Awaiting kickoff, I thought about our first trip to Europe in 1966. My wife and I started in Brussels, picked up our car, drove south and west.
At lunch time, we stopped in to a country restaurant. The squawking we heard in the courtyard soon turned into poulet à la cannelle – chicken with cinnamon. My wife thinks it was in France. I think it was Belgium. We giggled to ourselves because we were in Europe; in a way we had come home.
As the teams entered the field, I began thinking in duplicates.
Georges Simenon from Liege wrote endlessly about a police inspector -- in Paris, where he lived for many years. Jacques Brel from Brussels wrote songs from his Flemish background ("Les Flamandes," "Marieke") -- but when his songs were adapted into the immortal English cabaret version, the title was, mais oui, "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Living in Paris."
France had been to two finals, splitting them. Belgium had never been to a final.
Before the match, an embrace between Didier Deschamps, French coach, and Thierry Henry, Belgium assistant, comrades from 1998. They’ll always have Stade de France.
So much talent on the field -- a vast markup from the quarterfinals.
Each team fielded a giant engine, worthy of the train line, the TGV -- Très Grand Vitesse, very high speed: Kylian Mbappé from the Paris suburbs, father from Cameroon, mother from Algeria; Romelu Lugaku from Antwerp, of Congolese ancestry.
In the first half, I saw two familiar Premiership foes grappling: Paul Pogba of France and Manchester United; Vincent Kompany (with his Master’s in Business Administration) from Manchester City. The battle of Lancashire, alongside the Neva.
Early in the second half, time froze. Samuel Umtiti of France, a defender, moved forward on a corner kick and got inside Marouane Fellaini, the tallest man on the field, for a header into the corner of the goal.
They played out the match, ancient neighbors, joined at the hip.
At one point I saw alert, versatile Antoine Greizmann of France battling for the ball against alert, versatile Eden Hazard of Belgium.
I retrieved a memory of visiting my relatives, Jen and Sam, in southwest France, where they have a home alongside a working farm. (The cows walk outside the windows on their morning forage.) Sam and Jen introduced me to the farmer, who discussed the rules and inequities of the European Union. I heard the farmer say “Bruck-cells!” like a man spitting on the ground.
The match ended with a 1-0 victory for France. Deschamps and Henry found each other and embraced again.
One Belgian player pumped his arm and shouted “On y va!” to the fans. Let’s go.
I hope country restaurants still serve poulet à la cannelle on the border between the two nations.
7/10/2018 05:53:39 pm
Very nice read, George. Thanks. I saw the game here in Boulder on the big screen at Boulder Theatre with a few hundred people, including a bunch of genuine French fans. I thought Belgian deserved a draw and extra time (and maybe a penalty shoot-out). The Spurs guys were good, especially Lloris, Vertongen and Alderwereld. Hope the Spurs guys, especially Delle, Kane and Trippier, play even better tomorrow....
7/10/2018 08:55:32 pm
John, thanks. Club loyalties do run deep. I read that Andy Byford, who ran the Underground and went to Sydney and Toronto before trying to bring order to the wreck of the NYC transit and the adolescent feuding governor and mayor, remains a fan of Plymouth Argyle in, what, the second or third division? Good on him. Anybody could jump to a Championship League squad. Spurs was down a long time, so loyalty is rewarded. GV (I hope this link works)
7/10/2018 08:34:16 pm
Many good memories start with a meal. But even without, this game was delicious. France is strong and will be favored in the final. I was unimpressed with Croatia. They and Russia looked like too old heavyweights who were too tired to lift their gloves. It was a shame Russia beat themselves at the end. England should win, and that’s usually when a “temporary” team screws up. But I do believe France/England is what fans deserve. Those meal memories would be hard to beat.
7/10/2018 09:02:45 pm
Brian, hey, thanks again for those nice words in a previous post. I can see our kids (13, 11 and 6) loving a three-course prix fix meal in an unpretentious hotel near Falaise, Normandie. The utensils, the tablecloth, and food.
7/10/2018 10:43:18 pm
Set pieces are always more a matter of chance than goals in the run of play. This match was decided by awesome defense and one set piece. France shut down perhaps the dominant player in the tournament in Lukaku. Varane was man of the match for me. Do not overlook the new France defender, Paul Pogba. What a turn-around from his almost Ballotelliesque moments in the glare of the Special One this past EPL season!
7/11/2018 12:13:24 am
Belgium, led by Eden Hazard, came out with guns blazing and looked like they would break down France and possibly leave them chasing the game all night. But it didn’t last. At some point you actually have to score. And in the end only a French defender managed to do that. Fellaini can be a frustrating player, one who can win you a game sometimes, but also be the reason you lose it. Last night he was a spectator on Umtiti’s well-taken goal. But it wasn’t just down to him. The French grew, and grew, the Belgians faded in the second half. Hazard and DeBruyne never managed to crack the code. And Lukaku? Not his best night, though one really good pass to him might have Changed that. So, Allez Les Bleus. Pogba is no Zidane, not even a Deschamp. But Kante is special. And Mbappé could be the new Henry, or, dare we think it, Ronaldo. I just wish some older players would take him aside and tell him he needs to knock off the annoying bullshit that makes it hard to completely embrace this exciting young player.
7/11/2018 08:35:36 am
Andy and John: Thanks for the analysis of the match. Andy, good point, Pogba is using his size and strength. Why not? John, true, the French defense minimized DeBruyne and Hazard -- although, as we all know, it only takes one great pass, or one mistake.....On to Wednesday's match. GV
7/11/2018 09:48:23 am
Beautiful, George, as always. Thinking in duplicates is nice, but how about triplicates for tonight's match? I've invited a real Englishman and will be preparing fish'n chips. Was marveling at Dries Mertens' crosses last night and am looking forward to Manic Modric tonight.
7/11/2018 12:34:54 pm
Mendel: so it's fish 'n chips vs. Modric's control of that offense?
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“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.