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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

France fiasco: from the overconfidence of juju-testing Deschamps to the shambles of selfish Mbappé

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Euro 2020 has been an interesting tournament so far, featuring remarkable moments of excitement, surprise, emotion, embarrassment and even disappointment. From the group stages to the knockouts, we’ve seen quite an assortment of dramas, comebacks and drawbacks.

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But such is the case in a tournament that features the likes of golden Belgium generation, the hyped Three Lions, the fake Selecao, the dying Die Mannschaft amidst the tournament favorites Les Bleus; experimental Spanish side, dark horses in Azzurri, and all the surprise packages so far. Check Czech and Schick. Throw the rainbow drama in mix. If that doesn’t fix the jinx, then you should realize that Allianz Arena is pro-homosexual. Neuer and Wijnaldum aren’t in the boredom.

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At the beginning of this tournament, many tipped France for glory, especially with the recall of Karim Benzema. A side that boasts of notable names like Benzema himself, Pogba, Kante, Griezmann and Mbappé, backed by the proud fact they’re the current world champions; went ahead to be shockingly eliminated at the knockouts by Switzerland thanks to the overconfidence of their gaffer Didier Deschamps who was testing his jujus with a tactical back-three formation experiment instead of his conventional 4-3-3 formula that won him the World Cup, and also the premium selfishness of the very attitudinal Kylian Mbappé of all people. If you think Olivier Giroud wasn’t right, then maybe you’re ready for a fight.

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As expected, France topped the ‘group of death’ that featured Portugal in the monikers of the fake Selecao, and Germany in the memory of Die Mannschaft, albeit now dying, alongside a dogged Hungary side skippered by an Adam Szalai whose performance was no lie. Forget about the promised money at stake. This hungry Hungarian side had nothing to fake. Not at a Puskas Arena in Budapest where they don’t entertain any rainbow dust to rest.

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But topping this group was repelled by bad omen when France played in Romania. But no wonder because you cannot remove mania from Romania. And If Deschamps could put on bravado to opt for a back-three where he played Lenglet to let us see his exposed mania, then it was better it didn’t happen in Rome. That Clement Lenglet at the center of a Gallic back-three didn’t provide any cement. He clearly didn’t even jump with Haris Seferovic to clear the ball to prevent him from placing a perfect header for a perfectly early Swiss opener. Thus, it was a Gallic defeat at half time. In Bucharest, the first half would never be enough to put such a solid contest to rest.

When his tactics were nakedly exposed following his failed jujus, he decided to change the prone-to-fault Lenglet with Coman of flair, speed and ‘baggas’ at the start of the second half. They then got some momentum and upped their comeback chances, only to be inhibited by an ala spectator ion Benjamin Pavard who cost them a penalty for a reckless challenge. Thanks to their crossed fingers, Hugo Lloris saved it to keep them on the show, off and running. A game-changing moment that was inspired by the heroics of Paul Pogba and of course the masterclass of Karim Benzema awaited. Benzema had to put in their leveler in style before eventually putting them ahead in just less than three minutes. Benzema for Trezequet-esque. Pogba for Zidane-ness. Mbappe failed the Henry-y. A la Mbappe ce n’est pas le style d’Henry. Not Henry’s style at all.

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As if it wasn’t enough for the then-potential Player of the Tournament, Pogba went ahead to score a scorcher from outside the box to make it 3-1 France, an effort that he’d tried against Rui Patricio who only managed to parry the ball to the woodwork. With just nine minutes remaining from regulation time, things started dipping and going south for the Les Bleus. The same Haris had to head home again from a wonderful Kevin Mbabu cross this time around, pulling one back and hoping for the best without any rest because it was Bucharest. Then Mario Gavranovic happened in the last minute of the match, making it 3-3. Not even a Kingsley Coman effort that hit the crossbar was enough to avoid an extra time encounter. Then the undesirable settled in.

In the extra time, Swiss held on to force the match to their wish. And when it reached the penalty shootouts, the result was their wish. It was Swiss. You know what that is. Thanks to Mbappe who was notably selfish. Quite outlandish.

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Had it not been for Mbappe who had always been playing for himself since the get-go of this Euros, had it not been his verve to score at all cost, craving for attention and appraisals, had it not been his invasive competitive mentality, his premium attitude to always make name for himself at all costs; France might have scored more goals to sink the central European nation and send them home, reminding them of their nightmare in Rome. And not even the Geneva Convention could do anything about it.

But it’s Kylian who now sees himself, convincing himself that it always has to be about him. That’s why he’s turned out to be the villain. The world champions are out. Welcome back to Paris. This is finished.

Batou Saidy holds a degree in Public and Environmental Health. Aside from his profession, he is a writer. His writing extends to current affairs, contemporary life issues, politics, sports, and health. 

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