World Cup: European team guaranteed title
Losses by Brazil and Uruguay on Friday reduced the World Cup to a European championship with the tournament’s final six teams all calling the continent home.
Neighbors France and Belgium have already advanced to next week’s semifinals while the remaining quarterfinals Saturday will send England against Sweden and Croatia against Russia. When those games are concluded it will mark just the second time since 1982 that the final four of a World Cup have all come from the same FIFA confederation.
It also happened in 2006 when Italy, France, Germany and Portugal reached the semifinals.
End of era in Uruguay?
Uruguay’s loss to France could mark the end of era in South American soccer in several ways, most notably if Oscar Tabarez, the team’s 71-year-old coach, retires.
Tabarez, who has taken Uruguay to four World Cups over two stints as its coach, transformed the national program in his final 12 years as its manager. But he declined to discuss what he plans to do next.
“For me, it has been a huge honor to be the national coach. And there’s nothing more beautiful or more satisfying than that,” said Tabarez, who walks with the aid of a cane.
Tabarez’s second stay with the national began in 2006, after Uruguay had missed three of the preceding four World Cups. He not only led the country back, taking it to three consecutive tournaments appearances, but in 2010 Uruguay reached the semifinals for the first time in 40 years.
“Obviously everybody knows what el maestro means for the team,” forward Luis Suarez said. “For Uruguay as well.”
Tabarez insisted the country will remain in good hands no matter what he decides to do next.
“What I know for sure is that Uruguay is going to be a football nation. It’s going to keep developing,” said Tabarez, who managed more than 190 matches for Uruguay, 20 of them in the World Cup.
“I think the world has seen what we have achieved. The world knows what we can do.”
The latest was Fabian Delph, who missed England’s match against Colombia in the round of 16 while awaiting the birth of his third child.
“Some things in life are more important than football,” England coach Gareth Southgate said. “His focus needs to be with his family at this time.”
Southgate echoed a view of parenting that runs through the World Cup.
Switzerland forward Breel Embolo also dashed home during the tournament for the birth a daughter and described it as “the most beautiful 24 hours” of his life.
The family friendly trend was started by Denmark’s players, who helped send teammate Jonas Knudsen home in a private jet. Knudsen’s daughter was not due until after the tournament, but the team wanted him to see her right away.
“It’s a bit of perspective in life,” Southgate said. “Everybody says you only get one chance to be in a World Cup but also there’s only one day in your life where your children are born.”
Southgate acknowledged his decision to release Delph, who played in England’s two previous games, would not always have been approved.
“My father’s generation and those before them would view that differently,” said the England coach, who is building a reputation for smart and thoughtful handling of his players. “But you have got to be there for your family.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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