I certainly wasn’t cheering for Belgium when they went against Brazil but once that ended badly I was convinced Belgium were the stronger team and a deserving finalist. In fact, I even entertained thoughts of the end of the so called beautiful game. Brazil’s finesse and ball control was no match for the strong, physical Belgium side, sort of the way it was when I was playing for Webster Thomas. Our coach wore a beret and drove a Citroen. He taught us an early version of the light touch, European style. (He’s currently serving life in prison for molesting kids.) Our rival, Penfield, had a football player die the year before so they did away with their football team for a few years and all those big lugs played on Penfield’s soccer team. It was a nasty matchup but I think we prevailed.
So, I had resigned myself to the new world order. No Neymar, no Marcello, no Brazil. Spain, with seventy per cent possession had gone home. Germany, last year’s untouchable champion, was home. Argentina, with the world’s best player, was home. I tried to warm up to the Belgium side. They had the possession. They kept putting it in the box. It was only a matter of time and then, after a few dazzling fast breaks, France scored on a corner. Belgium had the big guy lurking in the box but he couldn’t get a touch on the ball. France was nimble, quick on defense, very few fouls, and when they got the ball, the whole team moved toward the goal. They passed (my favorite part of the game) beautifully. Mick Jagger was in the stands. They are the youngest team in the tournament. Their star player is nineteen. If they can play this well in the final England will be going home.