Footballing gods smile on France at FIFA World Cup | Kwesé

Footballing gods smile on France at FIFA World Cup

Footballing gods smile on France at FIFA World Cup

13:30 SAST | 02 Jul 2018

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After a pulsating last-16 win over Argentina, the French dressing room resembles Celebration Central – the music is loud, everyone is singing and dancing.  Les Bleus have reason to be ecstatic. They’re through to the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup where they’ll meet the talented and tenacious Uruguayans.

Uruguay vs France (Kwesé FIFA Channel, CH 300, 6 July at 15:45 CAT)

French coach Didier Deschamps was effusive to his players after France’s 4-3 win over Argentina:
“I am proud of you. The most important is the qualification, but the way you did it is remarkable. I liked your team spirit. You never gave up, you kept fighting.” Pele also liked it. He sent a congratulatory tweet on Kylian Mbappe (19) who became only the second teenager to score twice at a World Cup. Pele did it back in 1958.

Eric Cantona famously called Deschamps ‘the water-carrier’, lampooning his workmanlike performances as a defensive midfielder for France. But hard work is football’s most under-rated value. Deschamps went on to captain France to the 1998 FIFA World Cup title and the 2000 UEFA Euro title. Back then he was the calm centre amidst the volcanic talents of Zidane, Desailly and Thuram.  Once again he is bringing calm and purpose to a squad bursting with exuberance, energy and searing talent: Pogba, Griezmann, Umtiti, Mbappe and of course Kante.

N’Golo Kante is, according to some rankings, second only to Griezmann in the French squad. The unassuming midfielder, of Malian heritage, is perhaps tasked with the calming job that Deschamps performed for France’s ‘golden generation’. He runs enough for two men and snuffs out dangers before they materialise, turning defence into devastating counter-attack. Through the likes of Pogba, Mbappe and Griezmann, France have the firepower to knock over anyone, including Brazil.

After their victory in Kazan the team took a private jet straight back to Moscow. The dressing room celebrations continued on the 90-minute flight. The French squad have a special fondness for ‘Siguelo Bailando’, by Puerto Rican artist Ozuna, singing along to the Reggae lilt.  Defender Kimpembe has a large portable speaker and also plays French rapper Naza's ‘MMM’. The whole team shouts along to the chorus.

If Deschamps can keep this spirited bunch grounded, who knows what’s possible. And when the jet lands in Moscow, it is to the news that France face Uruguay in the quarterfinals. Didier Deschamps smiles at the symmetry. After the Argentina game he surpassed Domenech’s record 79 games in charge of France. Deschamp’s 81st game will be against his first opponents, whom France played in a friendly back in 2012. That game ended goalless. But this one has to have a winner.

There’s a winning feel to this French team, a taste in the mouth that must be distinctly nostalgic for Deschamps. And with Cavani in doubt for Uruguay with a calf strain, the football gods seem to be in the mood for blue.  

Uruguay vs France (Kwesé FIFA Channel, CH 300, 6 July at 15:45 CAT)

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