Blaise Matuidi, France’s Soldier in the Shadows.

It may seem strange, but in addition to the headliners such as Kylian Mbappé,  Paul Pogba,  and  N’Golo Kanté—one of France’s key players at this World Cup is a player who has only started in three of the six games the team has played through the semifinal.

Read more at The Athletic or full pdf (to come). 

 

France’s “Children of 1998” are united by belief (and relatively muted hair styles)

France’s “Children of 1998” are united by belief (and relatively muted hair styles)

France​ and​ Belgium​ have clashed​ on​ the​ field for​ more​ than​ 120​ years,​​ but on Tuesday, in the World Cup semifinal in Saint Petersburg, the stakes will be higher than ever before. Men who usually play side-by-side as professional teammates will instead be pitted against each other as internationals for one night. Then there’s the fact that Les Diables Rouges’ assistant coach Thierry Henry is one of France’s heroes of 1998 (alongside French head coach Didier Deschamps), infusing the match with additional tension as two veterans of the famous black-blanc-beur team square off on the touchline. Yet, for all that Titi has given Belgium—including a “taste for the attack,” in the words of French Football Federation president Noël Le Graët—France and Deschamps retain an advantage: the children of 1998.

Made in France: How 52 players born in a single country made it to the World Cup

Made in France: How 52 players born in a single country made it to the World Cup

France​ nearly​ stumbled​ against Australia,​ leading​ some​ people to worry that​ a terrifically​ gifted​ team​ might not​ fulfill​​ its potential at In Russia. But in another regard, France is clearly dominating this World Cup regardless of on-pitch results. Some 52 players across five teams at the tournament in Russia are French-born, and nearly a third of them come from Paris and its surrounding suburbs. What some call the greatest concentration of soccer talent in Europehas become a strong quadrennial presence. Since 2002, France has supplied more players and coaches for World Cup rosters—218 in total—than any other country, according to RunRepeat. As a result, the country’s soccer influence extends well beyond its own 23-man squad.

World Cup Kickoff: The Irony of Looking Backward to Celebrate the Future

World Cup Kickoff: The Irony of Looking Backward to Celebrate the Future

I’m back from a sports week in France ahead of the World Cup and am struck by the irony of nostalgia for the past—in this case, 1998—which very much celebrated the future.

The Sports World & May 1968

The Sports World & May 1968

1968 was a year that shook the world as protests rocked the United States, Mexico, Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Tokyo, and points in between. By mid-May in France, workers joined student protesters in a nation-wide strike that shut down much of daily life. Often overlooked was the role of the sports world during the “Events of May,” as the movement is still referred to.

Joie des Hoops - Basketball Diplomacy Happens Where You Least Expect It

Joie des Hoops - Basketball Diplomacy Happens Where You Least Expect It

Unofficial people-to-people diplomacy occurs daily in places where you least expect it, including on the basketball court and in cyberspace. Take the French NBA players or Boston Celtics Bill Russell for example.