Marcus looked on as his twin mixed and mingle with the team on this warm but pleasant morning. They were cooperative and even cracked a few jokes with Ray, who was laughing right back with them. Marcus didn’t come to laugh with the team. He came with a main objective in mind and that was getting them to perform at their utmost best at the Euro 2016 tournament. It was one of the reasons he banned public spectators from the grounds for now.
Lacazette hit Varane on his shoulder as they laughed at an inside joke. Marcus turned to his left and witnessed Giroud and Benzema deep in talk. This wasn’t going to do.
“Maybe if you stop messing around, you can focus your energy on winning.” Marcus addressed the foursome. “I won’t stand another defeat especially against the Danish.”
“Aw, come on, Danish pastry is actually quite nice.” Giroud attempted to make light of it.
“You can have all the Danish pastry you like after you win the game.” Marcus put the sack of balls down and shouted, “Bring it in!” when everyone was assembled, he started to address them. “I know you’re still getting used to me dropping in unannounced and so sudden in your professional life, but I’m not going to apologize. You guys are professionals and you’re supposed to get used to whatever life may throw your way.”
He looked at his identical twin who was looking right back at him. “My dear brother likes to say on ne charge pas une équipe qui gagne but so far, I am not seeing that here.” He looked at each individual as he said this, sharp eyes honing in on Benzema and Giroud. “We have a team, this I cannot deny, but there’s something missing and I am here to make sure it is found. We’re not a high-scoring team and I want to see improvement before the end of the year. In plain words, you guys better shape up or ship out.”
Ray smiled at the gloomy faces. “Any question for Marc before we start today’s session?”
“Oui,” Lloris spoke up. “The boys want to know if you’ve ever played professionally.”
“I started off with Paris FC when I was seventeen, but something came up and I had to stop playing. However, I’ve never given up on football and like my friend, Séan Garnier, I took to freestyling for a while. It wasn’t for me though so I entered into coaching.”
Recognition suddenly shone in Giroud’s eyes. “You’re that guy!”
He had everyone’s attention when Marcus growled at him. “What guy?”
“I knew I recognized your name from somewhere! The guy who coached RC Lens in the Ligue 2 and gifted them Ligue 1 football in the 2012-13 season! You were the youngest coach in the Ligue then.”
Gasps echoed around the field when Marcus didn’t confirm or deny Giroud’s claim. They turned to their assistant coach for help, but Ray had already left his twin’s side and was setting up the goal posts with the goalkeeping coaches.
Varane decided to speak up. “How did you get here?”
“Deschamps recommended me.”
“Is Deschamps an uncle or something?” Pogba asked.
“You can say that,”
“Ray is not your typical football assistant coach,” Benzema said aloud. “What does he do for a living?”
“He shoots people.”
When the team loudly gasped once more and turned in Ray’s direction, Marcus shook his head. “You guys, he’s a movie director.”
Payet folded his arms. “There is only one thing I want to know: can you play the beautiful game?”
“Is this a challenge?”
Payet cheekily shrugged causing Marcus to furrow his eyebrows in anger. “I’ll school you in the beautiful game. Let’s go.”
Ruffier was in goal when the coach announced that there was going to be a mini football tournament: Marcus v Payet. Payet chose Valbuena, Varane, and Giroud on his team while Marcus went with Fekir, Koscielny, and Pogba. “It’s too bad I can’t choose you, Payet, because I really like you,” Marcus grinned mischievously and blew the whistle. “Game on!”
Fekir came close first, but Ruffier saved the shot causing Payet and Varane to snicker. Two minutes later, Giroud evaded Koscielny and put one pass the bald headed goalkeeper arousing cheers from his mates.
“What you gon do, coach?” Giroud playfully sang out. “What you gon do?”
Marcus only sneered and when the ball came to his feet, he showboated a few times prompting loud cheers from his team. Varane came at him, but Marcus easily evaded him and made him stumble before playing a brilliant one-two with Fekir. Marcus feinted right, effortlessly dribbled to the left, spun a circle around Valbuena and finished by sending the ball past a stunned Ruffier into the top left hand corner of the net. Ray cheered the loudest as Marcus bowed and made a ‘you’re going down’ gesture at a shocked Payet.
The mini tournament ended 4-2 in Marcus’s favor and after a water break the real training session began with some of the boys looking at their new manager in a new light.
Unlike the last meeting, Marcus could tell that the journalists were better prepared this time around. He was flanked by his captain, Hugo Lloris and when they sat down, he gestured with his hand and said, “You may begin,”
“Monsieur da Díxon, it’s good to have you back in the hot seat,” a journalist with a low haircut tried to be funny. He attempted to get a few chuckles out of his peers, but Marcus just stared at him with steel blue eyes. The journalist gulped, wet his bottom lip with his tongue, and looked at the tablet in his hand. “How are you preparing for the game against Denmark?”
“The same way I prepared against Brazil.”
“Lloris, can you tell France how it’s like dealing with a new coach?”
Hugo put the glass of water down. “Honestly, we’re still getting to know him, but he knows what he’s doing and we trust him.”
“Did you know that your new coach was responsible for bringing Lens out of Ligue 2?”
Lloris chuckled. “We only found that out this morning in training.”
“What was your reaction?”
Marcus scoffed, “Ma’am, what has this to do with the game tomorrow? It’s plain to see that you’re wasting precious time.”
“Marc, what do you think of Lloris?”
“Lloris is proactive, positive, and brave. He is the best goalie in the world and France should be pleased to have him. I still don’t think Spurs deserve him, but that is only my opinion because he’s showing not only England but the world what he is capable of.”
Lloris managed a small smile pleased that his manager considers him to be amongst the world’s best.
“Does that mean he’s going to start for us in tomorrow’s game?”
“Come to the stadium and see for yourself.”
France v Denmark
Date: 29 March 2015
Venue: Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne
Ruffier was the starting goalkeeper in this evening’s game and he was given the captain’s armband. Griezmann, Giroud, and Lacazette was an experiment up front, while Kondogbia, Payet, and Schneiderlin were put in charge of the midfield. Jallet, Varane, Koscielny, and Trémoulinas made up the back four.
“I’m not putting pressure on you, but we’ve met Denmark five times and won every single home game against them. Losing tonight is not an exception.” Marcus warned. “You guys are going to go out there and win this one for the fans.”
Inside the first ten minutes, either team had chances to go ahead, but it was France who took the lead in the 14th minute. Lacazette pounced on a loose ball and buried it for his first Les Bleus goal. The stadium roared along with the assistant coach and the subs on the bench. Marcus didn’t smile, didn’t react, but simply kept looking on at the game with a strict expression, his tablet held tightly in his left hand. However, he was glad to see Payet having the time of his life. He was here, there, everywhere. He was playing as if this was his last game and the team was depending solely on him and Marcus liked it. He had asked the boys to press higher up the pitch and the passing was crisp. Ruffier even looked good in goal.
“What the hell was that?” Marcus screamed from the sideline when Greizmann missed a golden opportunity. “Even my grand-mère could’ve scored that goal! Giroud, you better score or you’re off my Christmas list!”
Kondogbia went on a wild run drawing half of the Danish defense with him. He released Giroud just as their crazy coach shouted, “GIRU, you good for nothing bas… LE BUT! LE BUT!”
Giroud celebrated his goal as the French supporters made a great noise. The first half of the game was brilliant and at half time Ray told the team so in the locker room. “The passing was also crisp and the balls were recovered with prompt efficiency. Continue like this for the second half.”
If the supporters were expecting an exciting second half like the first, they were in for a big letdown. France was typical France, struggling to hold onto the control they started the game with and the brightness was diminishing. This did not please their coach, who made double substitutions in the 60th minute: Kondogbia and Greizmann came off to be replaced by Guilavogui and Fekir. Still not pleased with the new formation on the pitch, he replaced Lacazette with Matuidi. Les Blues hogged possession, but that third goal evaded them.
This caused Marcus to grunt in frustration and he slapped his hand against his forehead. “Bon sang!”
Zouma and Valbuena replaced Schneiderlin and Payet respectively in the 82nd minute. Two minutes later, Valbuena missed the target and Marcus wanted to skin him alive. Play had to be stopped in the 89th minute when Jallet went down injured and Marcus sighed when the right-back had to be taken off the field for medical treatment and leaving Ray in charge for the closing minutes of the game, he quickly jogged down the tunnel after his player causing a scandalized reaction from the stadium.
Les Bleus won the game 2-0 and TF1 was delighted to grab both coaches after the game. “Are you satisfied with the game tonight?” the wiry blonde man asked. The glasses he wore were a little too big for his face for it kept falling off his nose bridge and he had to keep adjusting it. Marcus found it amusing.
“In the sense of team spirit, yes, but I think they can even do better,” Marcus replied as he stuck his hands in his coat pockets.
“Zidane recently addressed the whistling issue against Fekir. He thinks…”
Marcus cut him off. “Who is managing Les Bleus?” and just like that, his anger took front and center stage. “Maybe Zidane shouldn’t stick his business where it doesn’t concern him. France is not his number one priority. That boys’ club in Madrid is.”
The journalist was taken aback by such rudeness but tried to maintain his professionalism. He turned to the mirror identical twin, who was smiling at some young fans that had his attention at the moment. “Ray, what are your thoughts on the game?”
“The team played well but like Marc said, there is room for improvement something we hope we can address before Euro. Fekir was breathtakingly brilliant and he teamed up well with Giroud. I am proud of the team this evening.” Ray smiles and politely excuses himself to meet the young eager fans.
The journalist shook a little as he watched Marcus. “You left the pitch to go after Jallet. Is he okay?”
“I don’t like your condescending tone. Jallet is my player and if he comes off with an injury, I want to be the first to know how serious it is. Is there a protocol or some written rule somewhere that states I shouldn’t have left the sideline? We were winning and it was the last few minutes.” Marcus frowned and looked at his watch. “You need to ask better questions. Until then, have a pleasant evening.”
When Marcus got to the locker room, his twin was already there laughing and high fiving the players and congratulating them on a job well done. “Before I let you guys leave, I have to commend you for a game well played this evening, but the second half was boring.” He addressed the now silent locker room. “This team lacks goals a’ plenty and I want to see improvement.”
“Does this mean you’ll be calling up the same team for upcoming friendlies?” Pogba cheekily asked.
“P’têt ben qu’oui, p’têt ben qu’non,” Marcus folded his arms like a stern professor. “It was nice meeting you guys, and don’t think you’ll be getting rid of me rather easily. See you guys in June.”
^ On ne change pas une équipe qui gagne – One does not change a winning team (French)
^ Deschamps had given Varane the captain armband for this match.
^ Bon sang! – Good grief! (French)
^ Zidane addressed the Fekir whistling issue by remarking, “It’s Fekir’s decision [to choose France]. Regarding whistles, when he starts to score it will not be a problem.” I agreed with this statement. Sadly, Fekir got injured and won’t be representing France at Euro 2016.
^ Christophe Jallet had dislocated his shoulder in this match and was ruled out for a month.
^ P’têt ben qu’oui, p’têt ben qu’non – Maybe yes, maybe no (French)
Enjoy the beautiful sounds of the beautiful game in this highlight video:
REMEMBER, THIS IS FICTION & IT IS IN NO WAY ASSOCIATED WITH LES BLEUS OR THE FFF.