FIFA World Cup 2018: Uruguay captain Diego Godin praises teammates despite loss, exonerates goalkeeper Fernando Muslera

Nizhny Novgorod: Uruguay captain Diego Godin praised his teammates as “lions” after reaching the World Cup quarter-finals but falling 2-0 to France, and said goalkeeper Fernando Muslera’s error for the second goal should be forgiven.

“I’m proud of my teammates — they were lions,” Godin said, as he and the Uruguay players came off the pitch in tears.

“We are a team where everyone gives everything in the matches and in preparation. I have only words of gratitude for my team mates,” he added, as Uruguay’s noisy fans cheered them off at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium despite the defeat.

 FIFA World Cup 2018: Uruguay captain Diego Godin praises teammates despite loss, exonerates goalkeeper Fernando Muslera

Uruguay players applaud fans after their loss to France in the quarter-final. Reuters

France won with a Raphael Varane glancing header in the first half and a goalkeeping fumble in the second that gifted Antoine Griezmann a soft goal. Griezmann shot from outside the box straight at Muslera, who attempted to palm the ball away but instead deflected it into the net.

“Fernando is a great goalkeeper ... We all make mistakes,” Godin said. “On other occasions he has rescued us with incredible saves.”

Uruguay suffered without striker Edinson Cavani, who was ruled out with a calf injury.

France’s win set up a semi-final with Belgium, who defeated Brazil 2-1 in their last-eight clash.

'France were better', says gracious Uruguay coach

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said that France were worthy winners but that his small country had once again shown why it deserves its place alongside the best nations in global football.

“We couldn’t control their strengths,” Tabarez said, looking sad but calm after his players left the field in tears to an ovation from their travelling fans.

“Today we played against opponents who were better and stronger than us. We have to admit it and congratulate them.”

“I told all my players after the match that they can be very proud, they can keep their heads high,” said Tabarez.

“I’m not going to tell you what I said with my goalkeeper. He has been a very important pillar for us. I am not going to wash my hands putting any responsibility on the players.”

'We Dream On'

With a population of just 3.3 million, twice World Cup winners Uruguay have long punched above their weight in global football.

But beating France always looked a tall order, and it became much harder when striker Cavani was ruled out with injury. His replacement Cristhian Stuani made no impact in attack, and fellow forward Luis Suarez missed his usual partner.

But Tabarez said Uruguay had done superbly to get so far, given its disadvantages in terms of population and infrastructure.

“Today our dream comes to an end ... (but) I think the world has seen what we achieved, what we want to do, and what sort of country we are. We are a small country you know. It is harder for us than for France or Germany or England.

“There are many countries that belong to the football elite that left this tournament before we did ... Germany left during the group phase, Argentina left earlier too.”

Until Saturday, Uruguay had the joint meanest defence at the World Cup, letting in just one goal in four straight wins.

“The first goal (by France) was the first time in a very long time that a team has been able to score like that against us,” Tabarez said, referring to Varane’s glancing header.

“Of course when you lose you feel it, for a country like Uruguay, with our history. Of course it’s painful, but let’s not be too dramatic. We dream on. Things never end. A World Cup is played every four years.”

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Updated Date: Jul 07, 2018 12:42:03 IST