Tournament favourites Spain fell to an extra-time goal and France dominated Uzbekistan to reach the final four, Will Burns has all the action.
FRANCE 4-0 UZBEKISTAN
France cruised into the semi-finals with a resounding win against the previously giant-killing Uzbekistan in Rize’s Yeni Sehir Stadium.
Les Bleuets were in mouth-watering form in this, what looked like unfair encounter, and secured their biggest win of the tournament with goals from Yaya Sanogo, Paul Pogba, Florian Thauvin and Kurt Zouma.
Uzbekistan, who had defender Tohirjon Shamshitdinov sent off midway through the second half, were outclassed from the opening whistle, with new Arsenal striker Sanogo striking the post with a low shot after just two minutes. Tricky left-winger Thauvin himself struck the upright soon after and several more chances came and went before France broke the deadlock just after the half-hour mark.
Great linking up by Lucas Digne and Jean-Christophe Bahebeck on the left wing, ended with the latter picking out a superb low cross that left Sanogo with an easy tap-in from close range. Bahebeck was terrific throughout the game and he was again involved just four minutes later when France doubled their lead, winning the penalty from which Pogba coolly sent the keeper the wrong way.
France were rampant, and there was to be another goal – and another penalty – before the Uzbeks could retreat back to the dressing rooms at half-time. This time, a handball by Diyorjon Turapov was penalised and, though Asilbek Amanov got a hand to Thauvin’s left-footed kick, he couldn’t keep it out.
This story of French dominance continued after the break, with Sanogo missing a glorious chance four minutes after the restart and Thauvin surging through soon after to force a fine save from Amanov. However, Uzbekistan were merely delaying the inevitable and goal number four duly arrived on 64 minutes, when Kurt Zouma dived in at a corner to send a perfect glancing header flashing just inside the far post.
The unlikely Uzbeks were defeated here but they will go home with heads held high, having reached this advanced stage of the tournament. France, meanwhile, can now look forward to a semi-final clash with either Chile or Ghana.
SPAIN 0-1 URUGUAY
Uruguay pulled off an upset overcoming tournament favourites Spain 1-0 in extra-time to progress to the semi-finals. Felipe Avenatti grabbed the only goal of the game, and that was all that could separate the two sides after two hours of football, despite plenty of chances at both ends to win the match in normal time.
Both teams began with poise, testing each other for weaknesses. Spain were in control early on but Uruguay, with the tightest defence so far in the competition, were proving a tough nut to crack. Despite seeing less of the ball, the South Americans had a few chances themselves, although it was the European champions who went closest in the opening exchanges.
While new Inter Milan defender Diego Laxalt looked impressive and went close from range midway through the first period, and although Los Charruas continued to look threatening, Spain were carving out the better chances. First, after Jose Campana’s inswingers was headed back across goal, Real Madrid centre-back Derik went mightily close to his second of the tournament.
The second half was much less open than the first, Laxalt amazed Daniel Sotres with a shot from outside the area, just before Jese had the clearest opportunity of the game. Javier Manquillo’s deep cross found the forward in behind the Uruguayan defence, but the striker side-footed wide when it was easier to score.
This seemed to briefly jolt Spain into action, as substitute Paco Alcacer then created space leaving him just De Amores to beat, but Gaston Silva flew in with a fine last-ditch block. With 89 minutes on the clock Giorgian De Arrascaeta came close with a 35-yard free-kick, before Diego Rolan’s flicked header forced Sotres into a fine stop on the full-time whistle. In making that save, Sotres suffered a painful collision with the post, so Ruben Yanez began extra-time in the Spanish nets. He was soon picking the ball out of his net as Uruguay’s aerial assault finally paid off, with De Arrascaeta’s corner finding the towering substitute Avenatti to power home an unstoppable header.
Uruguay ultimately held out and will now face the winner of Iraq and Korea Republic’s clash on Sunday.
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