And here come the pretzels.
It wasn’t the worst performance ever for France, it must be noted, but there was just something missing; they showed no urgency, no flare, no confidence. Sure they had their chances, the best arguably coming on a free kick just before the half, but France went gentle into that good night, failing to score not just against Spain but against their previous opponent, Sweden. One Real Madrid fan on Twitter put it well: “I’m a bit sad/disappointed Benzema left the Eurocup as a kitten.”
The French surely must leave this tournament in a sea of disappointment, with no goals from their strikers and more predictable off-the-field news about mutinous discord. I admit, with a heavy sigh, that I thought they had more in them, picking them to win the whole thing back in March. Oh well, there goes that.
However, what’s more annoying than France’s laissez-faire attitude and sputtering out in these quarterfinals is what I can only predict will be a deluge of posts about how Spain is the best team in the world and/or the best team in history—and just after we were rid of the constant team-du-jour hoopla about Barcelona, which, for all intents and purposes, is comprised of the same players.
I can’t wait for the steady stream of comments and articles about how Spain “dominated” France, and about how they are thusly unstoppable moving forward in the tournament.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Spain outplayed France and deserved the win, undoubtedly. If I wanted to teach someone how to play soccer, the first thing I would have them do is watch a Spain match and concentrate on how they pass and move without the ball. It’s utterly beautiful, and they just make it look so easy, don’t they?
But France also had their chances, and momentary lapses of reason—not major systemic flaws—led to the goals by Xabi Alonso. The lack of heart displayed by the French side is, as I said, surely disappointing and ultimately confusing. But in this chess match that is soccer, a few inches or one false move can completely change the outcome of the game, and if France had equalized in the second half, everyone would be talking about how Spain is showing weaknesses or even crumbling under the pressure of winning three major tournaments in a row.
So I urge some patience; let’s not go crazy. Spain is looking poised and confident—a feeling which must come from knowing that they have several weapons in the arsenal. But Portugal will almost certainly play with more heart than France did today, and there’s that other Real Madrid striker to worry about. Cristiano Ronaldo is a different story than Karim Benzema, and Spain still has the majority of their work ahead of them.