France coach Didier Deschamps has praised Uruguay ahead of the pair’s World Cup quarterfinal in Nizhny Novgorod on Friday, and said his side have prepared as if injured striker Edinson Cavani will play.
Les Bleus overcame Argentina 4-3 in the round of 16 while La Celeste disposed of European champions Portugal 2-1, and the French tactician expects a stern test.
“Uruguay have a different profile to Argentina,” said Deschamps at a prematch news conference. “They are well-organised defensively — they concede few goals. They are also good in attack, particularly in the transitional phases.
“Players like [Rodrigo] Bentancur accelerate their game nicely. We will need patience, although not only patience. They are also strong from set pieces.”
Uruguay’s Cavani is in a race against time to be fit to feature against France after suffering a calf injury in the win over Portugal, but Deschamps’ men are ready whether he plays or not.
“I have prepared my team as if Cavani will be there,” the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship-winning former captain said. “Whatever the case, we will know 90 minutes before the match.
“I have prepared my team with a variety of pre or mid-game possibilities. Cavani is one of the world’s best. As he plays in France, we know him very well.
“Cavani’s quality is certainly above that of many attackers, but that does not mean that [Cristhian] Stuani or [Cristian] Rodriguez do not possess quality of their own.”
The Uruguayan central defensive pairing of Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez has only conceded one goal so far in Russia this summer. The Atletico Madrid duo also play with French attacker Antoine Griezmann at club level. However, Deschamps said he is aware but unconcerned.
“Yes, it is a cultural thing — it is in their DNA,” he said. “There is a South American flavour to their defensive tactics, such as the way that they use their arms — they all defend.”
“Yes, they [Godin and Gimenez] know him [Griezmann] well, but Antoine also knows them both well — there will be no shortage of respect from either side.
“Godin and Gimenez will do everything to keep Antoine as quiet as possible, while he will do his utmost to be as decisive as he can be.”
Griezmann has courted mild controversy ahead of the clash with multiple open declarations of love for Uruguay, both in terms of the country and their style of play, but Deschamps does not see the fuss.
“I am very happy that Antoine is French,” he said. “He has this gift, this taste for making an effort — even when the team is not in possession.
“Antoine has always done this, even when he was not the player he is now — at the Atletico school, you have no choice.”
Deschamps also took a moment to praise counterpart Oscar Tabarez for his longevity as La Celeste’s coach.
“I have the most profound respect towards Oscar,” said the Frenchman. “He has been doing a remarkable job for 12 years as Uruguay coach — it is a small country of only [3.5 million] people.”
Captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris expects a similarly difficult clash with Uruguay to the one Les Bleus experienced against Argentina in the last 16.
“We will have to play at pace and shoot from distance,” the Tottenham Hotspur shot-stopper said. “They will be difficult to play against, we know that — everything is played on details.
“It promises to be similar to the Argentina match.”
On the topic of Cavani, Lloris warned of the South Americans’ collective strength, which will be undiminished with or without the Paris Saint-Germain striker.
“We are open to any eventuality,” said Lloris. “With or without Edinson, and even if the [Luis] Suarez-Cavani attacking tandem is one of the most attractive in the world, Uruguay are collectively strong — very difficult to break down.”