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Team France Reaches World Cup Finals

Posted July. 07, 2006 03:28,   


“Les Bleus are back.”

Aging players, rusted goal-getters, unreliable coach, retirement-bound Zinedine Zidane’s slow movement on the field, and Thierry Henry’s many problems did not stop France from reaching the finals. The problems that dogged the team were resolved one by one.

It is no longer the world best, a phrase that had followed France since it won the World Cup 1998 in its own soil. But, it still was a contender for the World Cup winner this year. There were many teams, however, that looked to be stronger than France from the outside. Brazil, Argentina, England, and Spain, not to mention Italy – the team France will play in the finals – are ripe with top players showing great condition in their affiliated clubs. Therefore, France was always dubbed “a team that could make it to the finals” but never “a team that will win it.”

Perhaps France’s biggest challenge was the group league matches. The group league matches are where the will of the French players, rated the hottest in the club football arena, were put under scrutiny. In Korea-Japan World Cup 2002, France, a team that was a favorite to win it all, showed a lack of concentration and had to pack early.

But once France got past the group league, it realized its potential. This is due to “experience” that is unmatched by any team. While Spain, Netherlands, England, and Argentina entrusted players who do not have much experience in major international matches, France is armed with the most experienced players. Florent Malouda and Franck Ribéry were there to add spice with “energy and movement” to their seniors’ plays, at least until this World Cup. In matches where every game feels like the finals, and where every play and every movement can tip the scales of competition, experience is a crucial factor in the quarterfinals. The French know what plays to do and what plays not to do in these nerve-wracking games, where the flow of the game is constantly shifting.

Zidane--the man, who is making football history--is getting the spotlight. The play shown by a man who already played his final club match against the number one contender, Brazil, was enough to wow football fans all over the world. As Zidane’s movement suddenly got lighter, so did the problems that dogged the team. The fact Henry’s smirks and smiles got caught by the camera more often proves this.

Patrick Vieira and Claude Makélélé, who were not playing as well as they did on their club teams, are beginning to come back. Raymond Domenech, who was headed for the title of “The worst coach of this World Cup,” enjoyed a rebound in dignity.