Saturday, May 4, 2013

The first match of France was the least eventful – I mean controversies, not the game itself. Italy and France were pleasant surprise – open, entertaining match, in which France scored in the very first minute. Eventually, Italy prevailed, but France never gave up and impressed both fans and specialists.

This duel between Bellugi and Lacombe perhaps symbolizes best the match – it was equal, no one dominated, uncertain to the end, and even Italy won, France was not really beaten. But they lost... may be Hidalgo made a mistake – he played without defensive midfielder, but with three clearly attacking playmakers (Guillou, Michel, and Platini), which is more than risky against team like Italy. And particularly against such a rare seen – attacking Italy.

Bad luck at first, but in the second match France was practically robbed. Against Argentina the French played again strong football, quite and equal match once again. Until the controversial penalty given to Argentina in the last minute of the first half. Passarella scored. In the second half France continued strong and equalized in the 60th minute. Platini silenced the Argnetian crowds, at least temporary. Open, attacking football from both sides, but eventually Argentina scored again.
Luque scores the second goal for Argentina. By now Baratelli was between the posts, substituting Bertrand-Demanes in the 58th minute. Was it a bad substitution, or was it something else is hard to tell – Baratelli was no worse and no better than the starter. Neither was exceptionally great goalkeeper, but both were reliable enough not to be a major problem. More important thing was the penalty in favour of France, which the referee did not give. Thus, given and not given penalty tainted the match in which Argentina was not the better team and, rightly or wrongly, France was considered victimized. Even more so, for France was out after the final whistle.

Their last match was mere formality and not only for France – Hungary was also out of the race, and a meaningless match can hardly motivate teams. Nobody expected anything of this fixture and on top of it new controversy occurred: France had no kit at hand. Whether forgotten, or lost, or not delivered on time is immaterial now – France had nothing to play with and for the first (and last) time in post-Second World War football a national team appeared on major tournament not with its normal colours, but with borrowed kit. The small Mar del Plata club Kimberley helped, offering the French their own shirts and France played in green and white stripes. A novelty worth recalling, but hardly the most memorable thing about the match: contrary to expectations and even contrary to reason France and Hungary played wonderful match. Perhaps free from pressure, perhaps because of pride, for both teams considered themselves wronged, but they did not just go through the motions. It was excellent match, which France won 3-1, all goals scored in the first half. Hidalgo did something unnoticed at the time – he fielded the reserve players, not appearing so far. It was nice gesture – giving a chance to deep reserves of playing at the World Cup. It was good for moral. However, France did the same years later with no so plausible effect: it killed the importance of playing for bronze medals at the World finals for good. But this was later – in 1978 it was good for Dropsy, Papi, Petit, Bracci to know that they were not mere tourists or ballast. France was the only team using all players in the tournament. Platini was on the bench and came out as a substitute in the second half.
Ever confusing picture – these are Tresor and Janvion alright, rolled down socks, elegance and determination, but what team they are playing for? France in borrowed stripes – the generous Kimberley will be forever proud of having the French stars wearing its green and white. Kimberley never had a player of such caliber, so there. As for the French – the unusual kit did not prevent them from playing great football.

France was out and gone, but got respect. Unlucky team in a sense, but still getting recognition – it was considered the best team eliminated early. It was a delight to watch. Journalists, specialists, and fans were sorry to see them out. Just like Scotland in 1974, it was almost unfair – an entertaining team gone early. On the other hand, France was not ready yet for greatness – it was still in early stage of development.