The French football team is playing in Vienna this Friday evening. Austria-France, third Nations League match in a week. But for our sports columnist Virginie Phulpin, it’s not easy to be passionate about this competition. Especially since the players are exhausted by an extended season.
“The Nations League, we like it when we win it, not when we play it. It could be the subtitle of this competition. Remember, last October, we were happy that the Blues won a new trophy , they had beaten Belgium and Spain in the semi-finals and in the final, and then that consoled us for the disillusionment of the Euro a few months earlier. But there, today, when we have to put the work back on the profession for the group stage of the new season, we are quite far from the devouring passion of the matches that matter.
It’s hard to arouse passions with this poster
Wouldn’t players be better off with their toes fanned out in the sand rather than locked in their cleats? Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne summed it up. Basically, we play the matches because we have no choice, but we don’t want to. So sometimes, the going comes by playing. But for the Blues, as it started with a defeat against Denmark and a draw in Croatia, we are no further ahead.
And honestly, it’s not the Austria-France poster this Friday evening that can really arouse passions. In Vienna, even the ground is punctured. A big hole formed on the lawn at the end of the match between the Austrians and the Danes earlier this week, due to flooding. It was sealed, so no problem for tonight. No problem, just the symbol of too many matches perhaps.
Even Noël Le Graët believes that there are too many matches
It will give me at least one occasion in my life to agree with him. Noël Le Graët talks about the insane calendar, tired players, the risks they are made to take by pulling on the rope, and he still wonders how he and his European colleagues were able to accept this series of matches. Well, I don’t know, me, Noël, I wasn’t at the discussion table. For someone who has nothing against the World Cup project every two years, it’s almost funny, this sudden concern for the health of the players.
But in this case Noël Le Graët is right, it’s too much, these four matches in 11 days after a long and exhausting season. Yes, the players are tired. Look at all the injuries we have in the France team. There is a moment when the body no longer follows. A survey by FIFPro, the federation of professional footballers, reveals that the overwhelming majority of players would like to play less, to have fewer matches which follow one another at breakneck speed.
A real long break would have been necessary for the internationals, especially given the season ahead, with the World Cup in the middle. But as Kevin De Bruyne says, it’s no use saying that we would like a rest, it won’t change anything. So good game…”