Why Did France Fall Short Of Winning Its Second Successive World Cup?

Why Did France Fall Short Of Winning Its Second Successive World Cup

The 2022 World Cup’s French football team was seeking to be the first ever 21st century team to win two consecutive World Cups. They were already on the backfoot because of injuries to key players like Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Presnel Kimpembe. However, the team, led by their talismanic star, Kylian Mbappe reached the final of the World Cup and squared off against Argentina. Unfortunately, after a titanic battle during regulation and extra time, France fell 4-2 to Argentina on penalties. In this post, we will take a look at why France lost the World Cup Final to Argentina.

How did France fail To Win Its Second Successive World Cup?

What stopped France?

France didn’t go for the jugular

After putting up a pedestrian showing for the majority of the game, France sprung to life with two goals from Kylian Mbappe within 92 seconds. From the 80th minute onwards, the game turned on its head. Argentina, who were just 10 minutes (plus injury time) away from helping Lionel Messi fulfill his destiny, were shell shocked. The cup, which was almost on its way to Buenos Aires, had been snatched back by the French and the game was well and truly on. France had all the momentum, the best player on the field (Mbappe) and eight minutes of regulation plus injury time to finish this incredible comeback and retain their World Cup trophy. 

However, that’s not what happened. Instead of pressuring relentlessly and trying to finish the game off, France eased off the throttle. Instead of just force feeding the ball down the left wing and terrorizing the tired and shell shocked Argentinians with the frenetic pace of Mbappe, France (sort of) settled down. It even appeared as if the French were content after tying the game up and were playing for extra time. 

When you play against a world class team like Argentina, you have to vanquish them while they are mentally shaken. You can’t give them time to mentally regroup and recover. For Argentina, the whistle to end the play in regulation couldn’t have come any sooner and for some reason, France didn’t show the urgency to finish them off either. 

Extra time started and it was very obvious that the Argentine squad had managed to regroup itself after the dramatic turn of events near the end of regulation. They played well out of the gates and Lionel Messi eventually managed to score a really scrappy goal (but perhaps the most important goal of his career). 

Argentina was up 3-2 and looked set to lift the World Cup for the third time in the country’s storied football history. However, Kylian Mbappe was still not done. He won a penalty when his shot was blocked by Gonzalo Montiel’s hand. He successfully converted it and tied the game in the 118th minute, reducing the Argentinian bench to tears. This was another golden opportunity for France to rattle the cages of the already rattled Argentines and hoist the World Cup. However, Randal Kolo Muani missed a header and failed to convert a 1v1 shot with just the keeper to beat. 

However, France had another chance after that. In quite possibly the last play of the match, Kylian Mbappe dribbled around multiple Argentine defenders and had a tight angle at the goal. However, he didn’t take the shot and tried to create a better angle but by that time, Argentina sent enough bodies at him to nullify the threat. The whistle blew and the game was headed to penalties. Mbappe was livid and understandably frustrated. He knew that he had missed a golden chance to close the game and take France to the promised land. Now the fate of the World Cup would be decided on penalties where anything can happen. 

France coach Didier Deschamps subbed key veterans out

Let’s get one thing clear, Didier Deschamps’ move of subbing veterans and replacing them with young, energetic players helped France back in the game. However, once the game reached penalties, the lack of experience was going to come and bite France back. Yes, veterans like Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann didn’t play up to their usual standards in the game and their substitutes did  a good job of bringing France back in the game. However, when the pressure cooker situation of penalties comes into play, experienced veterans are what you need. One can easily say that with Giroud and Griezmann as two of the penalty takers, France would’ve had a much better chance at winning. 

However, we must admit that the changes initiated by Deschamps are the reason why France even came till the penalty shootout. Which brings us back to the first point, France HAD to win the game in regulation/extra time. The experienced Argentinian side was always going to have the edge over them in penalties.

A virus ravaged through the team

With less than 48 hours to go before the start of the World Cup final, the French team trained normally in Qatar. But five players were absent from this collective session. France’s defensive stalwarts, Raphael Varane and Ibrahima Konate were under the spell of a virus which has ravaged an already injury ravaged French squad. Unlike Kingsley Coman, also affected by the cold snap that circulates within the French selection, he worked indoors. The winger was not alone as Theo Hernandez was in treatment. The electric winger suffered from a knee issue and missed the practice session on Friday. The last absentee was midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni who suffered from a bruised hip. Dayot Adrien had a stomach and headache. No serious injuries but pesky minor sores two days before the World Cup final. Even coach Didier Deschamps said “We are never prepared for this kind of thing”, when asked about the virus running rampant across the French team.

France vs Argentina: A Game of Threes

If you look at the numbers associated with the game, the number three truly stands out. It was a chance for both France and Argentina to win their third World Cup trophy and the match ended 3-3. 

The French team sought to be the first team of the 21st century that managed to defend its throne. The last three world champions fell in the first group stage itself. However, the injury ravaged France was just one step away from being champions again. In the history of the football world cup, only two teams have managed to successfully defend their title. Italy in 1938 (after winning in 1934) and Brazil in 1962 (after winning in 1958).

The French team sought its third triumph in the World Cup in Qatar, the second in a row after being proclaimed world champions in 2018 against Croatia. The Frenchmen, who were just one step away from being able to fight for a new title, had already broken the spell of the last world champions, who had been eliminated in the first phase. The last time the French team defended its crown, in the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, it was eliminated in the group stage in humiliating fashion. 

So far this century, no team has managed to win two consecutive World Cups

In 2002, hot off the heels of the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 success, France was eliminated in the group stage. In 2006, holders Brazil reached the quarterfinals but lost to France. In 2010, holders Italy were eliminated in the group stage. Spain emulated this dubious dishonour in 2014 and Germany followed suit in 2018. Joining the hall of shame of defending world cup champions who failed to make it past the group stage. 

Throughout history, only two teams have managed to repeat a star. The first was Italy, which managed to win both in 1934 and 1938. Brazil, the team that has won the most World Cups to date, with five, repeated the title in 1962 after having proclaimed itself, four years earlier, world champion against Sweden in a match that ended 5-2 with a football masterclass by Pele. Will Argentina repeat as champions in 2026? Going by the precedent, it seems highly unlikely. 

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