Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann’s performances in the group stages had come under scrutiny especially with the ongoing saga related to his transfer to Barcelona.
But the 27-year-old forward delivered when it mattered the most as France became the first team to reach the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Uruguay in Nizhny Novgorod on Friday
With this win, Les Bleus became the only the fourth team to reach the semi-final of the World Cup at least six times after Germany, Brazil and Italy, making it to the last four for the first time since 2006, where they finished runners-up.
Handicapped by the absence of injured striker Edinson Cavani, Uruguay looked lost and barely troubled Didier Deschamps’ French side, leaving Brazil to be the only Latin American side in the tournament, who play later on Friday.
Griezmann assisted the opener for Raphael Varane’s goal in the 40th minute before Uruguay custodian Fernando Muslera’s mistake helped France No. 7 to add his name on the scoresheet around the hour mark as he took home the man-of-the-match award.
Coming into the match on the back of their 4-3 win over Argentina, France had lion’s share of possession but barely threatened Muslera between the stick as last game’s hero Kylian Mbappe fired his header over the bar early on.
On the other hand, Cristhian Stuani started for Uruguay in place of Cavani, who failed to recover from an injury suffered in a 2-1 win over Portugal and his absence was clearly visible as Luis Suarez could not trouble centre-back pairing of Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane.
France finally broke the deadlock in the 40th minute when they converted a set-piece earned outside the box after Rodrigo Bentancur committed a foul on Corentin Tolisso, earning him a booking. Antoine Griezmann floated the free-kick in the heart of the Uruguayan defence where Varane was first to flick on the header past Galatasaray custodian.
Uruguay almost equalised three minutes later when they earned a free-kick. Martin Caceres forced a diving save out of French custodian Hugo Lloris but Diego Godin could not direct the ball home from a close range.
The teams went into the breather with Deschamps team leading 1-0 but Oscar Tabarez’s team weren’t out of the game just yet until the Muslera mistake in the 62nd minute put the wind out of Uruguay’s sails.
Luis Suarez lost the ball just inside the French half and Paul Pogba broke forward, finding Bayern Munich man Cortine Tolisso, who played a simple ball to his forward some 25 yards outside the box.
Griezmann fired a shot at goal with a little swirl on the ball but it headed straight towards the keeper. The 32-year-old keeper tried to parry the ball away but it hit his gloves and just ballooned into the back of the net, as Tabarez could not hide his disappointment.
Although Uruguay made changes in an attempt to change the course of the game, they were defeated already by then. As the clock ticked down, some of the Uruguay players could not control the emotions as they lined up in a wall to defend the free-kick.
France will now take on the winner of the match between Brazil and Belgium on July 10 in St Petersburg as they look to win their second World Cup title, 20 years after Zinedine Zidane inspired and lead by Didier Deschamps captained Blues triumphed on home soil.
Meanwhile, Uruguay captain Diego Godin despite his personal pain of a defeat in World Cup would be happy for his friend Antoine Griezmann as it was his stellar show that inflicted only second quarter-final loss on La Celeste.