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France reaches World Cup semifinals, beats Uruguay 2-0

By STEPHEN WADE, NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia (AP) — Antoine Griezmann’s fluke goal helped France earn a place in the World Cup semifinals.

Griezmann scored with a shot that bounced off the hands of the opposing goalkeeper and into the net, giving France a 2-0 victory over Uruguay on Friday.

The 1998 champions will next face either Brazil or Belgium on Tuesday in St. Petersburg.

Griezmann’s shot in the 61st minute went right into the hands of Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. But the ball popped off his palms and looped over his head and into the net.

Raphael Varane gave France the lead with a header in the 40th minute. Griezmann sent in a free kick from the right side and Varane raced across the area. He got his head to the ball and sent it into the far corner behind Muslera.

France went on to reach the World Cup final the last two times it advanced to the semifinals. They won their only World Cup in 1998 on home soil, and in 2006 lost to Italy on penalties.

The match at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium pitted France’s speed against Uruguay’s stubborn defense and its occasional attacking threats. But with Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani injured and on the bench and Luis Suarez neutralized, it was France that scored the goals.

Suarez, who scored two goals in the group stage, didn’t get a single touch on the ball in France’s penalty area for the entire match. Cavani scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Portugal in the round of 16, but he sat on the bench with an injured left calf he picked up in that match.

Four minutes after Varane gave France the lead, Uruguay nearly equalized. France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris dived to his right and got a hand on a header from Martin Caceres, pushing it just wide of the goal.

Although he didn’t score, 19-year-old France forward Kylian Mbappe again looked dangerous on the attack, trying to slice in from the right wing or directing quick passes into Uruguay’s defense.

Mbappe, who has modeled his game after Cristiano Ronaldo and is being compared to Zinedine Zidane, also picked up a second-half yellow card for falling to the ground as if in agony after a touch from an opponent.

Mbappe scored twice against Argentina to become the first teenager with multiple goals in a World Cup knockout game since a 17-year-old Pele in 1958.

Uruguay, led by 71-year-old coach Oscar Tabarez, was trying to reach the semifinals for the second time in the last three World Cups. Heading into the match, Uruguay had been unbeaten in 2018 and had allowed only one goal in its first four World Cup matches in Russia.

A country of only 3.5 million, Uruguay won World Cup titles in 1930 and 1950 and then waned. But it has undergone a revival in the last 12 years under Tabarez, a former elementary school teacher.

(France’s Antoine Griezmann scores his side’s second goal during the quarterfinal match between Uruguay and France at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, Friday, July 6, 2018. Photo: AP-Ricardo Mazalan)

Published Date: Friday, July 6th, 2018 | 10:32 PM

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