Sous les pavés la plage. Roughly translated as “under the pavement, the beach,” the phrase was widely used during the general strike of May ‘68 (listen to yer copy of Beggars Banquet if you’re unfamiliar), and, in my interpretation, describes a situation of pent-up energy, lying just beneath the surface—an energy that can be covered up (with “paving stones”) but ultimately never contained.
Such is the situation with the French national side—with some saying the emerging tide will cause disorder and implosion and others saying it will carry the team like a tidal surge all the way to the trophy stand. I count myself in the company of the latter camp.
If you’re one of the three people who regularly read my posts, you may recall that back in March I picked France to win Euro 2012. Well, despite Samir Nasri’s ringing of the alarm bells over the French midfield heading into the tournament (is anyone really going to be “punished” by England this go-round?), I couldn’t have been more delighted to see the roster selected by coach Laurent Blanc. Here is the squad:
Goalkeepers: Cedric Carrasso (Bordeaux), Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille).
Defenders: Gael Clichy (Man City), Mathieu Debuchy (Lille), Patrice Evra (Man Utd), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Philippe Mexes (AC Milan), Adil Rami (Valencia), Anthony Reveillere (Lyon).
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle), Alou Diarra (Marseille), Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Marvin Martin (Sochaux), Blaise Matuidi (Paris St Germain), Yann M’vila (Rennes), Samir Nasri (Man City).
Forwards: Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Jeremy Menez (Paris Saint-Germain), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille).
As my esteemed colleague, Alan Dymock, has so astutely pointed out, the 26-year-old Olivier Giroud from Montpellier might be one of the most unsung but exciting players on the list for Les Bleus. If given the chance to really work up front with Benzema, he could easily turn some heads this summer.
And so could the rest of the squad, as they have almost no expectations and everything to prove. As long as they don’t quit (which is a definite possibility), they have a good chance of making it out of their group (which includes England, Sweden, and co-host Ukraine), and in the late rounds it’s often a game of luck and inches, as we’ve seen time and again. Whatever happens, their volatility will make them one of the most fun teams to watch, so stay tuned.