Posted in Les Bleus! The Path

Quatorze: The Umtiti Effect

“If the English lose, they’ll blame the pitch,” Marcus joked as he sat in front of the TV watching England take on Iceland in the round of sixteen. “Not that I care, but I owe them a match.”

“And I think the English are not looking forward to it, given that you said you’ll be giving your interview in French last November had you touch the English soil.” Olivier Giroud expressed, his eyes glued to the screen. Wayne Rooney had scored the only goal thus far, a penalty.

Marcus shrugged. “You don’t see the English coming to France and giving their interviews in French.”

“Good point!” Sagna exclaimed.

Ray was taking tactical notes on his Genius tablet. “I don’t think England will win this match, though,” he volunteered.

Every man turned to him, surprised.

“The English might be in the lead right now via a Rooney penalty, but according to my tactical approach, the English would fail to deal with the long balls that the Icelanders are throwing their way. They’ll fight until the end, but it’ll be in vain. When Iceland secure the winning goal, they’ll throw everything they have into winning the game, tired and all. I say they win 2-1.”

Pogba looked at Coach, who was gaping at his twin. “Given your expression, I think I have my answer to the question I was going to ask.” He turned back to the game just as Iceland equalized.

“Well, that was rather disappointing,” Marcus grumbled and tucked his feet up on the sofa, the movement causing his sweats to roll up a bit and showcasing a glimpse of the small Eiffel Tower tattoo that was inked above his right ankle. “I hope you have the tactical solution to carry us to the final.” Ray glared causing his brother to laugh. “Ray, you can’t look angry, you only manage to look like a pouting kitten.”

“A cute one at that too,” Griezmann taunted playfully.

Giroud raised his hand. “I second that,”

“GOAL! ICELAND!” the TV commentator screamed. “THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE!”

Ray shrugged when several eyes locked on his form. “We still have another forty-five minutes of action, guys.”

The game ended in a shocking 2-1 victory for Iceland.

A few days later, the team gathered in front of the television to watch Germany v Italy. They asked Ray his predictions to which the joint coach replied, “It’s going to be a long match. It’ll be 1-1 at full-time, there’ll be extra time and penalties.”

“And who is going to win?” Jallet curiously asked.

“Based on stats, Germany always prevails over Italy, but the Italians are equally good on penalty taking.” Ray rattled off. “I’ll have to go with Germany.”

“I hope the Italians win,” Marcus voiced his choice. “For I won’t be shaking that man’s hand in the semis.” He made a disgusted face as the cameras panned in on the German coach. “I hope he doesn’t scratch himself in this match.”

The Italians matched the Germans strength for strength, but it was not enough for either team at full-time. No goals were scored during extra-time and when Germany won on penalties, Marcus scoffed. “Come on! The Italians are a waste of time and should be banned from playing football. I guess we’ll have to teach them how to beat the current world champions.”

“Coach, we still have to face Iceland,” Anthony Martial softly replied.

Marcus shrugged. “And it’s going to be your job to win convincingly against the Icelanders and send a message to the Germans that we’re coming.”

GAME DAY

France v Iceland

Date: 03 July 2016

Venue: Stade de France, Paris

Given that Iceland shocked England in the round of sixteen, many pundits threw their support behind the Icelanders hoping that they’ll silence the French as they did the English. Marcus did not mind at all. In fact, he was delighted that football fanatics were still doubting his team’s capabilities.

“If we lose, they’ll say we were never strong enough for this tournament and we had easy teams in the group stage hence the reason why we reached this far. And if we win, which I know we would, they’ll say we’ve not been properly tested.” Marcus looked at each individual as he addressed them in the locker room prior to kick-off. “It doesn’t matter what we do, we cannot win in the critics’ eyes. I prefer to be disliked than to be loved by hypocrites, so don’t listen to the doubters, listen to your heart and manifest your desires in front of Paris tonight.

“We’re Les Bleus and we’re not going to let outsiders come here and steal our joy, our hopes, our desires, our triumph. We’re Les Bleus and we’re going to have the last word when it comes to ruling the tournament. We’re Les Bleus and this is our house. No one is going to kick us out of our very own home. So, let’s go out there and win.”

Ray heard sniffling and turned to look at Giroud. “Ollie, are you crying?”

Giroud rubbed his eyes quickly when Mandanda ribbed him gently in the side. “No, I’m not. Something got in my eye.”

“Uh huh,” Marcus didn’t smile, but the boys heard it in his voice.

“It’s just that,” Giroud pretended to blow his nose in a napkin Griezmann had playfully thrown at him. “Coach can be motivating when he’s up to it.”

Marcus folded his arms. “Macarons are on the way courtesy Ladurée, but if you don’t play a good game tonight, I’ll enjoy them for you.”

Evra smacked his lips. He could already taste the scrumptious sweet goodness of the treat. “Even if we win?”

“Even if you win,” Marcus agreed. “Now, let’s go out there and show the world who we truly are.”

“ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!”

The evening was cold and rainy when the referee blew the whistle for kick-off. Les Bleus immediately went to work and Marcus jokingly told the bench that they were working for the macarons. The Coach employed a tactical approach to deal with the long balls from the oppositions and having Samuel Umtiti on the pitch reduced the pressure at the back. Iceland seemed shaky and nervous at times, playing without real concentration for they weren’t expecting an in-form French. They were caught off-guard and were eager to score the first goal. But it was Les Bleus who will strike goal first when Blaise Matuidi played a beautiful ball over the top for Olivier Giroud, who left-footed it past Halldórsson for the opener. The forward then slides on his knees and points to the heavens celebrating the goal as ecstatic teammates ran over to congratulate him. Marcus only yelled ‘OUI!’ in happiness.

Les Bleus continue to run rampant, unpicking Iceland’s defense, and eight minutes after the first goal was scored, Griezmann lashes a ball into the area from a corner, Pogba outjumps every man and heads in for a 2-0 lead. The Stade de France reacted with passionate screams and cheers.

“Meanwhile, the English are sitting in front of their TVs hoping that we lose so they won’t look bad,” Marcus sneered as he clapped next to his brother. “Had they played better against an organized Nordic team, then they would’ve been playing and losing against us.” He scoffed when Griezmann attempted a shot at goal instead of passing to a teammate who was even closer to goal than he was. “That little twerp could be selfish at times. I have to talk to him about that.”

Three minutes before half-time, Giroud knocks down a ball for Griezmann, who quickly lays it off for Payet and BAM! Payet slots home the third goal with a wicked left foot. Marcus jumped up from the bench and pumped his fists in the air. He had barely sat down when Pogba played a fine ball up the field. Giroud deliberately allowed the ball to run through his legs allowing Griezmann to cheekily chip the goalie for the fourth goal before half-time. Once again, the Stade de France erupted. The twins’ joy was uncontainable in the dug-out. Griezmann has just scored the tournament’s 100th goal and France have just made history by becoming the first team to score four goals in the first half of the Euro.

“We sexy no?” Ray grinned at his twin as they walked into the tunnel at half-time.

Marcus nodded. “The boys really want their macarons,” he was pleased with the team’s first half performance and he told them so in the locker room. “Giroud, you’re on a yellow card. Be careful out there for I want you available for semis if we go through.”

“Coach, we’re up 4-0. We won’t let you down.” Griezmann promised.

But the team went to sleep in the second half, allowing Iceland to gain momentum. They snatched a goal back in the 56th minute through Sigthórsson and Marcus slapped his thigh in frustration. However, he was yelling in delight once again two minutes later when Payet played a ridiculous ball into the area and Giroud rose, met it head on and tucked the wicked header away for a 5-1 lead.

The game eventually ended in a 5-2 victory for the French and Marcus was still pumped up when TF1 shoved a mic in his face.

“I want to commend both fans. They were well-behaved and respected each other,” Marcus ran a hand through his wavy red hair. “We were slick and fluid in the first half, but we lacked concentration in the second. Overall, I think we played great. I am especially happy for the Man of the Match (Giroud) and I hope he can maintain this form in the next match.

“And I’m pleased we have the best midfielder (Pogba) in the world.”

The journalist nodded in agreement. “This match is France’s highest scoring in the tournament. Also, this is the first time France has scored four goals in the first half.”

Marcus chuckled. “It’s the Umtiti effect,”

“Are you excited to see him take off at FC Barcelona?”

“I don’t care about Barcelona,”

“Any last thoughts?”

“The English might have invented football as they claimed, but we’re showing them how to play the game. I won’t put anything past the sneaky Germans, but we’re ready to put our hearts on a sleeve for France. I have a great team and I believe in them.”

 

NOTES:

^ If the Irish had the most beloved fans at the tournament, Iceland was the most beloved underdogs. I rooted for them from the get-go and when it seems like everyone else was writing them off as a ‘small team with a small mentality who won’t do anything special in this tournament,’ I supported them to stun the doubters. I also think they would benefit the most when it comes to tourism this summer because people who haven’t heard of or dismissed the beauty of Iceland wouldn’t think twice about visiting now. Iceland is on my travel goal list.

^ It doesn’t matter what happens today for I’ve written the ending with one thing in mind for this fiction: victory.

^ Ray’s Germany-Italy predictions were actually my own although I had Italy at 5-3 on penalties.

REMEMBER, THIS IS FICTION & IT IS IN NO WAY ASSOCIATED WITH LES BLEUS OR THE FFF.

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My heart simply beats football.

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