Espresso Shots ☕, Football ⚽

My World Cup story ⚽

Just two more World Cup posts after this one and I’ll get back to regular posting. 😄

I’ve been so excited to share my World Cup experience during the tournament that I forgot to talk about how I became a fan of the beautiful game and why I support Les Bleus. So today, I present my World Cup story. I hope I won’t go overboard while writing. I’ll try to keep it as short as I can. 

FRANCE 1998

Image result for World Cup

If you’re born in Trinidad like me and you enjoy football, you root for two teams: Brazil or Mexico. Well, back then. My father grew up thinking that Pelé was the greatest (I went with Diego Maradona later on after watching his style) and Brazil was perhaps the best team to ever play the game. Dad used to play football with the local community team and although he had talent and what it took for him to represent Trinidad on the big stage, he never took up on the offers, instead choosing to see out the rest of his teenage years before going out into the world of work.

Dad insisted that I watch the World Cup for he wanted me to see why he supported Brazil. I was kind of reluctant for I did not want to sit and watch men kick a ball around for 90 minutes. I had to take my words back for later on, I came to love and enjoy football. Anyways, so I watched dad’s team Brazil and I was not impressed although they were the favorites to win it all. But then, then I saw this beautiful team:

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This beautiful multicultural French team led by captain Didier Deschamps had my attention. They were nicknamed Black-Blanc-Beur (Black, White & Arab) and they defied stereotypes and they were the underdogs regardless of how great they were doing and this is how Les Bleus became the loves of my footballing life. As the competition wore on, I tuned in for all of their games. At that time, a resident psychic thought she saw it all and made a bold prediction about Brazil winning the WC. I laughed because I knew they weren’t going to beat the French team to it. Even dad was like, “But the psychic said…” I was like, “Dad, I love you, but Brazil is going to Samba back to their country without the ultimate prize.”

On July 12th, the final between Brazil and France was intense, but France’s multiracial Rainbow Warriors won it 3-0 and lifted the trophy with pure joy. 

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Back then, everyone was talking about Zidane this and Zidane that, but two players stood out for me and they were Didier Deschamps (the captain) and Marcel Desailly.

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They had a great friendship and still do. They’re the godfathers of each other’s sons and they always talk fondly of each other.

RUSSIA 2018

Twenty years later, a new generation arrived with Didier Deschamps at the helm once again, this time as coach. Deschamps has led France to its second World Cup victory, twenty years after winning it as a player.

Hugo Lloris

And watch the diversity of our goalies:

I talked a lot about France over the course of this year’s World Cup tournament so I won’t do that here now. This beautiful diverse team is not going to stop racism, but they’re an example of what people can achieve by working together as a team regardless of the color of skin or background.

ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!

Football ⚽

N’Golo Kanté: unsung hero of the World Cup

The engine of France and a beautiful soul.

The first time I saw N’golo, he was creating havoc in the midfield at Leicester City in 2015. The other time I took notice of him, he was individually greeting the staff of Clairefontaine with a big smile on his face. That was 2016 when he was called up for Les Bleus. Over time, I’ve come to realize that he is extremely polite, quiet, humble and he smiles a lot. He’s probably one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. This, I can guarantee. He lives a simple life and doesn’t have a drop of arrogance. The man is worth millions and he still drives to work with a second-hand Mini Cooper.

Image result for gif n'golo kante france

During France’s amazing run in the 2018 World Cup, many were in awe of Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, and Kylian Mbappé and rightly so, but one man was not getting the credit he deserved – well, 3 inclusive of Hugo Lloris and Olivier Giroud, but this is not about them – and that is N’Golo Kanté. At only 5’6″ he is the anchor of the French midfield and made Pogba look good. He covers a lot of ground and he reads the game brilliantly. 

Kanté did not have the best match in the World Cup final and had to be subbed off in the second half. Afterward, we learned that he played with a stomach bug.

France v Croatia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final

Coach Didier Deschamps summed up our shy midfielder best:

“N’Golo is a real ray of sunshine, a true joy. When he came off, I asked him if he was OK. His quiet reply was: ‘No, no, do not worry – I am fine, coach.’ Everybody loves N’Golo – he is a little phenomenon.”

Kante (left) shakes hands with a member of plane staff as fellow France midfielder Corentin Tolisso (right) watches on

And his teammates simply love him! His French mates sung his heroics after they won the World Cup. Here’s how it went down:

🎶N’Golo Kanté. Phalalalala
Il est petit
Il est gentil
Il a stoppé Leo Messi
Mais on sait tous
C’est un tricheur
N’golo Kante

“He is short, he is nice, he stopped Leo Messi, but we all know he’s a cheater (at cards).” Haha! Right, as if he’ll ever cheat at cards! But the chant was not meant to be taken seriously and Kanté was almost embarrassed by the praises his teammates showered upon him. He was like, “No, we stopped him (Messi) together!” 😃They even changed the lyrics to welcome him to the Champs-Élysées. 

During World Cup celebrations on the pitch with the trophy, Kanté was so shy to ask for the trophy himself so he can pose for a photo in the heavy pouring rain with it, that Steven Nzonzi had to take the trophy after Florian Thauvin posed with it and hand it to Kanté. This epic photo is the result:

Image result for N'Golo Kanté with world cup trophy

This man works hard and shuns the nightlife. In 3 years, he has won 2 EPL titles (with Leicester and Chelsea), an FA Cup (with Chelsea) and a World Cup (with France). He was also the EPL Player of the Year in 2017. A humble, polite, and hard worker who is not interested in selling his image and flaunting his wealth? Many other footballers need to get on his level. I hope I won’t have to take my words back in the future! 😉

MERCI KANTÉ AND NEVER STOP SMILING. 😄😄

Football ⚽

Rain pours down on France as they celebrate World Cup title. 🏆

The tournament is over, but I’ll be wrapping up WC blogs this week.

July 15th, 2018 is a day that I'll always remember 

July 15th, 2018. 

Another unforgettable experience in my book. France won the World Cup for the second time and it was also my bestie’s birthday. 💙

France faced Croatia in the final of the World Cup and won 4-2 in what was an entertaining final. Les Bleus took the lead on 18 minutes when Mario Mandžukić scored an own goal from an Antoine Greizmann freekick. I dislike his Fortnight celebration, though. 

     

Croatia equalized in the 28′ from a wicked left-footed finish via Ivan Perišić and it was game on for both sides!

     

In the 36′ France was awarded a penalty after the use of VAR decided that Perišić handled the ball. After what seemed like ages, Griezmann converted from the penalty spot to make it 2-1.

     

In the 59′ Paul Pogba missed with his right foot, but he made no mistake with the left curling home a great effort that extended France’s lead.

Six minutes later, Kylian Mbappé joins the party with a wicked strike to put the French in the driving seat.

There were no more goals to come from the French, but Hugo Lloris made a disastrous error in the 69′ which saw Mandžukić pull one back for Croatia. 

     

Other than that, Lloris had a great game. 

France did not lose a game in this tournament and they performed well to the very end. Croatia also had the tournament of their lives. There were some fans whining about possession, but here’s a news flash: modern football is not about statistics and it certainly does not care about possession for possession does not win games. You have to be decisive in front of goal and the French were just that. 

And nature came out to celebrate victory with the French after winning their second WC after 20 years. 

     

France Achievements:

1998: World Cup champions

2000: Euro champions

2006: World Cup finalists

2016: Euro finalists

2018: World Cup champions

Vive la France et vive la République!

  

Football ⚽

Welcome to the quarter-finals!

These teams are here for they played hard and fought even harder. Uruguay and France played with passion and joy. Brazil with attitude (and Neymar slipping one too many times for many fans liking!), Belgium with pride, Russia with determination, Croatia with heart, Sweden with focus and England with pleasure. 

This World Cup is the most entertaining I’ve witnessed since France 1998. It was mostly unpredictable from the first whistle, although I got all of mine right. Some teams stole my heart all over again (Japan, Nigeria, Senegal, and Mexico) and some teams played beautiful football but were unable to it make to the round of 16 (Morocco and Tunisia). Some teams still need improvement (Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Serbia) and some teams were present, but their mindset wasn’t (Argentina, Poland, and Germany).

And I still love you, Iceland!

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THE QUARTER-FINALISTS

Uruguay v France – July 06th @10 am

I love these two teams. Whichever one wins I’ll be happy, but I’m leaning more towards Les Bleus. They’ve played some of the best football during the tournament although they didn’t start off convincingly prompting the Danish coach to say that we’re nothing special. Well, we might not be anything special, but we’re giving it our all and we deserve to be here. The boys are not going home without a good fight. 

France is the youngest team in the quarter-finals and I know I’m always stressing on this, but I’m going to stress on it anyway: Room. For. Improvement. Despite playing our best game against Argentina and despite playing with beautiful passion, I still see room for improvement, especially at the back. We need to tighten defense and we need a stronger flowing rhythm in midfield. At the end of the day, we’re all about teamwork and it’s the reason why we’ve reached this far.

France vs. Argentina: Round Of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Uruguay also did a fine job at shutting the critics up and Edison Cavani finally stepped out of Luis Suárez’s shadow and lost his scapegoat status. Antoine Greizmann is looking forward to this match because of his Atlético teammate, good friend, and godfather to his daughter, Diego Godin. Because of Godin, Greizmann feels half Uruguayan as he has immersed himself in their culture, language, and tradition. However, Suárez thinks Greizmann should stop pretending to be Uruguayan. 🙄 Like, dude, todo bien! I love Uruguayan culture and know some Uruguayan-isms and I love listening to the gentle Uruguayan Spanish coming from El Matador’s mouth, but I have no claims to be an Uruguayan… not even if I can move to the rhythm like Cavani!

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It’s the same thing with French culture. I do consider myself a Francophile but at the end of the day, I do not feel or want to be French despite having French in my family.

Griezmann gave the country a beautiful compliment, so shut up, take it, and stop being so literal. At this time, we’re still unsure about the extent of Cavani’s injury, but it’s most likely he won’t start/face the French. I think Uruguay might make the mistake of focusing on Kylian Mbappé and this can cost them, so I hope that this won’t be the case. 

  

I won’t be able to talk about the other 6 teams like this, but I think nothing less of them.

Brazil v Belgium – July 06th @2 pm

This is going to be a good match! Brazil has a great team, but one of the reasons they’re turning fans off everywhere is due to Neymar’s unnecessary falling to the ground and then making a spectacle out of it by rolling around as if he got hit by Jack Reacher.

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Sometimes, he’s barely touched and down he goes, flopping on his back and then proceeds to imitate a rolling rock. This display is appalling. Even a bar in Rio de Janeiro had invented a new drinking game: free shots every time he falls down. And this was during Brazil’s crucial game during Serbia. Dude, leave the acting to Tom Cruise.

Although I’m not a fan of Brazil, I have nothing but love for Marcelo. 

Brazil vs. Switzerland: Group E - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Belgium is having an amazing time at this tournament! Their football makes me smile. They’ve produced exceptional players and this generation is crafting a name for themselves. I won’t underestimate them for they’re capable of springing surprises. I don’t know why, but I’m feeling a France-Belgium semi-final showdown, but like I said, I won’t take anything away from these teams for it can also be an Uruguay-Brazil/Belgium showdown. 

Belgium vs. Japan: Round Of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Sweden v England – July 07th @10 am

Sweden’s football might not be the most beautiful, but their focus is on another level. Many have said that they wouldn’t have strived without their talisman, but they’re proving that life without Zlatan is actually sweet.

Germany vs. Sweden: Group F - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

As for England, this is the best I’ve seen them and they’re giving their nation hope of winning it all. When Gareth Southgate came on, despite not getting the backing, I just knew that he was going to be the one to propel England to greatness and Harry Kane is simply a joy to watch even more so than David Beckham.

     

Russia v Croatia – July 07th @2 pm

Even before the tournament kicked off last month, Russia was written off. Although I chose Russia and Uruguay to advance from the group stage, the odds were expecting Egypt to advance with Uruguay. But even after advancing, the Russians were still written off, but when they beat Spain to remain in the tournament, many people started taking them seriously. And who would’ve thought it, eh? That the host nation was going to give a good fight? I am happy with their progress.

Spain vs. Russia: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

I’ve come to love Croatia a long time ago. I believe that’s when I saw them participate in France 1998 and… wait, today is the 4th of July! On this day, 20 years ago, Croatia handed Germany a 3-0 defeat in Lyon, France during the 1998 tournament! That was the first game I saw the Croatians play and they stole a piece of my heart. Just like that.

Although I didn’t get to watch most of their games this tournament, they played with heart and proved critics wrong. They deserve to be here. They can go on and win this thing and they know it.

     

All the best to everyone and don’t forget to check your local schedule for listings.

*** GIFs and images via Google Search and Zimbio

Entertainment

Mbappé and Cavani stand out on the world stage!

Day 16 of the world’s most beautiful game: France sends Argentina packing and Cavani made Portugal pack their bags to join them. 

I did not get to watch any of the matches because it was the Sabbath and I attended church. But the sun has set now and I looked at the highlights and was satisfied with what I saw. I hope to catch the MOTD in a few hours.

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France v Argentina 4-3

I said that I’ll be satisfied with whichever team won and I am happy with France’s progression. Griezmann gave Les Bleus an early lead through a penalty in the 13′ which was canceled out by  Angel Di Maria’s stunning goal in the 41′. Mercado put Argentina ahead in the 48′ coming from a Messi assist, but France was not about to let Argentina have all the fun and struck back through Benjamin Pavard in the 57′ to level things up. 

Mbappé decided to join the party and scored in the 64′ causing Argentina to panic. Olivier Giroud’s scrumptious pass found the young man again 4 minutes later and Mbappé tucked it away to pile on the pressure on the Argentines who responded through Sergio Aguero in the 90′ from a Messi assist but it was already too late. 

Shucks! I didn’t plan this commentary! 

France vs. Argentina: Round Of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

France vs. Argentina: Round Of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

France vs. Argentina: Round Of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

France vs. Argentina: Round Of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

France vs. Argentina: Round Of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

France vs. Argentina: Round Of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

France vs. Argentina: Round Of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

No champagne, no problem. Water will do. 😆

France vs. Argentina: Round Of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

France vs. Argentina: Round Of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

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France vs. Argentina: Round Of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

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France vs. Argentina: Round Of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Thanks for gracing us with your presence at the World Cup, Argentina. 

Uruguay v Portugal 2-1

CAVANI! BAE! Cavani came into this tournament to prove that he was good enough to represent his country and he certainly made his point today after scoring two beautiful goals which dumped Portugal out of the WC. He was emotional after both goals, but after limping off with an injury, he was inconsolable when the final whistle blew. I hope the injury is nothing serious because I want to see him feature in the game against the French on Friday. 

Uruguay v Portugal: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Uruguay v Portugal: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Uruguay v Portugal: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

This is Bae’s world; we’re only living in it. 😉

 Uruguay v Portugal: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Ronaldo helped Cavani off the pitch after he was injured.

Uruguay v Portugal: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Uruguay v Portugal: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Man of the Match! 👍

***All photos via Zimbio & Google Search