Today’s training session was conducted by Ray. He made the team practice stealing the ball, destabilizing, pressing and scoring. Every few minutes or so, Marcus would shout at the team for not doing something right or urge them to press up the field. Tomorrow was the opener of the Euro 2016 tournament and Coach wanted everything done right.
“Pass the damn ball!” Giroud screamed at Gignac, who was deliberately running with it towards goal. “Dédé! Don’t be selfish!”
But Gignac ignored Giroud and tried his luck at shooting. Lloris was ready and he quickly pounced on it causing Gignac to kick the grass. Giroud laughed, but Marcus was not laughing. “Is this how you plan on winning against Romania?” he asked.
“Coach, we were just having a little fun,”
“Playtime is over, Giroud,”
“Yes, but Lloris was in goal. It’s unfair when he’s in goal.”
Marcus frowned and turned to Gignac. “The next time a teammate screams at you to pass the damn ball, you pass the damn ball to him because he is open.” He then begrudgingly turned his tone down. “My wife says you’re doing a great job as the first French player in the Liga Mix. Being Mexican herself, she supports Tigres and because of you, a lot of Mexicans now know what the Ligue 1 is.”
Gignac’s eyes lit up. “Thanks, Coach,”
“Yeah, yeah,” Marcus replied and made a note on his tablet. He then made the team practice taking penalties. “Whoever scores the most penalties will take the penalty tomorrow if there’s ever one. Mandanda, you’re up.”
The boys made it competitive, but Antoine scored three, the most and Marcus awarded him first choice. Gignac was the runner-up.
“I think in French, but I get angry in Spanish,” Antoine was saying to his good pal, Pogba as they headed to the locker room after practice. “I don’t know why.”
Behind them, Marcus scoffed. “I don’t care if you play in Spain during club season; you better think in French and get angry in French out on the field.”
Antoine turned and teasingly saluted him. “Sir, yes sir!”
When everyone was settled in the locker room, Marcus took the opportunity to address his team. “I was going to leave this until the game tomorrow, but I need to do this now.” The players realized Coach was going to give THE Euro speech and gave him their rapt attention. “We are not favorites. We are someone’s opponents and we need to respect this. It’ll be disrespectful to think otherwise. To think that just because we’re the hosts we have a slight advantage over the other teams. We do not. We’re Les Bleus and we’re going to work hard just like everyone else is going to in the group stage. This is our time to give back to the country. Give them a reason to cheer for you. Give them a reason to hope, a reason to smile, a reason to hold their heads up high.
“Life is short, but football careers are even shorter. Make your impact and make this Euro count.”
Applause followed the speech. Giroud whistled, “We’re going to win this Euro for you, Coach.”
“Win it for the country. Win it for the fans and give them something to talk about, not only for the rest of the year but in years to come.” Marcus didn’t smile, but the warmth in his voice was enough to keep the vibes going in the locker room. “I have to be at the presser in five. Lloris, are you ready?”
France v Romania
Date: 10 June 2016
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
The atmosphere was ripe with anticipation. A sea of blue, white and red painted faces waved their national flag proudly and sang to the top of their lungs trying to outdo the Romanian fans. The opening ceremony featured the likes of David Guetta and Zara Larsson singing the official tournament song “This One’s For You” which Marcus originally thought was a bunch of hogwash. When the identical coaches walked out, the commentators immediately got a topic to talk about. Marcus neatly attired in a royal blue jacket, soft black pants and dress shoes. His brother wore a tricolor scarf inside his glorious blue jacket, white pants, and red dress shoes looking like a walking French flag. The Les Bleus fans wildly cheered them on as the twins acknowledged them, well; Ray acknowledged them while Marcus shook hands with the Romanian coach. The coaches then walked out on the pitch to inspect it.
“There’s a debate on Twitter over who the well-dressed coach is,” the commentator with the English accent started. “And guess who the top two is? The French duo of Les Bleus. Fans can’t decide who the better dresser is. Who do you think is the better dresser, Phil?”
Phil chuckled. “I don’t know. I can’t even tell them apart,” he joked. “But they’re both classy,”
“Marcus actually scares journalists at the pressers, though. They were afraid to ask the wrong questions last evening.” The English-accented commentator laughed. “The French have their hands full with this one.”
“Sam, I wouldn’t dare ask the French coach the wrong questions. He can be terrifying. I’ve listened to some of his pressers and he is open, honest, and blunt.”
“If he can get angry during friendlies then imagine how angry he’s going to be tonight,”
“It’s not anger, its passion. He has a winning mentality and he is a no-nonsense coach, but is this France enough to progress into the round of sixteen and to eventually go on and win the tournament?”
“Only time will tell, Phil. Only time will tell,”
“What about Ray?”
“If Marcus is the bad cop, then Ray is the good one. He seems calm, patient, kind. Has a knockout for a wife too! The teams are walking out of the tunnel.”
When the teams assembled on the pitch, everyone stood for the Romanian anthem. When it was the French’s turn, the Stade de France gave a resounding rendition of the “La Marseillaise” with Marcus singing proudly at the top of his voice. “Go get em!” Ray shouted as he took his seat in the dugout next to the twin, who was impatient for the match to begin. Super Victor, the tournament mascot came in his line of sight and Marcus scoffed at the man child mascot shooing him off. “Get gone! Can’t you see the game is about to begin? Shoo! Stupid mascot!”
Super Victor hung his head and dejectedly walked into the tunnel.
The referee blew the whistle to kick off Euro 2016 rendering the French bench silent. The first shot of the game came from Romania bringing a frown to Marcus’ face. Hugo Lloris was there to make the save, but the French didn’t look good in opening minutes. They looked shaky and nervous. They eventually settled into the rhythm of the game, but Marcus was still displeased by the lack of concentration. Giroud had two chances to get it right and Griezmann was unlucky to score. By the time the referee blew the whistle on a scoreless halftime, Marcus was fuming. He kicked the dugout in frustration and followed the team in the tunnel.
“What was that out there?” Marcus raged. “You’re unfocused, the back looks messy, and the Romanians almost scored. I want better in the second half. I want you to show the critics what you’re capable of.”
France started the second half with a sense of urgency that eventually paid off in the 57th minute.
“Payet cuts onto his left foot, he curls a teasing cross into the box. Giroud gets to the ball ahead of the goalkeeper and it’s a goal! The Stade de France goes wild as Olivier Giroud scores the first goal of Euro 2016, putting France in the driving seat. Was there any doubt, Phil?”
Phil laughed. “The big man delivers and their coach looks pleased with it, but it was all Payet.”
Several minutes later, Patrice Evra gives a penalty away causing Marcus to slam his water bottle to the ground. He watched as Stancu steps up, sends Lloris the wrong way, and coldly buries the penalty. “Damn it, Patrice!” he grabbed Ray’s water bottle and threw it to the ground causing water to splash on his shoes.
“Hey,” Ray protested. “I was drinking that!”
Marcus stood and in one stride, he was standing by the sideline, yelling and shouting at his team to “Score the next goal!” and prompting the Stade de France to cheer their team on. He grumbled as he made a double substitution. The super duo, Pogba, and Griezmann made way for Kingsley and Martial. By the time the 80th minute rolled around, Marcus was still fuming at the 1-1 draw. This was not how he foresaw France kicking off their tournament. His gloomy thoughts evaporated into thin air when Payet scored an unstoppable screamer.
“OUI PAYET!” Ray screamed from the bench and pumped his fist into the air just as the diminutive midfielder posing as a forward rushed to celebrate with his mates, something Marcus thought outrageous. He understood the emotions running through the team, but now was not the time to celebrate as if they had won the tournament. Two minutes later, he put Sissoko in and took Payet out. Overwhelmed by the emotion of his personal journey, Payet broke down in tears and walked straight into a waiting Ray’s arms.
“What a goal!” Phil commentated. “Payet is undoubtedly the man of the match. He set Giroud up for the first goal and scored the winner himself. Marcus didn’t look too pleased with the celebrations, though.”
Sam chuckled. “I think I understand why, but it’s France two, Romania one. There you have it, folks.”
After the match, Man of the Match Payet told reporters, “If someone had told me it would have gone like that I wouldn’t have believed it. This goal gives us the three points and is very important. It took us some time to get into the match, and that was surely down to our emotions. Playing in front of my family, who came from Réunion, gave me strength. I am here to enjoy myself.”
Back in the locker room, Marcus congratulated the team for fighting hard to win the match, but “Patrice, you near give me a heart attack, and Lloris, you need to work on your penalties. For an experienced goalie, you sometimes take penalties like an old man.” Lloris colored red but said nothing as some of the boys chuckled. “We still have a lot of ground to cover. Good job in making the world discard you as favorites.” He sarcastically concluded and left the team to their own devices. He hoped their match against Albania was going to be better, but after witnessing their opening display earlier, Marcus knew he had his work cut out for him.
^ I don’t pay attention to the commentators during football games anymore because some are bitter or too bias, so I made my commentators interesting and gave them names.
^ Réunion is an island in the Indian Ocean, that is east of Madagascar, and is a region of France.
REMEMBER, THIS IS FICTION & IT IS IN NO WAY ASSOCIATED WITH LES BLEUS OR THE FFF.