There was nothing to separate France and Uruguay statistically on Friday, neither by conventional stats or advanced ones. The most conventional of conventional stats tells you a lot — both teams had 11 shots. The story isn’t much different when viewed through the lens of Expected Goals, where Uruguay had the game’s one excellent chance.
xG map for #URU-#FRA. A painfully bad game.— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) July 6, 2018
At this point it seems clear France will go exactly as far as their defense can take them, which could indeed be very far, but is tragic management given the attacking talent in the sqaud. pic.twitter.com/s0AkTSmfEv
But France won 2-0, and not exactly off gorgeous plays. The opening goal was a brilliant set piece header and the second... well, let’s talk about the second.
Fernando Muslera is a goalkeeper who used to be famous for boneheaded plays. He’s cleaned up his game considerably and evolved into a steady veteran goalkeeper, but the old Muslera returned against France. This save, for any goalkeeper who reaches the World Cup knockout stages, is an easy one. Muslera will tell you that he expects to punch this shot away comfortably. Instead, he committed one of the tournament’s worst howlers.
Just before halftime, on the other end, France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris came up huge. His save on Martin Caceres’ header was outrageous, and almost of impressively, he scrambled quickly enough to rattle Diego Godin and force him to miss the shot that you see as the biggest light blue square on that Expected Goals map.
What a save by Hugo Lloris!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 6, 2018
...but Godin *probably* should've scored the rebound pic.twitter.com/itE0yGv1Nf
Uruguay matched France between the boxes in their quarterfinal. Heck, they probably matched France between the six-yard boxes. But France had a flawless, world class goalkeeper in their net, and Uruguay had an error-prone keeper in theirs. That was the difference.