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Suarez rejects Griezmann’s love of Uruguay

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Luis Suarez wasn’t in the mood to celebrate Antoine Griezmann’s self-control following France’s defeat of Suarez’s Uruguay in Friday’s World Cup quarterfinal.

France held a 1-0 lead, with Griezmann assisting on the opener, when his knuckling shot was fumbled into the Uruguay goal by keeper Fernando Muslera.

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The nature of the goal, plus a healthy love for Uruguay, played a role on Griezmann’s muted celebration. For a player known for celebrating his opponents’ “taking an L,” it was notable.

“When I started, someone from Uruguay taught me the good and bad of football,” he said. “I love Uruguayan culture and Uruguayans. I have respect for Uruguay and it was normal not to celebrate my goals.”

But Suarez didn’t have it in his mind to give Griezmann much credit, even though the French attacker’s close relationship with club teammates Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez is well documented (Godin is the Godfather of Griezmann’s child).

And Griezmann also credits former Real Sociedad teammate Carlos Bueno, a Uruguayan, with helping his career in a big way.

Suarez doesn’t really care about all that.

“He’s not Uruguayan, he’s French and he scored a goal. He doesn’t know what we have to do to succeed in football. He will have his customs and his Uruguayan way of speaking, but we feel differently.”

Easy, Luis. We realize you just lost to the man and have a healthy club rivalry between you club Barcelona and Griezmann’s Atletico Madrid, but people live unique lives.

After the hand and the bite, Suarez gets his head right

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NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia (AP) First, it was his hand. Then, his teeth. Luis Suarez’s feet and football ability are yet to take center stage for Uruguay at a World Cup.

[ MORE: World Cup quarterfinals predictions ]

Maybe this time, now that his head is right.

Like Barcelona teammate and close friend Lionel Messi, Suarez could be playing for his World Cup legacy in Russia. At best he has three games left, starting with Friday’s quarterfinal against France.

Messi’s failures at the World Cup have been well documented. Suarez’s experiences have been far rawer.

At both his previous tournaments, the Uruguay striker hasn’t just left disappointed, he’s left in disgrace, labeled a cheat in one and the world’s dirtiest player in the other.

“You mature, you learn things and you live in the present,” Suarez said at Uruguay’s team base in Russia in the buildup to the France game.

In South Africa in 2010, Suarez’s defining act was to block a goal-bound header from Ghana with his hand in the dying seconds of extra time in their quarterfinal. Suarez was sent off for the intentional handball but Ghana missed the resulting penalty.

Suarez’s clear cheating and wild celebrations on the side of the field incensed a continent as it helped Uruguay reach the semifinals at the expense of Africa’s last hope.

Four years ago in Brazil, there was an even more shocking exit: Suarez bit Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in a group game – leaving visible teeth marks in Chiellini’s left shoulder – and FIFA banned him for nine matches and four months, ending his tournament. It was the third time Suarez had been banned for biting an opponent.

Suarez, now 31, is back for another go at the World Cup, maybe his last.

At Uruguay’s base he appeared unaffected by his ignominious history at the tournament, answering questions from journalists about previous disciplinary breakdowns with no outward signs of discomfort. There seemed to be no attempts to hide anything, either.

Suarez has taken steps to address his on-field behavior for Uruguay, he said, with the help of Oscar Tabarez, the coach and former teacher who has been in charge for Suarez’s entire international career.

“Tabarez helps a lot. He’s one of the best coaches in the world because of his personality, the way he helps players,” Suarez said. “Personally, he has helped me a lot. Before games, he always talks to me about what goes on in my head. That’s important to me. That talk I have with him is important.”

For over a decade, Tabarez has worked to develop a specific team mantra in the Uruguay squad, putting emphasis on humility, work ethic and respect for others.

That has manifested itself at the team’s World Cup base in Russia, a sports center on the outskirts of Nizhny Novgorod where the players’ accommodation is more like school dormitories than five-star luxury.

[ MORE: Ranking the World Cup quarterfinalists ]

From the camp, stories emerge of Uruguay’s best players and biggest stars being asked to clear away their own plates and cutlery after meals, wash their own boots, carry training equipment to and from the field, and, in a nod to plain good manners, start press conferences by greeting journalists with a “good morning” or “good afternoon.”

Suarez also spoke about the “serenity” Tabarez brought to the squad and referred to himself, once the troublemaker, as now a veteran and a role model.

“Now I’m one of the oldest, an example … the younger ones look up to us,” Suarez said. “You get nervous (in games), but at the same time you are one of the ones who has to remain calm. You have to set a good example to the younger ones. You have learned how to handle these situations.”

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Key battles in each World Cup quarterfinal match

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The World Cup has reached the quarterfinal stage – the point in the competition where no slouches are left, all the pretenders have packed their bags, and only the truly cohesive squads remain. We’ve seen some barnburners, some defensive grinders, and plenty of exciting moments.

With just eight teams left, there will be plenty of key matchups in each game for pundits to dissect, white boards to draw, and coaches to highlight. Here are a few of those battles that each team must work around.

Uruguay vs. France – Edinson Cavani vs. Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane

France will get its opportunities to score goals, of that there is no doubt. Diego Godin leads one of the most gritty back lines remaining in the big dance, but Kylian Mbappe has already shredded enough defensive units to know that he will provide France chance to take.

With that in mind, the true test will come on the other end of the pitch. France’s defensive unit has been shaky, while Uruguay’s attack is banged up. Cavani came off injured in the dying minutes of the 2-1 Round of 16 victory over Portugal, while Luis Suarez was reportedly injured in Uruguay training. Can they test the French central defenders enough to keep up with the high-powered France attack? They may be forced to play in from the flanks, where France is the weakest. Lucas Hernandez has been surprisingly solid, but aside from scoring a wonder goal against Argentina, young Benjamin Pavard has been mediocre at best. That may be Uruguay’s best chance to score.

Brazil vs. Belgium – Philippe Coutinho and Willian vs. Belgium midfield

Brazil defensive midfielder Casemiro is out thanks to picking up his second yellow card of the tournament in the previous match, so that may very well leave his midfield partner Paulinho on an island.

[ MORE: Tite’s biggest tactical test comes in Casemiro’s absence ]

That’s not where we’re focused on here. No, we’re looking in the other direction. With Brazil likely to maintain a significant portion of the possession, They will look to build their attack through the midfield where Japan exposed a serious weakness in the Belgian setup. In the first half of their Round of 16 matchup, Japan ran the ball straight down Belgium’s throat, with only Axel Witsel covering the back line. It worked. After halftime, Roberto Martinez brought on Marouane Fellaini to shore up the midfield, plus Nacer Chadli to help give the Japanese something else to think about, and it shifted the tide of the match.

So who will Roberto Martinez start in midfield against Brazil? If Witsel and Fellaini are paired from the opening whistle, it may nullify Coutinho’s influence and put pressure on Willian, who has had an underrated tournament thus far. If Witsel is by himself, Coutinho may have a field day.

Sweden vs. England – Emil Forsberg vs. Kyle Walker

Emil Forsberg could give England problems on Sweden’s left wing (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images).

Is this a matchup we could see in the Premier League this coming season? Emil Forsberg has seen one of the tournament’s biggest breakout performances, and he could be on the radar for a summer switch. He plays on the left wing, the same side as Walker’s assignment as part of the back three.

Walker has been impressive in his center-back role, but has slipped up at times. It hasn’t cost England dearly yet, but could Forsberg make Gareth Southgate pay for his experimentation on the biggest stage? Sweden’s shape and structure have been incredibly impressive so far in Russia, and if they can keep Harry Kane and company at bay, one goal may decide the match, and Forsberg’s movement and creativity will be critical for Sweden.

Russia vs. Croatia – Roman Zobnin and Daler Kuzyaev vs. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic

Croatia’s midfield is being hailed as the best of the remaining World Cup teams, and they have carved up defensive shape after defensive shape. Croatia has beaten Nigeria, Argentina, Iceland, and Denmark so far, all teams known for their ability to lock down the center of the pitch.

Luka Modric has deserved the Golden Ball noise he’s getting to this point, but Ivan Rakitic has been the secret weapon, pairing with Modric flawlessly moving forward. If Russia is going to win this match, they won’t be able to just bunker in and earn a 0-0 draw. They will have to open up to score, and that means keeping Modric and Rakitic locked down despite the additional space. Zobnin and Kuzyaev performed fabulously against Spain, but were aided by Fernando Hierro’s static tactics. Can the inexperienced duo – just 26 caps between the 24- and 25-year-old pair – repeat the performance against the tournament’s best midfield tandem?

Cavani scores twice, Uruguay top Portugal to reach QF

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Edinson Cavani’s time to be the star — whether for club or country — has been a long time coming and finally arrived on Saturday, as his two goals propelled Uruguay past Portugal and into the quarterfinals, for the second time in three tournaments, at the 2018 World Cup.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Having been overshadowed by the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain, and long played second fiddle to Luis Suarez for Uruguay, Cavani’s brace went a long way toward dispelling notion that he’s not a “big-game player” — for one day, at least.

It was Cavani and Suarez who threatened the Portuguese defense all day long, and it was Cavani and Suarez (and Cavani, in that order) who combined brilliantly for the game’s opening goal in the 7th minute.

Cavani played a 55-yard diagonal ball to Suarez, near the top of the penalty area, and — here’s the important part — continued his run afterwards. As if he’d been forgotten about since he took up a wide midfield spot on the field, the Paris Saint-German man was allowed to drift centrally and into the box before peeling away from the nearest defender just as Suarez dropped his cross on a dime, and the header was elementary.

Suarez forced Rui Patricio into a diving save in the 21 minute. After winning the free kick 30 yards from goal, Suarez drilled the dead-ball restart low, bouncing it through the wall and just inside Patricio’s left-hand post, but the Wolverhampton Wanderers man (signed this summer) came saw it the whole way.

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Either side of Suarez’s chance, it was all Portugal — from possession, to meaningful possession and scoring chances — and finally, after trailing for nearly 50 minutes, they were level after 55 minutes, thanks to Pepe’s unmarked header from Raphael Guerreiro’s corner kick.

The 1-1 scoreline wouldn’t last long, though, as Cavani scored his second of the day in stunning fashion — a perfectly placed curler from the edge of the penalty area to restore Uruguay’s lead just seven minutes later. Fernando Muslera played the ball long, it fell to Rodrigo Bentancur, and Bentancur slotted a deftly weighted ball to Cavani on the left. His finish, exquisite as could be, snuck inside the far post. It was a direct passage of play, but it was decisive and deadly.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Up next for Uruguay will be a quarterfinals clash with France, one of the tournament’s most popular favorites. Les Bleus knocked off Argentina, in a 4-3 thriller, in the day’s first round-of-16 fixture.

Video: Suarez gives Uruguay early lead over hosts Russia

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It only took Uruguay 10 minutes to break through, and the South American side could be on its way to capturing a third consecutive victory at the 2018 World Cup.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Barcelona star Luis Suarez scored his second goal of the tournament on Monday, as the veteran striker gave Uruguay the lead early on against hosts Russia.

Suarez stepped up for a free kick just outside the penalty area, and slotted the ball brilliantly past the Russia goalkeeper at his near post.

Both teams have already advanced out of Group A after winning their first two matches, however, Monday’s victor (if there is one) will likely decide who tops the group.