Oui are the champions

July 19, 2018 - 07:00

Kicking Off with Paul Kennedy

Paul Kennedy. — VNS Photo Việt Thanh
Viet Nam News

by Paul Kennedy

France are the Champions of the World.

Versus a plucky Croatia in Russia on Sunday, Didier Deschamps’ boys in blue sealed victory over a valiant, but in the end, poorer team.

The win saw Deschamps join a very elite group. He is one of only three people to have ever won the World Cup first as a player, then as a manager.

And the other two? Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.

Zagallo featured in Brazil’s wins in 1958 and 1962 before coaching the national side to victory in 1970.

Four years later, Beckenbauer captained West Germany and lifted the trophy on home soil.

And at Italia 90 he managed the Germany team to success, beating Argentina by a single goal in the final.

Now Deschamps joins the magic three.

For me, France’s victory was well deserved. Over the month in Russia it is difficult to argue they were not the best team, in what for many was considered the best World Cup in recent years.

There were 169 goals scored in 64 games. That’s an average of 2.64 goals per game. Slightly down on Brazil but more than the tournaments in 2006 and 2010.

Belgium got the most, 16 and surprisingly it was the normally ever reliant Germans who scored the least, just two.

Panama were the biggest whipping boys, conceding 11 in total, six of them coming in one match against England, and there were 12 own goals scored throughout the month plus just the one goalless game. Denmark v France.

But the stat that shocked me was the amount of late strikes. Nine goals in total were scored after the 90 minute mark. Never before have so many later goals gone in.

Denmark scored the fastest goal, 55 seconds in a match they ended up losing to Croatia, and this tournament saw only four players sent off, the lowest since 1978, and none of those were for violent conduct.

More than three million supporters watched live games and France superstar Kylian Mbappe became the first teenager to score in the World Cup final since Pele in 1958.

But despite all of the above there really is only one stat that matters. And that’s that France won.

For me what makes their victory extra special is the fact it wasn’t just a victory for France, but for Africa too and also for immigrants the world over.

Their winning squad contained 15 players with African roots, including arguably the player of the tournament, Mbappe, whose mother and father are from Algeria and Cameroon.

So next time the idiots out there are chanting for immigrants to ‘go home’ and ‘get back to where you belong’ maybe they should stop and think. One of them may just well become the player to lift the World Cup for your country in years to come.

Not long to go

And so the countdown begins. Only 1586 days left before the World Cup 2022 officially kicks off in Qatar. 

No sooner has Russia finished, and I’m already thinking ahead.

What’s interesting about the next international tournament is it will be held in November. Kicking off on the 21st. Unusual and it will disturb the domestic season, particularly in Europe but it is the right decision.

Playing football in the summer months is tough enough. Playing football in the Middle East in the summer months is downright ridiculous.

That’s why it has been decided to effectively have a winter break, but the domestic game on hold, while the international competition takes centre stage.

It will be interesting to see just how this is managed. In theory, Liverpool could be playing Manchester United and then a few days later half of the players will hop on a plane and head to Qatar.

But here’s a theory, madcap admitted, but I’m going to stick my neck on the line and say by the time 2022 comes around, the English Premier League will follow its European neighbours by having a winter break in the season already in place.

Sock it to ‘em

No nonsense FIFA cracked the whip at the World Cup, fining Sweden’s captain Andreas Granqvist VND1.5 billion. Why? Because of his socks.

The socks he was wearing had black dots on the back. That is the emblem for the Trusox company, a UK firm that specialises in sports socks.

And sorry Andreas, that goes against FIFA’s strict advertising rules. It’s just a pity they’ve got nothing better to do. — VNS