It took all of eighty games for Didier Deschamps to coax a decent performance from this France team.
Les Bleus were fluid and deadly in a 4-2 rout of Argentina with a magnificent performance installing them as favourites ahead of a quarter-final clash with Uruguay on Friday.
The South Americans are no joke, however. Under the wily auspices of Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay have moved away from the muck and bullets of garra charrua, stripping away the rough-housing stereotype that has characterised their footballing history.
La Albiceleste can still bite and claw with the best but now they try to pass teams to death first.
New wine in old wineskins
A renewed emphasis on technical quality makes Uruguay more dangerous and unpredictable than at any tournament in the past decade.
Where Arevalo Rios and Sebastian Eguren once trundled, Matias Vecino and Lucas Torreira now prowl.
REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
The former was one of Internazionale's most impressive players last year, a consummate all-rounder who provides a calming influence, whilst the latter has all but sealed a transfer to Arsenal after starring for Sampdoria as a deep-lying playmaker.
Ahead of them, Rodrigo Bentancur and Nahitan Nandez will offer able service to Luis Suarez, arguably the most complete and consistent striker in Europe bar Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the last few seasons.
An injury to Edinson Cavani might be a massive blow in an attacking sense but Tabarez should take the resulting opportunity to deploy another midfielder.
Uruguay will benefit from the added protection with Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante dovetailing superbly in Russia thus far. Tabarez must shut down the formers' gliding forays, whilst also hoping that the latter suffers a rare off day.
If Uruguay can snatch a goal from a set piece, the odds of them progressing will shorten significantly. Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez have kept three clean sheets from four of their matches.
Unquestionably, they have been the most impressive country at the tournament from a defensive standpoint.
Olivier Giroud is likely to be deployed in answer to their fearsome backline but the Chelsea striker won't scare a team with such vast experience and nous.
Defence is the worst form of defence...
By comparison, France have been shaky in defence. Samuel Umtiti has already made one needless howler, whilst Raphael Varane looks ponderous without a Sergio Ramos-esque character alongside him.
Benjamin Pavard scored a cracker against Argentina but the Stuttgart man has only one season of Bundesliga action under his belt and tired badly as Messi and Co. briefly threatened a revival.
Uruguay know they are the underdogs heading into the game in Nizhny Novgorod. They know too, however, that they have the cunning and smarts necessary to pull off yet another upset at this World Cup of shocks.
Their history might be hardened and bloodied but it lends Uruguay a conviction that could propel them to a second semi-final in three attempts.
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