Comment: Solid Uruguay look ready to beat Les Bleus
Show me a 2018 World Cup quarter-finalist with a dodgy defence and I’ll show you a loser.
Every team that has earned the right to lift sport’s most iconic trophy has been largely helped by being solid at the back.
Even looking back at the most recent winners; Germany with Lahm, Boateng, Hummels & Howedes conceded just four goals all tournament in 2014.
The 2010 Spanish back four of Ramos, Pique, Puyol and Capdevilla were meaner leaking just twice throughout the campaign, the same tally as the Italian quartet of Grosso, Materazzi, Cannavaro and Zambrotta in 2006.
Althought the Brazil side of 2002 with the back three of Lucio, Edmilson and Roque Junior flanked by Cafu and Roberto Carlos shipped 3 goals in the group stage, they only conceded once more after that.
And if you go back as far as the French team in 1998, their rearguard of Thuram, Leboeuf, Desailly and Lizarazu was penetrated just twice.
Which is why it is amazing to see that Uruguay are way down the list of favourites to win the tournament with the bookies giving Brazil, France, England, Belgium and Croatia a better chance.
The English and Belgian defences, set up with three centre backs and full backs either side, have looked suspect against weak teams and when they face better outfits with pace up front they will get found out. England, maybe not until the semi-final but it is highly unlikely that either defence will be good enough to go all the way.
Croatia have been good defensively, with the aid of a pair of midfielders just in front, but Vida, Lovren and Strinic are not exactly world class defenders.
The French defence came up against three opponents with poor attacking options in the group stage but then were shown up in the last-16 by an average Argentina team that exposed a couple of weaknesses.
The main one being Benjamin Pavard who is a centre-back by trade with Stuttgart and while he has played as a full-back for the Bundesliga club a handful of times, his lack of knowledge in that position was highlighted on a couple of occasions by the Albiceleste.
The other problem for France is that, aside from N’Golo Kante, no other outfield player seems to want to put in a huge amount of effort helping out with the defensive work.
The same cannot be said for their quarter-final opponents Uruguay who look to have eleven men willing to die for each other every time they take to the field.
Striker Luis Suarez looks to be the only one given a free pass for defensive work by manager Oscar Tabarez who has a put together an excellent back four with Martin Caceres and Diego Laxalt either side of the Athletico Madrid centre half duo of Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin - who is arguably the best defender in the world right now.
If necessary they can also play as a back three, as demonstrated in their group win against hosts Russia against whom they kept a clean sheet.
The youthful midfield trio of Nahitan Nandez, Lucas Torreira and Matias Vecino will run all day and chase down every ball while the man helping out in attack behind the world class striking duo of Suarez and Edinson Cavani, Rodrigo Bentancur has improved with every passing game.
Two other things worth considering are that Uruguay were probably the most impressive side in the last round in beating the European champions Portugal, while their impressive defensive performances have incredibly come at the expense of just one yellow card.
Of course, Kylian Mbappe has the ability to cause huge problems if he can get some decent balls supplied from Paul Pogba but Tabarez’s side on their day definitely have the beating of France who are nowhere near as strong mentally.
Even if Cavani does start on the bench due to his calf muscle problem, it would be no surprise to see La Celeste gearing up to play South American rivals Brazil in the semi-finals.