France in the 2018 Final
France, commonly known as Les Bleus, has a long deep history of deep runs in the World Cup. They played their sixth appearance in the semifinals and their 15th appearance out of 21 World Cup tournaments.
Les Bleus have won the Cup once before in 1998 with a 3-0 victory against Brazil. The title win was hailed as a victory for a multicultural vision of France because of the diverse makeup of the team. As The Times reported at the time:
At the game’s conclusion, the steely defender Lilian Thuram grabbed a tricolour, jogged to a corner of the stadium and waved it joyously, signalling that this was not merely a victory for French soccer, but also for French ethnic diversity.
Thuram was born in Guadeloupe. (Zinedine) Zidane is the son of an Algerian night watchman. (Marcel) Desailly was born in Ghana. Others are of Armenian and Polish descent. Tonight’s victory was a rebuke, in an athletic sense anyway, of the anti-immigration stand by Jean-Marie Le Pen and the right-wing National Front party that has gained popularity in recent years.
Fast forward to the present, and France are waiting to find out who they will be playing against for the 2018 title. It is an opportunity once again, following their 2015 defeat against Portugal, to claim their second World Cup victory.
He explained their victory over Belgium has made their present achievement feel even sweeter.
“I was there two years ago with my staff,” Deschamps said. “It was so painful we really want to taste the victory tonight. It’s not nothing to win the semi-final of the World Cup after losing the final of the Euro. It’s sport, we have this privilege to give happiness to the French people and the public.”
Comparisons with the World Cup-winning side Deschamps captained in 1998 arose frequently during his post‑match press conference, to which he arrived more than an hour after their 1-0 win. He sought to play down any influence that could have on his players, pointing out that their memories will generally be minimal.
“You have to live in your own times: I never, never, never mention my own history,” Deschamps said. “Some of them were not born but saw pictures. It belongs to a lot of French people that lived through it but not the young generation. I’m here to write a new page in history, the most beautiful page. I’m not saying I’m not proud of what we did 20 years ago. Nobody will be able to erase it. But we can’t look back and see what is in the rear-view mirror.”
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