On that bench he never sits on, Kylian Mbappé ducked his head under his jersey and turned off the light. At that precise moment, on Sunday December 18, minutes after his quest for a second World Cup win had flown away after a final that was as heartbreaking as it was unforgettable (3-3, 4-2 on penalties), the Blues- Striker only strives for solitude or far from this Lusail stadium that has become an Argentine dance floor. Mbappé had made this tournament in Qatar “Obsession” and thus justified his vow of silence, which he briefly broke after beating Poland in the round of 16.
A few meters away from him another child from Bondy (Seine-Saint-Denis) is wandering aimlessly. At the end of extra time, Randal Kolo Muani, the hero of the World Cup that had started a month earlier in a hotel room in Saitama, Japan, fell by a foot, the life-saving foot of Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, more than 8,000km from Qatar. On November 15, the player got out of bed with an early call from Didier Deschamps. The coach asks him to take over the first Tokyo-Doha to replace Christopher Nkunku who was injured during the only joint training session at the center of Clairefontaine (Yvelines).
The story of the former FC Nantes striker, now based in Frankfurt (Germany), is a parable of a team born under duress, that of injuries. A third of its holders are already on the flank before the first game (Presnel Kimpembe, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté and Karim Benzema). A reigning world-champion team, but too young, too fragile, frumpy by their coach in dropping the list, with too many centre-backs and not enough side-backs. Why Kolo Muani at all? Why not a Martin Terrier, for example? But Kolo Muani, scorer on his first ball against Morocco in the semi-finals, is finally the unexpected man of the opener against Argentina, the one who snatched the hopeful penalty at 2-0 when fate seemed sealed in that failed final in the great latitudes.
The blues lost, but they gained some romance, and that’s quite unexpected. Because they sometimes batted better than them (England in the quarter-finals, for example), some have found a West German side to themselves. This FRG, which is said to have always won in the end. Like in Seville in 1982 against Michel Platini’s blues. In a country still seeing the ghosts of that lost semi-final, Lusail 2022 marks the path of a team capable of defying almost anything: bad luck, criticism, logic, adversity and even a last-minute virus. “It’s the whole group that has suffered from a situation for a while. We managed it as best as we could. I didn’t have the slightest concern for the players who started the game.”, evacuates Didier Deschamps because of this mysterious evil that has hit several of his executives such as Dayot Upamecano, Adrien Rabiot and Raphaël Varane.
You still have 73.65% of this article to read. The following is for subscribers only.