Euro 2008 has begun and I, for the sake of loyalty, was still supporting France. How could I forget the beauty that Zidane and Co. brought to football? Zidane has retired but the memories are still fresh – of that clever pass, that deft control, that gorgeous step over, that out-of-this world turns around… Everything would be etched in a football lover’s memory forever. So France it was for me in the latest edition of the Euro.
But one game is all that has taken for me to totally give up on France. They started as tournaments second favorites but now I would not give them even an outside chance. I haven’t seen such a lack luster performance from a reputed national team in a while. They looked out of sorts while attacking. Defense has been solid for long. Gallas and Thuram are legendary central defenders. Sagnol and Abidal mark the wings and well. But they alone cannot take all the credit for their fabulous defensive record. France must be the only team in the world to play with two holding mid-fielders. And both Makelele and Viera are the top two holding mids in the world. It is but obvious they don’t concede goals easily.
But it’s the scored goals that win matches and France have looked completely incapable of scoring. Yes, they do have big names even upfront – Theiry Henry, Ribery, Malouda and the budding stars – Benzema and Nasri. Both the youngsters have been likened to the great Zidane but they will take time if and when they get there. Anyways, the French could attack only from the wings – Ribery on the right and Malouda on the left, with Anelka and Benzema in the center. But to no effect – either the attack was cut down or the crosses comfortably parried away. Surprisingly though, I did not witness a single good move down the center. There was no one to distribute the ball around the park – a playmaker who could create and impose their game; something Zidane had been doing for more than a decade now. It was as if a void has been left by Zidane which French have not been able to fill. French football looks empty and inelegant without him. It might very well take ages to fill up his illustrious shoes.
Thiery Henry had once remarked when asked about Zidane – “There is a God and he plays for France.” Alas! No more…