Yes this is a little late, but with a lot of kilometres under the old belt going from Nice to Bordeaux, a moment has arrived to finish this off – so here it is, ‘The Sweeper Blog’s France vs Republic of Ireland Fan Park Experience Review’. And just as aside, the tan lines are still there and the after sun has been vaguely OK. I know, when you read, that is the thing you were all going to be most worried about that….
Nice Fan Park and Watching France vs. Republic of Ireland
In short, it was fantastic.
I’ve always wanted France to go far in this tournament, knowing that once the hosts go, the tournament loses a little of its va-va-voom and has crowds gathered in the mid-afternoon sun, anticipation and expectation grew also. Now that I am over on le continent, it is clear that this country expects something from Deschamps and his Euro squad and that perhaps French performances to date haven’t quite met such expectations.
Against Ireland, out muscled during the first half in the Lyon sun, the introduction of Kingsley Coman and a change in formation saw the French turn on the style. Ireland had had less rest and even before the red card started to look laboured, started to loss some shape, started to look like a team that had only had 72 hours between games.
France fans watch on with baited breath
Whilst in the UK the focus is on Paul Pogba. The ex-Manchester United academy player seems to be the media’s choice for holding the key to victory; but in amongst the Nice locals it is Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann that seem to be capturing the imaginations of the natives.
When standing over a dead ball situation, the French hold their breath as Payet stares at the wall, working out the maths to make the ball dip faster than the English pound. When on the ball, Payet in possession is met by a fidgety excitement like everyone in France (or in the Nice fan park at least) is a kid who has been hitting the pick’n’mix a little too hard. It seems just unbelievable that he almost never made the cut.
Excitement surrounds Griezmann but he provokes something more visceral than Payet. When Payet was on the ball against the Irish, passes were met with applause, an appreciation of a player who is clearly playing the best football of his career. For Griezmann, his directness caught the imagination. After the first goal for France and as the game opened up, the sight of Griezmann running at the Irish defence was met with cries of ‘ALLEZ LES BLEUS! ALLEZ LES BLEUS!’ and it was clear to see that in Griezmann, the French fans see hope.
It must be said at this moment that as a city, the preparation that went into hosting this game was clear to see. Nice’s last game at the tournament, regardless of whether it’s a case of practise makes perfect or they’ve just had it dialled all tournament, everything couldn’t of run smoother.
Understandably, with England in town, the locals seemed anxious, afraid of the unnecessary ‘baggage’ that comes with an England away day but from what I saw England fans done themselves no disservice here.
With trouble for Poland vs Northern Ireland stemming from the Nice Ultra’s making themselves known, the French Police went for a more passive yet visible approach for this game contrary to what I’ve read about their tactics for Marseille and Lille. And it was one that simply worked.
‘ALLEZ LES BLEUS!’ with guest writer JG
Minus the day one beater sun burn (the after sun is just simply not helping) and an England defeat, things couldn’t have gone better Nice and the stadium was immense as a structure and in terms of atmosphere.
As I write this thing going along the Cote d’Âzor for a couple of days down time in Nimes, if this is what footballing writing is abroad is like then sign me up.
Next footballing stop is Bordeaux in time for the quarter-finals and Germany vs Italy, now that is a game that will look good on the big screen.
Aren’t summer football tournaments just great?
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog