Just how to ensure Kylian Mbappe gets a plentiful supply in his efforts to prise open a notoriously stingy Uruguay defence will be France coach Didier Deschamps’ main preoccupation before Friday’s World Cup quarter-final. The teenager is already being compared to Pele as he emerges as the X-factor for the French but will need to be afforded every available opportunity if he is to make an impact in the match at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.
The best way to utilise the 19-year-old’s incredible pace and finishing acumen, so vividly displayed with two goals in the 4-3 win over Argentina in the round of 16, has been the subject of much debate in the build-up to the World Cup but certainly a pleasurable problem for the coach.
“I cannot complain that I have players who can take up several offensive positions,” Deschamps said earlier this year. “But I can make sure that they are used in their best position.”
While many pundits insist Mbappe is best used in a classic centre-forward role, Deschamps is likely to play him on the right of the attack on Friday, making place for Olivier Giroud to join Antoine Griezmann in what will be a trio of forwards.
France will need all the attacking flair they can muster, because breaking down Uruguay will be like a jackhammer trying to tear open a tar road. The South Americans have kept a clean sheet in six of previous seven games with club mates Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez a veritable wall.
Uruguay’s game plan will be familiar. Make it as hard as possible for the opposition and when you get the ball give it to Edinson Cavani or Luis Suarez. Except, those plans could be severely disrupted if Cavani does not recover from a calf injury and misses out on Friday. Uruguay did practice earlier this week for the possibility, with Cristhian Stuani likely to be brought into the side in and Cristian Rodriguez asked to offer more support to Suarez, who has tried to play down Cavani’s possible absence.
“Things don’t depend on just one player. Uruguay have shown we depend on collective work on the pitch,” he told reporters on Tuesday.