My piece for Crikey on French talent woes at the FIFA World Cup 2006

I had the great pleasure of attending Switzerland vs France at the Gootleib Daimler Stadion in downtown Stuttgart. What a wonderful atmosphere. The World Cup is truly one of the greatest celebrations of mankind, having overpassed the drug-cheat riddled Olympics long ago. However the match was a bit of a disappointment; despite their incredible talent, France looked AWFUL. I wrote a piece for Crikey on the pitiful efforts of the French team against the Swiss.

July 12, 1998 is a day that the French people should remember fondly. The final of the 1998 World Cup, played in the shiny new Stadt de France, where the French beat Brazil 3-0.

It should also be remembered fondly as it was the last time that the French team scored a goal in World Cup Finals soccer. Since then it has played four games in World Cups, all without a single goal reward.

Today’s dreadful match in Stuttgart, where the French played the up and coming Swiss side heralded a new approach for ‘Les Bleus’. A new coach and a new mindset; however, it was the same old result. A totally lacklustre, slow and old French team failed to even threaten the vibrant Swiss. Zidane looked very much a chap on the verge of retirement, Vieira was run off his feet, and Henry barely had a sniff. Champions past their prime.

One could blame the 31 degree heat, or the overwhelming support for the Swiss in this southern German stadium, but the key factor to the French decline is most likely that the colonies the French once called their own, the colonies which formed the breeding grounds for French soccer stars are now retaining the players who would have otherwise worn Les Bleu.

Of France’s starting lineup, key defender Lillian Thuram was born in Guadaloupe, Jean-Alain Baumsong was born in Cameroon, Man of the Match Claude Makalele was born in Zaire and star midfielder and former Arsenal Captain Patrick Vieira was born in Senegal.

Emerging star striker for Chelsea Didier Drogba would have once played for France, but has now powered Ivory Coast into their first World Cup finals (and a goal against Argentina) along with young defenders Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure of Arsenal. Michael Essien of Chelsea and Stephan Appiah of Galatasaray form the core of the Ghanian midfield which caused Italy so many headaches. Not to mention the stars of former colonies not participating in these Finals such as Senegal which embarrassed the French in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup Finals.

The French people remember those happier days of 1998, but unlike French women, the French soccer team ages badly as time passes.

The future of French soccer it seems is in looking internally, for French players of French origin who might be able to represent their country with some pride and skill. And in a hurry.

Czech v USA was a great game. The Czechs look stunning. Very sharp, Nedved looks spectacular as always, they’ve got some great form from Rosicky, Jankulowski, Koller and Baros; Petr Cech is fantastic in goal, and they look hungry – unlike the French, English and Brazilians.

Constantine Frantzeskos

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