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“Allez, les Bleus!” says Walcott, “mais attention aux Brésiliens!”

“”…talent alone does not make you the team to beat; it never has, it never will. And although I am very excited to see what Deschamps’ brigade of young attacking talent will do on the world’s biggest stage, when I look at France’s unpredictability at recent World Cups, I simply do not feel confident enough to pick them to win…although I shall certainly be sending positive vibes all the way to them from here in T&T.”

“Tite’s charges may not be the old-style flamboyant, super-stylish Brazilian team. But they are efficient and finished ten points clear of the chasing pack in South American qualifying, winning nine consecutive games once Tite took over from Dunga.”

Photo: Zinedine Zidane heads home the second of his two goals to earn the 1998 World Cup title for France. The home side beat defending champions Brazil 3-0.

I look in my murky ball and I see the World Cup returning to South America. But if I could have my druthers, the Cup would be heading north rather than south, all the way to Paris with Les Bleus.

And call me a romantic but I can’t help but notice that the man charged with the responsibility of leading an extremely talented French contingent to glory in Russia is Didier Deschamps, the same man who 20 years ago captained France to its so far lone World Cup triumph.

Just five years old when the home side defeated defending champions Brazil in 1998, I dare not claim to remember anything from that tournament; my nose would certainly start resembling Pinocchio’s if I did. So my ride on the France bandwagon began after that.

And the ride has been nothing if not rocky since I came aboard.

Not long after their 1998 World Cup home triumph, France went on to win Euro 2000. However, the side that has given the world Just Fontaine, Michel Platini and Zinédine “Zizou” Zidane also fell to group stage exits at the 2002 and 2010 World Cups as well as the 2008 Euros, having ended each of those tournaments winless.

Caption: Current France coach Didier Deschamps (right) and 1998 double goalscorer Zinedine Zidane are radiant after a France win.

And who can forget how the man in blue off whose head came World Cup glory in 1998 used that same head to butt away France’s hopes of lifting their second World Cup title in the 2006 finale?

The boys in blue also went out at the quarterfinal stage of the 2014 World Cup and finished runners-up to Portugal at the 2016 Euros.

So why do I expect better from Deschamps charges in 2018?

When I look at what the composition of the final squads has to tell me, I doubt there will be any team stacked with more talent than Les Bleus.

Coman? Non! Benzema? Non, non! Martial? Non, non et non!

Mais oui à Dembele, à Fekir, à Griezmann, à Lemar, à Mbappé, a Pogba et a Varane…. Oh là là, oh là là!

But talent alone does not make you the team to beat; it never has, it never will. And although I am very excited to see what Deschamps’ brigade of young attacking talent will do on the world’s biggest stage, when I look at France’s unpredictability at recent World Cups, I simply do not feel confident enough to pick them to win…although I shall certainly be sending positive vibes all the way to them from here in T&T.

Photo: Former Brazil captain Dunga scratches his head, perhaps unable to understand why he was dumped as national coach in 2016.

No, not this time. What my murky ball says is a quarterfinal or semifinal finish for France…

…and a sixth World Cup title for Brazil—although that is an extremely painful prospect for me and a really bitter pill to swallow.

Tite’s charges may not be the old-style flamboyant, super-stylish Brazilian team. But they are efficient and finished ten points clear of the chasing pack in South American qualifying, winning nine consecutive games once Tite took over from Dunga.

Also, they have chemistry and balance and, in Philippe Coutinho and Neymar, they boast players who can change a game with a moment of individual brilliance. Add to that the presence of the steely grafters and disruptors in Casemiro, Fernandinho and Paulinho in midfield and at the back that marvellous triumvirate of Marcelo, Marquinhos and Miranda. Won’t the more gifted players be able to express themselves further upfield? I think so….

So my murky ball shows a Brazil vs defending champions Germany 15 July final and, at the end of it, la Seleçao in seventh heaven with a sixth World cup in hand.

Photo: France’s gifted midfielder Paul Pogba will have to bring his A game if the 1998 champions are to have any chance of lifting the trophy in Russia in July.

About Roneil Walcott

Roneil Walcott
Roneil Walcott is an avid sports fan and freelance reporter with a BA in Mass Communication from COSTAATT. Roneil is a former Harvard and St Mary's College cricketer who once had lofty aspirations of bringing joy to sport fans with the West Indies team. Now, his mission is to keep them on the edge of their seats with sharp commentary from off the playing field.

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3 comments

  1. They defend very poorly. Never a good thing in top flight football

  2. France has a good side BUT I don’t think they have will be in the final 4. Just my opinion ( which doesn’t really count)!

  3. Brazil, Germany, Belgium, Spain. In any order. But, forgive me, I hope someone does something to Ramos! Just like what he did to Salah! Justice.!!!???