Wednesday 18 October 2017

Vincent Hogan: Spare us the gloating over France's ruin

Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

It's probably just as well the French are too busy making love and looking beautiful to be bothered peering at their reflection on the internet. Imagine the amount of pastis spilled if they had an inkling of the Mardi Gras that World Cup loss to Mexico kicked off last week in Ireland. It was little short of a national phenomenon.

We couldn't have been more chuffed had Brian Cowen announced the immediate suspension of income tax and abandonment of road tolls.

What on earth were people thinking? You'd imagine Raymond Domenech had a name in these parts for stealing children and melting them down into quirky art exhibits for the Pompidou Centre.

True, he bears an oddly close resemblance to a weasel banker most Irish folk would quite cheerily throttle these days. And he does come across -- from a distance at least -- as a bit on the smug side and having all the charisma of Augustus Gloop beset by a bout of flatulence.

Yet, we weren't being terribly grown up, were we? Friday morning's newspapers blazed with an assortment of dizzy headlines that rather spun the illusion Giovanni Trapattoni and the boys were, perhaps, turning triple toe loops down in South Africa.

When, in fact, they were drumming their fingers in supermarket car-parks or comparing tins of decking stain in Woodies. At least those of them not lining up to assess Slovenia out in Montrose.

One tabloid front page bellowed: 'BOYS IN GREEN 2; CHEATS 0'.

You had to laugh really. Thierry Henry handled a football in Paris last November and, as a nation, we've since been stalled in victim mode. It's like he took a Stanley knife to the Book of Kells, pulled a gun on Adi Roche and broke pretty much every other Commandment in one day.

Quite what this says about us isn't very encouraging. Richard Dunne had forgiven Henry even before they got to the showers that night in Saint-Denis. Why? Because every weekend between August and May, Richard cheats to stop Premier League strikers scoring goals against his club.

If he didn't, Aston Villa wouldn't be inclined to pay him a fat salary.

So he tugs shirts, he body-checks, he bullies. Sure he plays a lot of good football too but, by and large, the role of a centre-half in the professional game doesn't nurture scruple. The best ones are invariably the most ruthless. And, considering Richard was picked on last season's Premier League XI, he's clearly not what you'd call a shrinking violet.

So, naturally, he was quick to understand that Henry didn't pull any trick that night in the Stade de France that Robbie Keane wouldn't happily have replicated at the far end. Of course, the French goal shouldn't have stood. But that's why someone came up with the idea of linesmen and referees.

In Paris, they all just happened to doze off simultaneously.

Personally, I'd quite like France to work a miracle now, if only to subdue the vapid din sure to ignite here on their eviction. It's not going to happen, admittedly. Raymond seems to be as popular as piles with his team and their football has been a permanently clogged artery in this tournament. Like England's.

Maybe that's the great beauty of World Cups. The spectacle of marquee teams suffering a kind of group mental breakdown. After all, you have Fabio Capello being paid £6m per annum to embolden a team of superstars for combat against what their supporters will endlessly view as a virtual East Timor XI.

And, lo and behold, it proves beyond him.

No less than France, England's discomfort becomes a kind of pathetic consolation for those of us who never got to the big top. They serve as outlets for our pettiness. People who worship the ground Wayne Rooney walks on through an English winter would quite happily watch him die of diphtheria in a muddy drain under the African sun.

It's not sensible and it's not especially dignified.

Yet, here's the funny side. When you think about it, there can't be too many more miserable people in South Africa today than the man who picked Irish pockets to get there. Because you'd need a pretty strong searchlight to identify the point of Thierry Henry's current presence in the French squad.

As they hurtle towards ignominious eviction, he sits on the line, neglected and solemn, wrapped up heavily against the African cold. If he'll need medical attention at this tournament, it'll be for deep-vein thrombosis.

So we really should spare ourselves all that 'Punch and Judy' nonsense every time Les Bleus stand to attention for La Marsellaise. Poor Thierry has got his reward for Paris. Namely a bit-part in a horror movie.

If that's not karma, what is?

Irish Independent

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