Uruguay started as underdogs in their enthralling quarter final tie with France at Nizhny Novgorod.
Both teams have grown in the tournament, ironing out kinks in their starting lineup.
New stars have emerged, while established players have lived up to expectations, making it a game of fine margins.
Didier Deschamps perhaps had his best game in charge in the action packed 4-3 round of 16 win over Argentina.
He opted to play the same lineup, which started against Peru and it paid dividends.
Against an ageing and imbalanced midfield, the trio of Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and N’Golo Kante dominated; breaking up play and surging towards goal.
Kylian Mbappe caused havoc by exploiting Argentina’s high line by winning the penalty for the opener and scoring two goals in the second half.
Particularly, impressive was his link up play with Griezmann and Olivier Giroud, best exemplified in the fourth goal scored by France.
Right wingback Benjamin Pavard was revelational as he bombed up and down the pitch, chipping in with a magnificent volley to equalise the score.
Deschamps though, would be aware that he was aided by a tactically naive and unsettled opposition.
Against Uruguay, the French will be facing a well drilled and hardworking team who are riding a wave of form.
Selecting Giroud could perhaps play into the hands of the sturdy and physical central defensive duo of Godin, Gimenez, and France could consider playing either Ousmane Dembele or Thomas Lemar as the left winger in a 4-3-3 formation.
Apart from that change, the French would look to build on the strengths that they showcased in their previous game.
The right hand side of Mbappe and Parvad will be encouraged to attack the converted left back, Diego Laxalt, and these overloads could help Griezmann in finding pockets of space around the box.
France will bank on a dominant midfield display, coupled with enterprising play on the wings to take them over the line against the hardened Uruguayans.
The loss of talisman Cavani to a calf injury in Uruguay’s round of 16 match, has thrown a spanner in the works to Oscar Tabarez’s plans.
Not only did Cavani scored both goals, he also filled the game with the numerous intangibles one associates with the Paris Saint-Germain striker such as his work rate, willingness to help in defence and ability to retrieve the ball from opposition players.
With a doubt cast on his availability for the quarter-finals, Uruguay has lost one of their major attacking threats.
There are two ways Tabarez can approach this conundrum; either start Girona forward Christian Stuani, retaining the 4-4-2 formation or playing Christian Rodriguez in a more defensive 4-5-1 formation.
Both options have their merits, Stuani offers a target man whom Suarez can play around, holding up the ball for his striker partner and midfield runners such as Bentancur.
While Christian Rodriguez is playing in the wide left position will be a source of width, but more importantly as a cover for Diego Laxalt.
Tabarez could either go on the offensive by opting to the former or try to extend the game by going with the latter.
Another area which will hugely influence Uruguay’s performance is the combination between Rodrigo Bentancur, Lucas Torreira and Matías Vecino.
Facing some of the best box to box and defensive midfielders, the trio will be expected to regularly break up budding attacks as well as ensure spells of sustained possession to release the pressure from constant defending.
Uruguay, known for punching above their weight, has to pull of one of their biggest rescue acts to prevail.
Player To Watch France N’Golo Kante: Kante’s performances in the World Cup has further confirmed his status as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. His uncanny knack to stemmy attacks with positional awareness alongside his high work rate and ability to cover large distances give France an advantage in midfield.
With Uruguay expected to play a more intricate game in midfield, Kante’s qualities of disrupting play and launching counters will be invaluable to the French pursuit.
Uruguay Matias Vecino: The imposing Inter Milan midfielder will have the crucial role of link midfielder in the midfield three of Uruguay. The onus is on him to ensure the quick circulation of the ball as well as carry the ball forward on occasion.
Adding to his offensive responsibilities will be the imperative to support Torreira when France have the ball. Vecino will need to play one of his best all-round games to help Uruguay in this herculean task.
Lloris- Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez- Mbappe, Kante, Pogba, Matuidi- Griezmann, Giroud.
Uruguay: 1-4-5-1Muslera- Cáceres, Godín, Giménez, Laxalt- Nández, Vecino, Torriera, Bentancur, Rodriguez- Suarez.