France became the first nation to book their place in the World Cup semi-finals on Friday, making an ominous statement of intent in easing past Uruguay 2-0 as Neymar’s Brazil prepared to take on Belgium.
Uruguay were dealt a devastating blow before kick-off in Nizhny Novgorod when Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani was ruled out following an injury he picked up in the win against Portugal.
Raphael Varane opened the scoring shortly before half-time from a set-piece, steering a header past a diving Fernando Muslera after Antoine Griezmann whipped the ball in with his left foot from the French right.
But France were indebted to Hugo Lloris for pulling off a stunning save at full stretch moments before the half-time whistle to deny Martin Caceres.
Didier Deschamps’s team doubled their lead in the 61st minute when Muslera made a terrible error, failing to parry a speculative shot from Griezmann and watching in horror as it looped across his goalline.
Deschamps said his side had “again raised our level” after the 4-3 win over Argentina in the last 16.
“I have a good team that still has plenty of room for improvement,” Deschamps told BeIN Spots
“You can see our lack of experience sometimes, but we have so many qualities too.
“In any case, it definitely won’t be a failed World Cup now, and we’ll wait to find out our opponents and see what happens.”
France, the 1998 winners, started slowly in Russia but have now slipped into gear, with a sharp attack led by Griezmann and teenager Kylian Mbappe buttressed by a powerful midfield marshalled by Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.
Losing finalists on home soil at Euro 2016, they will fancy their chances of going one better in Russia.
Uruguay, who only conceded a single goal in reaching the World Cup quarter-finals, threatened in patches but missed the threat of Cavani, who forms a devastating partnership with Barcelona’s Luis Suarez.