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:

Image result for france 1998

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. 

Image result for france 1998

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.

Image result for Marcel Desailly didier deschamps

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. 😄😄

Entertainment

Les Bleus sends La Celeste home

France beat Uruguay 2-0 to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2006. 

Les Bleus outplayed Uruguay in the opening 30 minutes and had nothing to show for it until the 40′ when Varane scored a scintillating header! It was his 3rd goal for France. 

Uruguay vs. France: Quarter Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

No more goals would come until the 60′ when Griezmann fires from the edge of the box. The ball heads straight for Muslera who make a regulation save, but ends up palming the ball at the back of the net.  Yes, it was a howler for a keeper like Muslera, but it’s not like Uruguay were drawing the French 1-1, so don’t be hard on him.

Uruguay vs. France: Quarter Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Luis Suárez looked lost without Cavani who did not make the starting XI but made the bench nevertheless. But even with El Matador on the pitch, I don’t think Uruguay would’ve won. They did not bring much to this match and the French didn’t give the South Americans much space to work with. I have to commend the French for their excellent defending in this match. 👍

Uruguay vs. France: Quarter Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

#hairgoals

I have to say that I am extremely disappointed in Mbappé showing off his acting chops. In December he said,

“I am learning every day from Neymar. I try to watch all the things he is doing in order to learn as quick as possible.” 

So, I guess he’s learning well from the master. Imagine if the two of them meet in the semis! But it won’t happen for my gut feeling is going with Belgium. It’s going to be a French showdown!

 

There is one man who goes about his work effectively and quietly, that his masterclass is almost dismissed and that is my boy, N’Golo Kanté. I notice all the hard work that he puts in even though he shuns the limelight and I am delighted with it. He is our engine at only 5’5. He is consistent, a joy to watch, has a great partnership with Paul Pogba, and a masterclass midfielder. He is a precious gem. 

And today was no different. He had an excellent game today! There is no better holding midfielder in the world currently than him and France should be grateful for him. 

     

I also want to commend Olivier Giroud for occupying the Uruguayan defense. He was a force to be reckoned with proving that he doesn’t have to score to make a name for himself.

Uruguay vs. France: Quarter Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia 

And Hugo Lloris just claimed the save of the tournament! Just before the break, he denied Martín Cáceres by using his right foot to stretch his upper body thus saving what was a potential goal. Many shocked people said that he had no right to save that, which is true, but we Les Bleus fans know that Hugo Boss is a cat. 😎

Uruguay vs. France: Quarter Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

And last but never least, Didier Deschamps. When the tournament kicked off, I was not pleased with the way Les Bleus began. When they played Argentina, I witnessed the growth I was looking for and it was the same today against Uruguay. Yes, there is still room for improvement, but Deschamps is working through it, and I am happy to see that. 

One of my favorite moment during the match was when he took Pogba aside and talked some sense into his head when some Uruguayans clashed with the French. He is often criticized, but he is a very good leader. For example, when Argentina went 2-1 up early in the 2nd half, Didier Deschamps ushered players to the touchline and asked them not to be scared. 9 minutes later, Benjamin Pavard equalized. (L’Équipe)

 

 

And when he joked with Griezmann after his substitution.

 

Thank you, Uruguay for gracing us with your presence in this year’s tournament. As for France…

ALLEZ LES BLEUS!