Everyone else got an obituary, but France gets a tribute.
Ramble of the Day
Watching this France team was sometimes been an exercise in reconciling the facts that Didier Deschamps assembled one of the greatest group of attacking players at this year’s World Cup and that he would not use them in the most obvious way. There were hardly any genuine highlights during the group stage, as the team narrowly beat Australia and Peru and participated in the tournament’s only 0-0 draw, playing the most yawn-inducing set of 90 minutes seemingly possible.
As luck would have it for the audience, France got more entertaining as the tournament went on. That was partly because they occasionally messed up; a four-goal display that saw Kylian Mbappé score a brace was met with France conceding three times against Argentina. Other times, the opposition was just more interesting than the teams France faced in the group stage; that was the case in the team’s semifinal against Belgium, as France embraced its defensive setup and Belgium comfortably went on the attack as frequently as possible. It was a tight affair that saw only Samuel Umtiti score, but it provided the intensity of a dream semifinal.
Once again, the final resembled the Round of 16 match against Argentina, though some of the credit for the 4-2 result must go to Croatia and not just a somewhat leaky defense. It was also in Sunday’s match where the reconciliation finally happened, though there were hints along the way. Mbappé’s goal to more or less clinch victory was a perfect way to cap off a tournament that saw him accomplish just as much individually as he did with his teammates. Paul Pogba’s similarly impressive goal, and the official game winner, was just one reminder of his own remarkable abilities.
In fact, Deschamps’s team was full of individually brilliant players that are hard not to enjoy. Many of these people deserve to be called World Cup winners, from the aforementioned Mbappé and Pogba to N’Golo Kanté, whose work in front of defense made France’s defensive setup work. Additionally, with Raphaël Varane and Umtiti, who may have the best center back partnership in international football, and Hugo Lloris, who was steady and almost perfect over the course of the tournament, France mustered some very enjoyable performances. With a mix of youth and experience, a France team that in many ways reflects the nation itself, the French men’s national team is once again at the top of the world and with fewer complaints than were present a month earlier.
tl;dr: France, you somehow won me over.
Links of the Day
The Paris metro has renamed six different stations to honor members of the World Cup winning team, while Gareth Southgate has received a similar honor in London.
Tim Cahill has retired from international football after earning 107 caps for Australia.
Alexis Sánchez will not be in the United States for the start of Manchester United preseason tour as he is having difficulty securing a visa.
Thierry Henry is leaving Sky Sports to focus on his managerial career.
Transfer roundup: Brighton have signed goalkeeper David Button from Fulham
Today’s longer read: Joana Moldovan, Vladimir Zivojinovic, Ino Zeljak, and Imke Lass photographed Croatians watching the World Cup final in Croatia in a photo essay for ESPN