Limp end to Suarez and Uruguay hopes as France march on at World Cup
Goals from Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann put the French in the semi-finals in Russia
Luis Suarez has had more explosive exits from World Cups. Indeed, he has had more explosive exits from World Cup quarter-finals.
In 2010, he was sent off for a moment of impromptu goalkeeping, celebrating when Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting penalty. In 2014, he was expelled at the end of the group stages, evicted for biting Giorgio Chiellini.
The World Cup may now have seen its last of Suarez, who will be almost 36 when the 2022 tournament begins. There was no improbable hat-trick of one of football’s inimitable characters. Instead, this was an afternoon of toil and niggle. Suarez did not score. He did not even shoot.
It ranked as an anticlimactic ending. Perhaps the verdict is that Suarez was playing a lone hand. Uruguay’s defeat of Portugal lent itself to the interpretation that the team with most match-winners won. Cristiano Ronaldo was outnumbered by Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
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Minus the injured Cavani against France, and with Cristhian Stuani proving an inadequate deputy, Uruguay experienced the same phenomenon.
Much has been made of the remarkable prowess of a country of 3.5 million people but without a man who showed his potency against Portugal, Uruguay lacked the strength in depth a hugely talented France team displayed.
Kylian Mbappe could not replicate his astonishing impact against Argentina, but Paul Pogba was prominent and, above all, France had Antoine Griezmann. Overshadowed by his teenage sidekick in the last 16, Griezmann assumed the responsibility of taking France into a third semi-final in 20 years.
He received assistance. Raphael Varane headed in his free kick. Fernando Muslera let his shot slip through his grasp. It was a horrific error from one of the most consistent goalkeepers in international football.
It also brought a contrast with Hugo Lloris, who made a stunning save from Martin Caceres four minutes after Varane struck.
The breakthrough had come out of nothing. France discovered Uruguay were the anti-Argentina, organised where their neighbours had been open, congesting the midfield rather than allowing Mbappe to sprint through it.
Diego Laxalt was the youngster’s constant companion. Uruguay engaged in a concerted attempt to disrupt, encompassing the legal and the illegal, the frantic harrying and the irritating fouling.
France were looking frustrated until Uruguay’s uncompromising approach backfired twice in a matter of moments. Rodrigo Bentancur ruled himself out of a possible semi-final by collecting a caution for upending Corentin Tolisso. The subsequent free kick brought the opening goal.
If a superbly-drilled defence has a weakness, it may be at set-pieces. Uruguay have conceded three times in 2018: once from Muslera’s aberration, twice from dead-ball situations.
Pepe headed in a corner for Portugal, while Varane struck after Griezmann spread confusion with his stuttering run-up to the free kick.
Uruguay may argue their reputation for indiscipline is unfair. They depart Russia with a mere three cautions in five games, two of them incurred against France, even if the Argentinian referee Nestor Pitana seemed to lose control of a bad-tempered affair.
Yet Uruguay’s rise over the last decade has been underpinned by a ferocious commitment that Suarez has sometimes taken too far.
An illustration of how much this meant came when Jose Maria Gimenez was pictured crying: not after the final whistle, either, but several minutes before. His hopes had been invested in Suarez and Uruguay’s talisman, denied his usual accomplice, was unable to deliver.
He bids farewell to the World Cup; perhaps for four years, perhaps forever.
Updated: July 6, 2018 08:47 PM