Ou sont les Bleus?
June 19, 2010 § 1 Comment
So, France, then. I don’t know about you, but I’m struggling to think of a performance that comes close to last night’s debacle. France started weakly, got steadily worse, and in all probability will whimper out of the World Cup with the meekest of surrenders. (Warning! Other national stereotypes, not to mention a certain amount of Franglais, may be deployed throughout this blog.)
To qualify that, I don’t think I can recall a time when I’ve seen a team perform so far below their individual and collective ability; fail so thoroughly to put together any semblance of an attempt of an effort of a having a shot at fulfilling their undoubted quality. Yes, there have been worse teams, and any number of worse defeats. But the last team to be stuffed with so much quality before failing horribly in such a welter of frustrated talent was, er, France, in 2002. Hmm.
It was easy to see some of the problems on the pitch: Anelka is not a lone striker; Ribery is not a No. 10; Abidal is not a centre-half; Govou is not a footballer; and so on. And it’s easy to diagnose problems in the squad; the absence of Mexes and Nasri is particularly glaring. Domenech will get l’abuse du chien, and rightly so. But last night was about more than an imbalanced, eccentric team succumbing to structural or tactical weaknesses. Last night was about eleven professional footballers all realising, to a greater or lesser extent, that they didn’t really give a toss about the World Cup. It was as depressing as it was embarrassing (not least for those of us who tipped the French to overcome their travails and reach le demi-finals).
I don’t have any idea whether or not the reports of certain players refusing to pass to certain other players, on the basis they they’re a bit posh, are true. Or whether there had been a coup within the team, Domenech effectively ceding control to a group of senior players. Or whether Jupiter was in un aspect mal. In a sense, the reasons aren’t important. It became evident over the course of last night’s game that France could have chosen any eleven from the forlorn army of face-painted Frenchmen in the crowd. They’d have lost – it’s tricky to play this excellent Mexico team even when you aren’t dressed as a Musketeer – but they’d have cared, and that would have been something. Barring something ludicrous in the last round of group games, au revoir, et bonne riddance.