NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia (Reuters) - Goalkeeping howlers have been scarce at the World Cup but Fernando Muslera’s mistake proved fatal for Uruguay in their 2-0 quarter-final defeat by France on Friday just as much as a brilliant stop from Hugo Lloris kept his side ahead.
Antoine Griezmann’s long-range shot slipped through the Uruguay keeper’s fumbling hands just after the hour at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium to effectively seal the result for France and ensure their progress to the semi-finals.
Germany keeper Olivier Kahn’s slip in the 2002 final more dire consequences as it gifted Brazil the trophy, while Moacir Barbosa lived under the curse of the ‘Maracanazo’ after being blamed for Brazil’s defeat in the 1950 decider against Uruguay.
For Muslera, there will likely be trauma for some time but, if it is any consolation to him, Uruguay were already behind to Raphael Varane’s goal and looking second best in the contest.
Yet they did have a single chance to possibly change the outcome and had France’s Lloris not made a remarkable save on the stroke of halftime, it would have been tighter.
Amid increasing obsession with the glamour players in football, goalkeepers are slipping from the spotlight. But all too often they are the difference as Friday’s pair proved.
Lloris, who is also the France skipper, was at full stretch to stop dead a header from Martin Caceres and then got up on his feet again in a split second to fluster Diego Godin as the defender attempted to net the rebound.
It was the most work Lloris had all game but decisive in determining the result. Not only did his save add to Uruguay’s frustrations but it kept intact the lead that France took in at halftime, giving them impetus to dominate in the second period.
The French again looked a marked improvement on their early tournament form with coach Didier Deschamps hailing a “better balance” in his side.
They regularly won the key contests around the pitch even if the pace of teenager Kylian Mbappe did not create the magic of their last-16 win over Argentina.
But France are not the finished product, Deschamps warned. “There were technical imperfections that didn’t have serious consequences that we can go back and work on,” he said.
That certainly did not apply to his goalkeeper.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris