France aiming to reconnect with their fans
Not only are the French national side enjoying something of a momentum surge as they head into knockout competition tonight, but they’re also beginning to find a support once thought lost – from the fans.
June 30th, 2014
The 1998 World Cup winners have experienced some turbulent times; even before they won it on home soil when their aging squad came under scrutiny from fans; but the national mood has never been lower than the 2010 controversy, when Nicholas Anelka was sent home following a bust-up with then-manager Raymond Domenech and the squad refused to train for their third group stage match. Their elimination in round one led to an upheaval at home, where French football federation president Jean-Pierre Escalettes resigned his position and the full senior team was suspended for its first game after the World Cup.
With new coach Didier Deschamps at the helm, the team are starting to get back to winning ways – and to reconnect with that fanbase which so roundly turned on them in 2010. At a press conference ahead of tonight’s last-16 encounter with Nigeria, captain Hugo Lloris said he’d spotted “a rekindled fondness from the fans” following their qualification for the tournament.
The French side scored eight goals in two games to win Group E, and aside from the stutter of a 0-0 draw against Ecuador, the quality has been there in spades. Karim Benzema has been outstanding this tournament, with three group-stage goals and two assists, while Yohan Cabaye should add something to proceedings as he’s back from suspension.
Nigeria are not to be overlooked though – France have lost two out of their last three World Cup games against African opposition and are looking to make a few headlines of their own. Ahmed Musa will be starting the match and, with his goal against Argentina an early favourite for goal of the tournament, will be hoping to prove something as his side bid for a first-ever World Cup quarter final.
The last-16 tie between France and Nigeria has just kicked off – who’s your pick?