The Frog and The Lion

This is a story of two halves. One half includes wonderful moments, exquisite skills and the odd hero or two. The other half includes none of these. This is the story of England and France.

Born in London to a French mother, I’ve always felt somewhere in the middle. I’ve lived in England for the majority of my life – but the only family I have ever known is entirely French.

This comes with obvious perks – I have a mathematically higher chance of success – but on the other hand since my allegiances are shared I sometimes don’t feel the raw emotion that comes with having all your eggs in one basket. I have plenty of eggs – shared into two baskets.

It was a deary raining morning that greeted us on Thursday. A never ending cascade of English style weather – it was as if the gods knew what was coming.

We arrived at the Lord Jim’s Pub dripping wet, and nervous. England had lost the opening game – but lost with a level of dignity not entirely associated with the national team these days.

Uruguay had also lost their opening game – surrendering meekly to the minnows of Costa Rica. Optimism bubbled gently under the surface.

Due to the weather is seemed every English person in Rio has sought shelter from the rain in this mock British pub. Every available space was in use – camera crews arrived, their lenses pointing expectantly at the legion of English fans.

Then it all went wrong. It had to be Suarez. Of course it had to be. The man who missed ten games at the start of the season for biting an opponent sank his fangs into England’s jugular – and that was that.

England go out at the group stages for the first time since 1958. It didn’t carry with it the shuddering heartbreak of recent times when we were dared to dream for a fleeting moment. Instead it was with a sad predictability. England have a long, long way to go.

We trudged sadly out of the pub. It was still raining.

What a difference a day makes – twenty four little hours – goes the song. And so it does.

“Allez les Bleus” came the roar. A sea of red, white and blue moving as one – “Allez les Bleus” they roared again. France vs Switzerland – at the FIFA Fan Fest on Copacabana.

The numbers of French supporters was enormous. It felt like we hadn’ t seen any in the almost two weeks we had been in Rio – but here they were – the Gallic army.

By half time France had scored three and also missed a penalty. It was beautiful, brutal football. It finished 5-2 – France probably should have scored more. The Swiss were awful.

The two days could not have been more of a contrast. Beauty and the Beast. Sunshine and rain. Delight and despair. The French giving a reminder of how football can and should be played. The English being kind enough to go home early, so everyone can now concentrate on a certain tennis tournament coming up.

And so we near the end of the group stages. The French are arguably playing some of the best football at the tournament. Most of the other big teams have wobbled – Argentina, Holland and Germany did not look convincing in their second games. As for England – the less of that the better.

Things are about to get interesting.

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