The Most Entertaining Story of World Cup Group Play Debate… Soccer Is French for Surrender

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan.

With the relative success of Team U.S.A. and controversial calls dominating many of the headlines about the World Cup here in the States, the French team’s monumental collapse has largely flown under the radar here. But that is not about to happen on my watch.

That’s right sports fans, just after Cup competition got under way the French team went down faster than a Ghana player trying to eat up time with a BS injury. While it is by no means shocking that the French side essentially surrendered to a foreign power (probably a good thing they did not start off playing Germany), it is surprising that these defeats came on the soccer field. Soccer was one of the few things that the French were supposed to be good at – aside from wearing striped shirts and berets, smoking, and making American tourists feel unwelcome.

So how did the French team go from powerhouse to pushover? C’est la vie, I guess.

The French stumbled out of the gate posting an underwhelming 0-0 tie against Uruguay, and a 2-0 defeat against Mexico before eventually being bumped from tournament play by the 2-1 loss to South Africa. As CNN.com reported, adding insult to injury is the fact that the French have the dubious honor of being beaten by the “first World Cup [former] host nation to be eliminated before the tournament’s knockout stages.” So even though their country’s performance was strangely reminiscent of one of those French mimes being suffocated in a perpetually shrinking invisible box, it wasn’t the team’s on field play that was the most embarrassing aspect of its World Cup performance.

Not only were the former champions knocked out of the tournament in rather unimpressive fashion, but they also left amidst more drama than a Jersey Shore group therapy session with Dr. Phil. The team was fighting itself before they ever took the field. French coach Raymond Domenech displayed virtually no authority, leadership, or control over his squad. His arguments with team captain Patrice Eura and striker Nicolas Anelka erupted into huge distractions which had many calling for Domenech’s resignation. (Editor’s Note: It also could have been Domenech’s penchant for filling lineup cards with the help of astrology.) Team backbiting got so bad at one point that the team actually refused to practice as a protest.

Now there’s a bright idea, refusing to practice when your team is already choking. Maybe next World Cup they can protest by refusing to wear shin guards and cleats, too. How does any team expect to win when they act like bigger divas than Celine Deon and Aretha Franklin? They can’t. Until they get their coach and squad on the same page, the team is going to continue to play like the European version of the Bad News Bears.

That huge sucking noise coming from South Africa wasn’t the vuvuzela at all, but rather the complete and utter implosion of the French side. But, since I’ve brought up the world’s most annoying noise – aside from the screeching tones of Mariah Carrey’s upper register (ok we get it you can sing really high, but that does make it good) – let me say a few words about the irritating horn.

As a peripheral follower of soccer I watch very few matches. But when I do, the last thing I want to hear is the incessant chatter of thousands of plastic horns drowning out every aspect of the game. It would be one thing if the vuvuzela were used like thunder sticks, crowd chants, or synchronized claps to amplify intense moments in the game, but the noise never stopped. I know the horn is cultural, but come on, I don’t remember a freaking oompah band drowning out everything on the sidelines of Germany four years ago. But I digress.

While this year’s epic French failure and infighting was an embarrassment, it is not as if controversy and drama have not plagued the squad in the past. Just four years earlier the popular French player and team captain Zinedine Zidane was red carded during the World Cup final for what turned out to be the head butt heard round the world. In the final minutes of his career, Zidane let the trash talking of Italian defender Marco Materazzi get the best of him. In a moment of rage, and a clear lapse in judgment, Zidane delivered a head butt to the chest of the Materazzi and was removed from the tie game during bonus time. Without the leadership of their captain, France went on to lose the match 5 to 3 in a shootout. While this was no doubt an embarrassing moment for the French, it pales in comparison to this year’s epic failure. At least during the 2006 Cup the French made it to the final, as opposed to the South African cup where they were eliminated before the knockout rounds.

France blew it in a big way at the World Cup. There performance was so bad they probably had French Canadians pretending to be Americans for a change. Maybe we should all go back to calling things “Freedom Fries” and “Freedom Toast” until the French put up a respectable performance. Unless they make some major changes soon, they will have to consider throwing in the towel on their national pastime.

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