France failed to become only the third country in history to successfully defend the World Cup title, after losing out to Argentina 4-2 in a shootout in the final. It was a tale of two halves for France, where they silently suffered for the first seventy minutes of the game, staring at an imminent defeat but then Kylian Mbappe sprung out of nowhere to score twice within a minute.
France had a golden chance to go for a kill when Kolo Muani found himself in a vast acre of open space with only Emiliano Martinez to beat, but the goalkeeper stretched every sinew of the muscle to deny him, and force the game to extra time. Mbappe completed a hat-trick in the extra time, canceling out Lionel Messi’s goal that had Argentina on 3-2 with few minutes remaining.
Jules Kounde struggled to get hold of Angel di Maria on the French right flank, and a majority of the attack for Argentina came through that region. France started the tournament with Benjamin Pavard, but had to drop him after the first game, where he was largely ineffective.
As per Romain Molina, the French team insider and journalist, Pavard fell out of favor with the French coaching staff. Pavard was responsible for creating a toxic atmosphere in the team and also leaked internal news to a journalist. During the World Cup final, Pavard was reproached by team staff for using insulting phrases toward some of the players.
“While on the bench, Benjamin Pavard has been making ‘inappropriate’ remarks about his teammates, especially in the final, where the situation escalated and there were ‘big words’ between him and the coach. Pavard’s attitude created a toxic atmosphere internally.” read the translation from Molina, as quoted by Bayern & Germany on Twitter.
This was not the only source of conflict in the team. Molina also noted how senior players like Antoine Griezmann and Hugo Lloris were unpleased with the inclusion of Karim Benzema. While Olivier Giroud, whose place was under threat in presence of the Real Madrid striker, was fine with his presence, Griezemann and Lloris felt insecure about the authority Benzema commanded in the team.
Some reports claimed even Didier Deschamps, the French manager, was not happy ever since he was not acknowledged in Benzema’s Ballon d’Or-winning speech.
Lead image: French Team