that."

The match is likely to be unsurprising, if not only for tactics, but also because of those involved. Whoever decides the match is likely to have to get one over on a domestic teammate.

Cavani plays with Mbappe and PSG. Godin and Gimenez are colleagues -- and close friends -- with Griezmann, Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi play for Juventus, while Luiz Suarez and Samuel Umtiti play for Barcelona.

At Atletico, Griezmann is the star. Godin, though, is the embodiment of the dogged, determined and defensively brilliant side Diego Simeone has created in the Spanish capital.

“They will waste time, they will fall down, surround the referee. It's their game, it's the same at Atletico," said Griezmann of Uruguay. "The match will be boring, they will want us to fall into their trap."

"They give everything for their teammates, it's beautiful," he added.


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