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Preview: Uruguay, France meet in battle of contrasting styles


France's Kylian Mbappe attends a training session in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, on July 5, 2018. France will face Uruguay in a quarter-final match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup on July 6. (Xinhua/Fei Maohua)

By Michael Place

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, July 5 (Xinhua) -- If ever there were a battle of contrasting styles, Friday's Uruguay-France World Cup quarterfinal clash is it.

Under the unassuming leadership of Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay have reaped the benefits of defensive solidity, tactical discipline and enviable team spirit, not to mention a couple of world class strikers.

The Celeste have conceded just one goal at this tournament on their way to four straight victories, making them the competition's most frugal outfit alongside Brazil.

The linchpins of the backline have been Atletico Madrid's central defensive pairing of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez. They have been ably assisted by full backs Martin Caceres and Diego Laxalt.

Uruguay's willingness to concede possession and hit teams on the counter-attack has meant that a lack of world-class talent in midfield has not really mattered. Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, while not setting the tournament alight yet, have done what has been required, netting five goals between them so far.

The potency of that strike force is likely to be halved in Nizhny Novgorod on Friday, with Cavani struggling to overcome a hamstring injury.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker's absence would put a greater onus on Suarez to perform but with Uruguay's strength in defence, one solitary goal from the Barcelona forward might be all his side needs.

While France also boast an impressive backline and midfield, it is their attack that is most lethal.

Having plodded through their group matches, Les Bleus exploded to life with a 4-3 victory over Argentina in the round of 16. Kylian Mbappe was particularly impressive, netting a brace and drawing a penalty. Antoine Griezmann has only scored twice in this tournament so far, both from the spot, but one suspects that it is only a matter of time before the 27-year-old brings his A game to Russia. It would not surprise to see him do that against his Atletico colleagues Godin and Gimenez.

France will be missing their Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi for the match due to suspension.

Possible line-ups

Uruguay: Fernando Muslera; Martin Caceres, Jose Maria Gimenez, Diego Godin, Diego Laxalt; Nahitan Nandez, Lucas Torreira, Matias Vecino, Rodrigo Bentancur, Luis Suarez, Cristhian Stuani

France: Hugo Lloris; Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez; N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba; Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Corentin Tolisso; Olivier Giroud

[ Editor: Zhang Zhou ]