The World Cup is back in France, 20 years after the 1998 home win and now France have a second star on their shirt.
I have to say, even as a Frenchman, there was controversy for France’s first two goals with Croatia claiming there was no foul for the free-kick that led to the Mandzukic own-goal.
Then there was the time-consuming decision with a VAR review that awarded a penalty for a debatable handball. The referee saw intent. It is quite telling that the French TV commentators were convinced it was a handball while it seems English (and other) pundits disagreed.
These are key moments and hopefully the referee got them right although that is certainly debateable. The ref certainly tipped the balance towards us a little. I mean, those two goals still needed to be scored but the ref certainly helped.
Then we saw France’s quality on the break finally emerge, with two important goals before Lloris brought the Spurs clownshow to the world stage.
Something that was not mentioned enough on English TV, especially for kids watching the game at home is the Pogba goal. His first shot with his right foot was blocked. It came back to his left foot, and BANG, it was a goal.
That’s why players work a lot on their weaker foot. Only geniuses like Maradona or Messi (or Cazorla) can afford not to work on using their weaker foot. As a right-footed left-back, I used to have to train on my weaker foot from u8 to u12 as part of my regular, routine training.
I think one of the biggest TV commentary problems in England is also that it is not educational enough. How often do you hear, “the shot was always rising. We are not idiots, we know that. We saw it happen at the same time as you! What they should explain is why it is rising, i.e. the player’s body shape was wrong.
If you look at Benjamin Pavard’s goal against Argentina, this one was not always rising. Explaining why is is such a hard technical skill to control the all like that would help fans and kids.
Overall, France did not offer the most entertaining football at the World Cup. But we are world champions and that’s the important point.
If we remember what happened at Euro 2016, there was a clear shift to a more defensive tactic overall for France. Teams with high possession numbers seemed to be, more often than not, on the losing side.
It looks like that trend has carried into this World Cup and I am not sure that is such a positive thing.
So, that’s four years I can now banter my English colleagues and friends. I have the ultimate reply to their “it’s coming home” baiting that lasted the whole tournament until the semi-final.
It reminded me of ’98 when we won it for the first time and I came to study in England at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge in September. That World Cup title helped me a lot in term of social interaction in the pub, SU, parties and on the pitch.