By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | December 19, 2022

France plays like novices

A team that has cruised into the final like a Ferrari, even without their headlights (Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba) suddenly struggles to stitch decent passes.

A team that has impressed all and sundry in their games leading to the final is suddenly tentative, losing control of the ball, time and again.

A team that is two goals down in the first half (where was the defence during the second goal?) finds two, star players being substituted before halftime. Didier Deschamps substitutes Olivier Giroud [Marcus Thuram] and Ousmane Dembele [Randal Kolo Muani]? Strategy? You tell me. All this while Antoinne Greizmann and Kylian Mbappe are nowhere in sight. Almost non-existent. It has never happened.

Suddenly everything falls into place. Italian referee Daniele Orsato’s assist for Argentina in the semi-final against Croatia is finally beginning to make sense.

Argentina France World Cup
Argentina France World Cup Final: Argentina scrapes through in penalty shootout.

France 1998 comes to mind

France 1998 comes to mind. Brazil sleepwalking in the final and Deschamps (yes Didier Deschamps the France captain then) lifting the World Cup was nothing short of a joke. As a football fan, like millions of others, I felt violated then. 

Twenty-four years later, the same feeling of disgust watching a World Cup with one team sleepwalking takes centre stage yet again.

A magnified look at all Argentina matches will provide the answer, probably. Even Orkay Mills in Harwood League matches in the late 80s (BDFA) played a better game than France did with Argentina in the final.

Theo Hernandez [Eduardo Camavinga] and Griezmann [Kingsley Coman] are substituted in the 70th minute. It’s now, almost a second-string France team playing the final with two goals down.

Well done Messi. What a World Cup it has been for you and your sponsors. Spectators be damned.

A twist in the tale: Messi robbed in broad daylight

Wait, there’s a twist in the tale. It’s 10 minutes to full-time. Argentina is now almost cocky, passing the ball around with a bit of arrogance. France begins to stitch decent passes and Randal Kolo Muani draws a foul in the penalty area. Nicolas Otamendi fouls him. Mbappe converts.

The game changes. France begins to play as they did in all of their games—a smooth Ferrari in motion. Almost 60 seconds later, Coman sells the biggest con to Lionel Messi taking the ball from his foot. Remember Josko Gvardiol and the media madness on what a genius Messi was with the pass to Alvarez? Well, now Messi is stumped on the halfway line. Robbed in broad daylight. He is left bewildered as the ball disappears from his ‘adhesive’ foot.

Coman sends the ball to the left flank to Mbappe who nods it to Thuram who sends it back to Mbappe. The lithe figure powers off a volley off balance which beats E Martinez. The ball nestles to the right corner. Argentina is on the back foot, there’s absolute mayhem amongst the France fans. Messi and Co. have to start yet again.

France finds their feet and the ball

The question is, did the substitutes forget to play as they did in the first 80 minutes? Or did France finally play like they are supposed to play? The year 1998 be damned! 

In extra time, there are two more goals from both teams and two near misses that would settle the issue from both sides. Mbappe scores a hat-trick. He has announced himself as the next big name to sell on the back of every soccer fan. Messi fades into history.

Argentina France World Cup
Argentina France World Cup Final: Dominik Livakovic or E Martinez for the Golden Glove Award?

The match is taken to penalties. Argentina wins. France lose. Dominik Livakovic should have been awarded the Best Goalkeeper Award. Martinez gets it, and displays it by holding it towards his ‘little fella’. Josko Gvardiol deserved the Player of the Tournament Award (Golden Ball). Messi is given the trophy. But such is life. Sentiments have to be looked into.

Messi survives, lifting the World Cup. The one trophy missing from his cupboard. He just about managed to make it. Scraped through by the proverbial skin of his teeth. Good for him. Good for Argentina who will now let Diego Maradona rest in peace.

What a World Cup final! One worth watching on a loop. Had it not gone down the wire, who knows, maybe there would have been an inquiry like the one in 1998.

Rewind 1998: Brazil vs France. The inquiry

fourtwofourcom: an extract

In 2000, a Parliamentary Inquiry Commission was set up to investigate the contract between the Brazilian FA and Nike. One of the initial areas of the investigation was the influence of the sporting giant on Ronaldo’s final appearance. But the whole matter was fudged.

One politician blandly asked Ronaldo who was responsible for marking Zidane. “Will it really help?” replied the striker. The commission closed without finding any answers.

Pic Credit: emi_martinez26 / dominiklivakovic40

Goalkeeping Stats: sofascore_official

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