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Varane heads towards World Cup redemption with goal

Nizhny Novgorod (Russia) (AFP) – It was the defining image of France’s sorry World Cup quarter-final defeat against Germany in 2014.

A young Raphael Varane being held off and pushed along effortlessly by defender Mats Hummels as the German headed home the only goal of the match.

If ever the “men against boys” sporting cliche was appropriate, this appeared to be it and Varane, only 21 at the time, was quickly in the firing line.

He was roundly blamed for France’s limp exit and a question mark placed against him which, in reality, has existed since that day almost exactly four years ago.

But any fear that history would repeat itself was banished towards the end of a nervy first half against Uruguay on Friday when Varane jumped ahead of Cristhian Stuani to glance home Antoine Griezmann’s free kick.

The tension was released and not only in the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.

As Varane raced away to celebrate, his catharsis was complete.

“It was joy, pure joy. It was beautiful,” said a jubilant Varane afterwards.

“I told Antoine to put the ball there before the free-kick and he did it perfectly.”

Despite the fact that since 2014, Varane has been an integral part of a Real Madrid side which has won three Champions League titles, it felt like he had to make a statement at the World Cup.

He had faced some criticism back home after Argentina’s third goal, a header, in France’s thrilling last-16 win last week.

But that was all forgotten in the 40th minute as Varane scored just his third goal in France’s colours.

“I am very happy for Varane,” said French Didier Deschamps. 

“He has gained four years of experience, in fact they all have more maturity. I told him that at the end of the match.”

And as if thinking directly of events in Brazil four years ago, Deschamps added: “It is often in tough situations that you learn the most.”

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