NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia -- The saying goes that the team that manages to set the terms first wins a World Cup elimination game. Well, that didn't happen between Uruguay and France.
Up until Raphael Varane's goal, the match was being played under Uruguay's conditions. But France won it anyway, 2-0, without too many complications. The Europeans struck at key moments, and La Celeste weren't able to react.
Without Edinson Cavani, they were prepared for a different kind of game, defending with a compact unit and attacking quickly with Luis Suarez and Cristhian Stuani. The defender's header started tearing down Uruguay's wall, and Fernando Muslera's mistake on Antoine Griezmann's strike doomed the South Americans.
As always, the team's unwavering commitment. Uruguay exit this World Cup with a good image, having proved that with the weapons that they have, they can compete against anyone. Even after they conceded two goals and with a mountain to climb, they kept on pushing courageously.
As regards players, Russia 2018 provided some good news: their four midfielders have a great future ahead, and Diego Laxalt proved that he has what it takes to be a starter. And something else. Uruguay have something that many teams don't: identity. Something that they should value despite their loss.
Their lack of ideas when they went behind. Without Cavani, Uruguay lose half of their attacking power, and that's why he's so difficult to replace. Except for Martin Caceres' header, they never really troubled Hugo Lloris, and there's a price to pay for that in a World Cup. The midfielders' performance wasn't outstanding either, neither in recovering the ball nor in creating play.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Oscar Tabarez did what he had to do. Without Cavani, he picked a player with the PSG star's resilience and reliability with the ball at his feet. The idea didn't work out and he immediately looked for an alternative. In the beginning of the second half, he introduced Maxi Gomez and Cristian Rodriguez to refresh the attack, but the substitutions didn't provide any answers. Uruguay leave this World Cup faster than they dreamed of, but their appreciation toward Tabarez is endless.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Fernando Muslera, 3 -- He hadn't seen too much action, yet when Griezmann pulled a weak shot, the goalkeeper positioned his hands ineptly and the ball squirmed through. It was a mistake that sealed his team's fate after two substitutions that were aimed at getting back in the game.
DF Martin Caceres, 6 -- He ran a lot and was solid in his marking duties. Even though France didn't attack too much one-on-one, his defense was firm. At the end of the first half he won a ball in the air and came very close to heading home the equaliser, but his attempt was thwarted by Lloris' extraordinary save.
DF Jose Maria Gimenez, 5 -- The center-back duo, one of the foundations of La Celeste, had no responsibility for the goals and fulfilled their task. France attacked through the middle and the Atletico Madrid defenders managed to stop all their attempts. Gimenez had a solid overall performance in the World Cup.
DF Diego Godin, 6 -- The captain showed courage and defiance, but it was not enough. He won every challenge and was as solid as usual. He definitely deserved to play the semifinals.
DF Diego Laxalt, 7 -- He excelled and is one of the standout players in this World Cup. He dealt with his toughest opponents so far and he delivered. Even though Kylian Mbappe surpassed him on occasions, he wasn't outpaced and he even had time to launch some attacks.
MF Lucas Torreira, 5 -- His usual strong self, but showed very few ideas and missed his passes too often. While the match was even, he had a vital role by balancing the team, but when Uruguay had to come and get the score they needed, he was not able to perform a different job.
MF Nahitan Nandez, 6 -- One of the best Uruguayan players. He recovered some balls during the first half and never lost his man. France didn't attack much on his side, but every time they came, the Boca Juniors player was solid and confident in his task.
MF Matias Vecino, 4 -- Outweighed. He wasn't able to defend or even generate play. In the first period, he didn't help Laxalt to double their mark on Mbappe and the forward was a constant threat. In the second half, he lacked the much needed rebelliousness to try and salvage the game.
MF Rodrigo Bentancur, 4 -- He was replaced in the second half, since he couldn't find the ball and wasn't able to become a clear option to start attacks. He did a decent job every time he had to defend. He lost a ball near the area and fouled Corentin Tolisso; from the resulting free kick came the first French goal.
FW Cristhian Stuani, 3 -- He was in charge of the almost impossible task of replacing Cavani, and he suffered throughout. He missed his first touches and was never comfortable in his role. Too erratic, he couldn't link with Suarez. He had a clear chance in the first half but failed to seal it. He lost Varane when the defender headed in the first goal.
FW Luis Suarez, 5 -- A lot of sacrifice but not a single clear chance. The No. 9 missed his partner and, even though he earned several balls thanks to his persistence and determination, he never found a teammate able to assist him. He won every face-to-face contest but lacked a teammate to pass the ball next, even after Gomez got into the game.
FW Maxi Gomez, 4 -- Brought on for Stuani after 59 minutes, but never linked with Suarez. He fought hard and moved a lot, but never got the ball with a clear advantage.
MF Cristiano Rodriguez, 4 -- Replaced Bentancur on 59 minutes. Already 0-2 down, his first shot was good but ended up being diverted. After that, there was little from him. His addition was supposed to strengthen a creative midfield, but that did not happen.
MF Jonathan Urretaviscaya, 4 -- Tabarez didn't get what he wanted by replacing Nandez with Urretaviscaya either. He lost against French midfielders and couldn't link up with Suarez.