Two years back, France hammered Switzerland 5-2 in their final group stage match of the World Cup in Brazil. It was a complete performance from Didier Deschamps’ side and the message was clear – France had come to win. Fans were highly optimistic about their chances. I remember being in Paris around that time for my summer break and everyone had face paintings of the national flag as they paraded across the roads to show their support for the team.
In the quarterfinals, they faced a strong German side. Much was expected from Benzema and co and they disappointed. The team was a shadow of its former self and was caught napping as Hummels headed in the winner. France fell short and were guilty of something that probably wasn’t even their fault – peaking too soon.
Start of last season’s Champions League, not many would have put their money on Real Madrid winning it. After the first leg lose to Wolfsburg, their chances looked even worse. But a change in management brought the X-factor back to the team and they ended the season as European champions and finished just one point behind Barcelona in the league. They hit form and they hit it at the right time. Bayern Munich on the other hand start every campaign on top form. Towards the end of the season however, their form fizzes out as procession to league victory is just a formality. This is the reason why they’ve exited the champions league at the semi finals against Spanish oppositions for the third year running. Irrespective of the strength of each team, form is the most important factor in deciding the winner. That is the why Iceland beat England. That is why Wales beat Belgium.
France were slightly lacklustre so far. They had to wait till the last 10 minutes to score the winner in their first two matches. They played a drab 0-0 draw against the Swiss. They fell behind in the second minute itself in their R-16 match and needed two superb Griezmann goals to put aside a spirited Irish side. There was very little to justify their favourites tag. But things are finally shaping up well. Pogba finally got his goal, Griezmann got his 4th goal and is leading the scoring charts, Payet got yet another assist and Giroud answered his critics in style. Iceland are no pushovers, but they are no Germany either. But this victory would have lifted the spirits in the camp and even across the nation. With Hummels suspended and Gomez injured for the semi final clash, France would certainly see this as an opportunity to make their way to the finals to claim another major tournament victory on home soil. Unliked Belgium two days back (read more on why Marc Willmots must quit as the Belgian team coach), France have finally turned up and they’ve done it just in time.
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