On Sunday, Portugal beat France in the final of Euro 2016 in Paris. It’s not quite how this was supposed to go, really.
It’s been a shit few months for my home country, scarred by terror attacks, seemingly never ending social unrest and even more striking than usual. The mood has been pretty grim, and understandably so.
In the midst of this, the French national team has been a breath of fresh air. Young, determined, talented and popular, they’ve given us some of the most wonderful sporting emotions since Zidane’s final flamboyant outing, a decade ago already.
God, I’m old.
From Payet’s last minute screamer and tears in the opening game against Romania to Griezmann’s unstoppable record and funky celebrations, Lloris’ insane saves and the battering of Iceland in what was France’s greatest performance in years: it’s been an amazing few weeks. We’ve proven we can beat Ireland with our feet, seen some unlikely stars emerge like Umititi and Coman, and perhaps more unlikely still, got a few goals from Giroud!
And of course, there was the glorious victory against our eternal bogey team Germany last Thursday – the first in an official match since 1958 – to top it off. What a game. This tournament hasn’t been perfect: off to a shaky start because of hooliganism, it was often prudent and conservative thanks to this absurd 24 team format. And big teams didn’t turn up. Except for ours.
This time around it wasn’t to be, but les Bleus should be proud of what they achieved. They may leave empty-handed, but do so with plenty of promises and their heads held high, having lifted the spirits of a nation. For France, they have been this summer’s brightest ray of sunshine. Until next time I say, merci les Bleus!