Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sports Q&A: France’s World Cup “De”-Bacle

By Jeffrey Boswell

France's 2-1 loss to South Africa mercifully ended arguably the most disgraceful performance in the history of the World Cup. How did the 1998 champions and 2006 finalists fall so stunningly from the top of international soccer?

To say the French played like cowards would be an insult to the stereotypical stigma of the French as cowards. But right now the French squad deserves nothing but insults.

It could be argued that the French downfall began after a opening match tie, in which France failed to capitalize in the latter stages against a man-short Uruguay team. It was a frustrating performance for the French, and that frustration later led to a much higher level of degeneration in a 2-0 loss to Mexico.

In that game, French striker Nicolas Anelka insulted head coach Raymond Domenech after the coach criticized Anelka's first-half effort. Allegedly, Anelka called Domenech a "dirty son of a whore." With apologies to Domenech's mother, it was a heinous thing to say.

Instead of responding to such an insult in true French soccer fashion — with a malicious head-butt — Domenech chose simply to kick Anelka off the team. At that moment, any semblance of respect and faith in leadership left for Domenech was gone, and France's fate was virtually sealed.

Anelka's teammates revolted against his treatment, and refused to practice at one point. No one has ever praised them for their fighting, but in this case, the French must be commended for the tenacity of their infighting.

In the end, France didn't even win a game, and scored only one goal while giving up four tallies. And that has to be a sore subject for the French, going winless while "surrendering."

In addition, Domenech himself stooped to the depths of poor sportsmanship after France's 2-1 loss in their elimination-clinching game, adamantly rebuffing the handshake of South African head coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. Parreira tried repeatedly to offer his hand, only to be turned away by Domenech. So I'm guessing the blowjob was out of the question, too.

The moment capped France's incredible fall from grace, and left the entire country reeling with embarrassment.

Unlike some other teams in the 2010 Cup, the French can't blame questionable officiating for their World Cup catastrophe. Ironically, though, questionable officiating is why France made it to South Africa in the first place.

In November of 2009 against Ireland, an uncalled handball by Thierry Henry set up the goal that qualified France for the 2010 Cup, an Irish "spring" to the World Cup, if you will. It was a malodorous call, and in the light of the reputation of the French as smelly, it was likely the first time ‘French' and ‘Irish Spring' had ever been used in a sentence before.

Replays clearly showed Henry touch the ball twice, once with his hand and again with his arm, before winking and sending a perfect bounce pass to teammate William Gallas, who scored. Henry chose not to take the noble route and admit the handball then and there, which could have resulted in the referees disallowing the goal. Instead, Henry admitted his infraction well after the fact, and argued that similar passes are made all the time ... in the NBA.

There's a name for players like Henry. No, not a cheater, but a "goalie."

Was France's miserable performance in the World Cup merely an example of karma at work, leveling the playing field, so to speak, against the French after November's unfair display of French entitlement? Possibly, and likely, if you believe that the "hand of God" can truly manifest itself in the game of soccer.

Heretofore, the "hand of God" has been used to describe illegal goals, such as that of Henry's, as well as Diego Maradona's controversial goal in Argentina's 2-1 1986 World Cup quarterfinal win over England. I find it hard to believe that God would purposely impose his will in a soccer game; I find it even harder to believe that if God did actually play favorites, he would do so for the Argentinians or the French. Heck, they're not even mentioned in the Bible. Surely, God is a fan of the Israeli's.

God is a miracle worker, but He surely hates being credited with the miraculous plays that give underserving teams wins over teams that play by the rules. Probably as much as He despises seeing an athlete point skyward after a home run, touchdown, ace, or submission-inducing arm bar.

Maybe, where soccer is concerned, God's "hand" would be better served touching not the ball, but the eyes of an incompetent referee.

If God did, in fact, impact Henry's role in the disputed goal against Ireland, then God should be compelled to correct His mistake, and avenge the Irish. A just God would do so, an "eye for an eye" in biblical terms, an "equalizer" in soccer terms.

This is obviously what happened to the French in the World Cup, their cause derailed by divine intervention, which lurched them into increasing degrees of disrepair, spiraling further out of control with every game. This time, the "hand of God" was wearing of glove, and the French were dealt their comeuppance with a slap across the face.

Now, Irish eyes are smiling, and Irish livers are processing.

And the world is better for it. Isn't that proof of God's presence?

Yes, God works in mysterious ways. And it is certainly "mysterious" that God put his devilish plan into motion when his almighty power caused the words "dirty son of a whore" to be spoken. No one, least not the French, would even suspect a higher power of working in such a fashion. Not only is God omnipotent, he's a crafty son of a gun when it comes to covering his tracks.

With the French situation resolved, God's work in the 2010 World Cup is complete, right? No, not at all. God may have worked quickly to rectify the French situation, but it's been 24 years since the Maradona "hand of God" goal sullied the 1986 Cup. Well, it's payback time. And no, the Argentinians don't have hell to pay; they have God to pay, since He took the fall in 1986.

Argentina has lived a charmed World Cup so far, easily winning their group with three convincing victories. And guess who's coaching the team? Diego Maradona himself, a man with the audacity to say God helped him score a World Cup goal, and the same man who offered God no credit whatsoever for helping him overcome a cocaine habit. Is it reasonable to believe that God would offer his "hand" to aid with a goal, yet refuse to extend his "foot" to kick a drug addiction?

Like the Rapture, God's wrath against Argentinian soccer is long overdue.

We can't be sure when, or where, but at some point, God will impose his will, and Argentina, like France, will fall at the "hand" of God.

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