Twenty years after…it could be another sequel for Alexandre Dumas‘ “The three musketeers“, but this time it was football’s final destination to France, the country who hosted the World Cup twenty years ago and won their first star thanks to Zidane’s(Zizou) brilliance. Back then, the french captain was someone called Didier Deschamps, les Bleus “water-carrier” and current boss of the national team. Tonight “Dédé” joined the very exclusive club of players cum managers WC winners; Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.
The second star put now France on par with double winners Argentina and a step higher from England and Spain. Watching Matuidi and Hernandez tears of joy, Griezmann’s hiding his under the blue jersey, France’s president Emmanuel Macron, kissing everyone under the tropical rain (in Russia?) one might think that it was easily done and dusted(4-2) but…
Even if the score was the highest one since 1966 Final, the game was laced with unexpected setbacks like Mandzukic own goal, the 53rd own goal in the World’s Cup history since Manuel Rosa’s(Mexico) in 1930. Winning a Final, one must play well, but luck has also its saying…Mandzukic tried to help his team but alas, it went all wrong; Griezmann’s ball skimmed off his head and put France ahead, when Croatia had the game and ball possession in their hands…eerrr boots.
Joy too, when ten minutes later, Croatia showed strength and determination, scoring a beauty, a diagonal left foot shot by Ivan Perisic, a precious equalizer to help them stay into the game.
Drama, when after consulting VAR the Argentinian referee, Nestor Pitana, gave a penalty for Matuidi’s shot touched Perisic’s hand , was it relevant or not the penalty was given; certainly if penalty it was a soft one, but in the WC Final every tiny detail counts and luck can grace one team or the other. That was the kind of decision loved by one set of fans, hated by the other one. Napoleon , (ooopppsss anotherFrenchman!) always asked if a chosen officer was lucky, for it was a paramount condition to be a general.
Joy again for France, when “Grizi” kept his cool and and shot the ball past Danijel Subasic, the Croatian goalkeeper, putting France back in front, despite four minutes of endless discussions. The half time came shortly afterwards, with France on front 2-1 despite being out played by the Croatians. Was it because France’s talisman NGolo Kanté was not his usual self, (got a yellow) and Deschamps subbed him early in the second half?
During the second half, France showed that they were playing the Final by merit; Mbappé and Griezmann set-up Paul Pogba and France led by 3-1 before the hour. Six minutes later, french sensation Kyllian Mbappé, fired a quick one from 20 metres thus giving or almost giving the precious trophy to his country. That could be the case but then another World Cup unexpected event: Hugo Lloris, France captain and goalkeeper, so good and decisive from the first game vs Australia did the unthinkable: he tried to dribble past Mandzukic in his own six- yard area forgetting that this cup balls were as trustworthy as a beach ball; this howler gave a breath of fresh air to Croatia and courage to keep going.
Unfortunately for the Croatians, the score didn’t change in their favour but the runners up should be proud of their achievement; they played well, but France scored two more goals and were the better team. A World Cup win is often based in details, like rain, sun, the pitch, bad Karma or injuries. One might add Dechamps lucky star, he’s not called “Dédé la Chance” for nothing.
The “water carrier” will not earn plaudits for his squad ‘s way of playing; Dédé created a strong defense and made the team his own. He didn’t pick the most talented french players for his squad, but players wholly devoted to each other, a band of mates, ready to help each other in every situation. The Euros defeat were still in their minds, at least in nine of them, for the other thirteen were not playing with the Euros squad. “Never again” he said, voting for the untested Pavard and Kimpembe. Olivier Giroud accepted to be placed lower to help the attacking players and forget about scoring for himself.
Pogba’s and Griezmann’s flashes of brilliance were the understadies for nineteen year old Kyllian Mbappé: Deschamps gave him the free role, the one who enjoyed so much in Monaco. There’s now a new France, a united team for better or worst, a team united under the Russian rain, rain mixed with tears of joy, relief and awe for their achievement.