This World Cup has proven one thing so far: That every team is a contender; it doesn’t matter if a team has a world renowned super star (or 2, or 3), or if a team has all the momentum in the world, any team is capable of losing at any time in this tournament. And, I must say, this World Cup has been that much more exciting because the “best” teams haven’t just eased their way through the competition.
We’ve already seen teams with huge expectations get knocked out of the group stage (Spain, Italy), and we’ve also seen teams like Brazil and Holland struggle against opponents like Chile and Mexico – teams that have performed much better than expected. Today, Nigeria continued that trend, giving the French an extremely tough time. I expected France to have their way considering how well they played in the group stage, yet Nigeria was more than up for the challenge – they fought admirably all game, and Vincent Enyeama had played extremely well.
The most interesting aspect of the French football team is watching their group of players come together as a team, especially after their last World Cup when everyone was so divided. The French team is eclectic to say the least, the ages and experience of their players are so different – Varane and Pogba are both aged 21, Benzema is hitting his prime at 26, Matuidi is 27, Giroud is 27, Cabaye is 28, Valbuena is 29, Evra is 33… but what seems to allow all of these players to come together is their lack of egos.
All of the players just named are stars in their own right, but none are insanely over-hyped. Worldwide, Benzema is perhaps the most well known – yet even he seems to have bought into this beautiful no ego/work hard mentality that has been established within the squad. Their team is the perfect mix of young players wanting to learn, old players willing to teach through their experiences, and also players that are trying make more of a name for themselves on the world stage (Cabaye, and Valbuena) in particular. Furthermore, I think Valbuena has been their most important player as he is really stepping up as a captain
on the pitch that all players respect.
Another note: The French have been solid on set pieces, they have been great on the counter, and also
have played offense nicely within their opponent’s half. I’d go as far as to say that they’ve been the best team at the tournament so far, but hey, they were also in an easier group than many other teams with high expectations… but still, as I said in the first paragraph, every team has come to play at this World Cup, so I truly think that the French are a step ahead of the competition. That said, it’s been beautiful watching this French team play for each other, rather than just with each other.