Friday, June 30, 2006

The ghost of 1998

It's time to lay to rest the ghost of 1998. Wasn't it France who lifted the trophy in one of the most entertaining competitions ever?

Ronaldo's ghost. The final, in which France triumphed 3-0, was forever remembered by Zidane's goals as much as Ronaldo's supposed mystery illness that caused him to appear listless during the match. The world has not, and could not, give due credit to this French team, who, before the tournament, has been written off by all and sundry. They could not be blamed, for history has shown that France has been woefully inadequate when it comes to anything requiring some mental toughness and real fights. Wars and football matches are just beyond most Frenchmen it seems.

But this squad is special. Those who have witnessed only the French triumphs in 1998 and 2000 would not realise some distinct oddities about this squad. For it was the exact squad who contrived to almost draw with Andorra in 1999 Euro Qualifying Match, but for Franck LeBeouf's last min goal, and the same team who bored me to near death in a 0-0 draw with Czech Rep in Euro 96. The boredom was so intense that I thought it impossible to be upstaged again, mumbling professors in antiseptic lecture halls notwithstanding.

The same team brought as much grief as joy to the full-time supporters like me, beating the likes of Portugal, Spain, England, Italy, but they have their Senegals and Greeces. For lack of a better word in English, doppenganger, German for shadow or double, is the best thing to describe France. This France team has the knack of playing in fits and starts, but shadow copying what the opponents do. Play against a slick team, and France will be slick. Play against a team completely bereth of ideas, and France will be completely ruderless. Play against a samba team, and France will samba through the night.

So, come Sunday, show the world how these band of doppelgangers can beat Brazil in their own game and lay to rest the ghost of Ronaldo!

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