By | September 15, 2009

I found myself strangely elated after the France-Serbia qualifier last week. As a fan of the French team there was, of course, no good reason to feel this. It was one more poor outcome by a team, under the questionable guidance of Domenech, that has an incredible roster but nevertheless has been limping along for months. Why, then, my elation? After the disastrous red card delivered to the goalie and the converted Serbian penalty kick in the eighth minute, it seemed for the first time in a long time that the French team was actually enjoying itself. The commentator was moved at one point to declare that they actually seemed to be enjoying themselves a little too much, with a little too much confidence, given their dire situation. It wasn’t just that they equalized, preventing an utter disaster. It was the fact that it was actually fun to watch the game, to see them working on the outskirts of the penalty area, trying to find through a seemingly impenetrable Serbian defense, smiling even when they didn’t make it. Thierry Henry, in an oddly chipper interview after the game, announced the the French team had a “soul,” suggesting also that it might be in the process of actually finding that soul. Could there be, in the midst of all of this, a beautiful game?

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Now the question, for those of us familiar with the radical ups and downs of the French team, is this: will this be one of those times when it actually come together, surprising everyone? Or will this be France-Bulgaria 1994, or something like the 2002 World Cup, a collapse, and vanishing act?

— Laurent Dubois

Category: France Henry World Cup Qualifiers

About Laurent Dubois

I am Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke University. A specialist on the history and culture of France and the Caribbean, notably Haiti, I am the author of Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France. I founded the Soccer Politics blog in the Fall of 2009 as part of a Duke University course called "World Cup and World Politics," whose students helped me develop the site.

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