How did this happen? The Stars missing on the biggest night for France, that must be going through the minds of everyone in France. Didier Deschamps’ men were the favourites coming into this match. The removal of Ronaldo at 26th minute was the biggest favour they could have asked from Lady luck. But that was it. In the next 100 minutes, what unfolded was a page in the history books. Not the way the French had imagined though. On one of the biggest nights in the French footballing history, the players contrived to undo all the hard work of their tournament so far.
The Stars missing on the biggest night for France
Weary Legs, Tired minds : All the possession but scant chances
In Spite of being shorn of their talismanic skipper, the French were expected to dominate the proceedings. However, the Portuguese defense dug deep and didn’t allow them to set their tempo in the game. Every Time an attack seemed to built, William Carvalho and Pepe were present there to put an end to it. With all their surging runs, the France attack didn’t penetrate the opposition defense in the second half. Granted,there were three shots on target but none would be eligible for a clear-cut chance. The chances that they did manage to create didn’t yield goals. Griezmann, while being clear from a Kingsley coman pass, surprisingly failed to convert his header considering his aerial prowess. The long tournament may have taken toll on the player’s’ body. And some players couldn’t camouflage it.Dimitri Payet, the standout performer in the first round, looked jaded. While at his crafty best, his pace going forward was the undoing of the potential counterattacks. Having been replaced by Kingsley coman, the French team was injected with much needed speed at the wings and the threatening runs did yield chances. One might wonder what would have been had he been brought on earlier. The substitution of Giroud for Gignac also raises some questions. With the likes of Martial among their ranks,a player who was the sole shining light for Manchester United in an otherwise dismal season,he was brought on with only 10 minutes remaining. One wonders then, what would have been had he been on the pitch earlier.
The Misuse of Pogba
Didier Deschamps has to take flak for the most baffling of decision of his.Playing Pogba in a deep lying midfield role, France were shorn of one of their most creative talents. Where he is used to deciding games for Juventus, he was reduced to carry-and-fetch role for his team.His skill in the penalty box of the Portugal team late into the first half offered glimpses of what could have been had he been unleashed. Time and again in the midfield, it was he who was left back to screen the defense instead of orchestrating attacks on the opposing goalposts. Instead, it was Moussa Sissoko who was the chief creator of havoc for the Les Blues on Sunday.Deschamps hasn’t been afraid to take big decisions but maybe this is the one he has erred. Maybe he knows it too.
As the final whistle blew, Laurent Koscielny, Blaise Matuidi and Andre-Pierre Gignac among others sank their faces in their hands, weeping and wondering what might have been, there was one spectre, that of Patrice Evra that encapsulated everything. Standing still, his hands on his hips, his eyes seemed lost or maybe he wanted to. One could see all the 18 years that must have passed in his minds and the spectacle he must have envisaged. Alas, it was meant to go the other way.