Friday 2 November 2018

Uruguay v France, July 6th 2018

Nearing the end of this match, with France leading 2-0, Kylian Mbappe played a showboating back heel pass that, to many flustered opponents, not least Uruguay, would have charged up an even more palpable sense of rage than the one that had clambered all over Ally McCoist when confronted by a dismissive John Champion.

True enough, Mbappe was cleaned out seconds later, Uruguay's muscular Sean Penn lookalike reacting to a perceived lack of respect by clattering in to the teenager. One can only imagine Penn's  flared nostrils and heaving diaphragm, should he ever be shown footage of Leeds United's merciless baiting of Southampton in 1970.

I considered whether Mbappe's actions were na├»ve or callous?  Was this arrogance of youth or someone wise beyond his years, schooled impeccably at Paris St Germain, learning all the time from his chum, Neymar? Drawing this foul won a useful free kick, and further dispirited opponents who'd been on the wrong end of two decisive moments for each goalkeeper. I strongly believe that Mbappe was playing the role of the Provacateur, and I also choose to presume that this hip, young gunslinger, who probably wears those earphones without wires, researched the role using VHS footage of official FIFA World Cup films that consistently stereotype Uruguay as a nation with a suspect temperament.

We read these days that some coaches encourage their players to watch "videos" to study the enemy, and it is natural to assume that prior to this match, Mbappe was prepped with clear instructions on how to insert a cassette tape into a video recording machine. By doing so, he would have been equipped with vital information from 'Goal!' the official FIFA film of the 1966 World Cup, which features Uruguay's group game against West Germany at Hillsborough. Reading from Brian Granville's script, the narrator helpfully contrasts the attitude of both nations on the day:

"In Sheffield, the Germans with their flags and banners - the Uruguayans with their inflammable tempers".

During the subsequent evidence, Mbappe would have noted both the hunting down of German striker Helmut Haller, and the role, or rolls Haller played in reacting to it.

 "Tunnis is sent from the field while Haller writhes in convincing agony".

Bottom lip turned out and head nodding in appreciation, Mbappe would likely have ejected the cassette tape - upon which encountering a degree of impatience, the like of which no doubt would have seen a Uruguyan punch a hole through the television screen - before slotting in 'Hero' the official FIFA film of the 1986 World Cup, narrated by Michael Caine ("not a lot of people...") To a damning soundtrack, Caine puts sly words to sly images of the Uruguay team's committed fouling on Denmark ("the dazzling Danes").

"The foul is taken to a new level as Buross delivers a knee nudge to Laudrup's thigh".

Michael Laudrup's seemingly genuine writhing was similar to that of Scotland's Gordan Strachan during Uruguay's next and final group game of that tournament, when Batista became the quickest man in history to be sent off at just 61 seconds (one minute one second). Footage of this record breaking event on Strachan isn't documented on Hero, although there are clips of their players failing to hack Maradona down in their 2nd phase exit to Argentina (Uruguay somehow qualified for the knockout stage with 2 points after draws with West Germany and the Scots).

By this point, Mbappe would have gathered sufficient data to chisel away at Uruguays' trouble spot, and after Raphael Varane and Griezmann had put France into a commanding position, (curiously, Griezmann didn't do the Take The L celebration as customary, even though Muslera's dreadful spilling of his speculative shot actually provided an appropriate opportunity to perform it), either side of Hugo Lloris' spectacular save from Martin Caceres, Kylian picked his moment smartly, waited for Penn to strike and then set upon illustrating pain in a manner that would have made Alan Shearer very cross if he'd been paid to comment.  

But the job was done, and Mbappe must now wait for tonight's outcome of Brazil-Belgium to see which cassettes to dust off or even untangle with a pencil to assist him and his team in the semi-final.  


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