France’s goals came via the penalty spot and an Aziz Behich own goal.Insipid and uninspiring, those analysts who had pointed to France as potential world champions before a ball had been kicked were probably keeping quiet that day.An uninspiring 1-0 win against Peru followed and then came the convenient 0-0 draw with Denmark.France had been “boring” in qualifying for the knockout stage, critics said.They were quickly moving from a team tipped as genuine title winners to also-rans.How that has changed in less than a week.Kylian Mbappe was a constant menace to the Uruguay defence © AFP / Martin BERNETTIFollowing a thrilling 4-3 win over Argentina in probably the match of the tournament, which introduced the rest of the world to wunderkind Kylian Mbappe, through to their comprehensive dismantling of street-tough Uruguay on Friday, France are now into a semi-final against Belgium.The big question is, can France go all the way?It was a question Didier Deschamps was asked after the Uruguay win.“All I can say at the moment is that we have the potential to be in the semi-finals,” said Deschamps, coyly.“Let’s see what happens,” he continued. “We grew against Argentina. It could have been a one-off against Argentina but today we showed we have grown.“We played well but it was not the perfect match. There are so many things that we can improve on.”– Lessons from history –No doubt that is true but it is also clear that France are doing what other successful teams at the World Cup have done, namely get stronger with each game and against progressively better opponents.Asked to make the step up in class that each round of the World Cup requires, France have not been found wanting.They have “momentum”, a curious intangible concept, which nevertheless has been ascribed to several teams whose faltering start has given way to a rousing finish.There are plenty of examples in World Cup history from which France and their supporters can draw parallels from.Probably the best is Italy in 1982, who drew 0-0 with Poland, 1-1 with Peru and 1-1 with debutants Cameroon to scrape through to the next round without a victory and on goal difference from the Africans.The apoplectic Italian press was so critical of Italy’s performances that coach Enzo Bearzot refused to talk to the media.Then drawn into a group containing Argentina and champions-elect Brazil, Italy exploded into life, winning both games, including the legendary 3-2 win over the Brazilians, thanks to a Paolo Rossi hat trick.They beat Poland again, then West Germany to lift the World Cup.But France — and Deschamps — are probably more likely to point to their 1998 World Cup win as the more relevant historical parallel.Inspired by Zinedine Zidane, France glided through the group stage at the World Cup they were hosting, but they were resolute rather than impressive.A last-16 extra-time win over Paraguay did nothing to convince the doubters, nor a quarter-final win on penalties over Italy.In the semi-final, France conceded first against Croatia, then Lilian Thuram memorably scored the only two goals of his international career to send an unconvincing France into the final.In their next 90 minutes, Deschamps skippered the team to its most golden victory and eternal fame.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Didier Deschamps’ France team are getting better with each game © AFP / FRANCK FIFENIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russian Federation, Jul 7 – It was just 20 days before France’s comprehensive quarter-final victory over Uruguay that Les Bleus took to the field to begin their 2018 World Cup campaign against Australia.Ninety largely forgettable minutes followed, unless you count the VAR incidents, and France scraped home 2-1 against a rank outsider.
Gabby Douglas (@gabbycvdouglas/Instagram)After facing a barrage of online criticism and harassment during the 2016 Olympic Games, gymnast Gabby Douglas is finally speaking out.The three-time gold medalist, who was heavily criticized about her hair at the 2012 Beijing Olympics, faced similar condemnation this year along with accusations of a lack of patriotism and poor sportsmanship. For Douglas, the recrimination was hurtful.“I had [to] take off social media before the Olympics,” Douglas told Teen Vouge on Facebook Live Wednesday, Dec. 21. “Then, after team finals in Rio, I Googled myself and there was just so much noise. First, it started with me not having my hand over my heart, then my hair, then me not being supportive. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have no idea where this is coming from.’ It was hard.”Online commenters reignited the 2012 fury over Douglas’ hair during the Games in Rio De Janerio, Brazil, in August. One person proclaimed the 20-year-old’s tresses “makes me so mad.”Then, Douglas stood at attention during the national anthem but didn’t place her hand over her heart like the rest of her Final Five teammates. In reaction, a Twitter user deemed Douglas a “sorry American.” Finally, when teammate Simone Biles won gold in the women’s individual all-around, Twitter took aim at Douglas for allegedly feeling salty over the triumph.“Every single day, I’d come back to the village after every single training practice and I literally bawled my eyes out,” Douglas said. “I would cry and cry and cry because people were being so mean.”The judgment visibly took a toll on the gymnast towards the end of the Olympics, when USA Today reported Douglas seemed to be holding back tears as she scrolled through her phone.Douglas also addressed criticism about her serious demeanor during the 2016 Games, noting she had simply grown up since she last competed in the Olympics at age 16.“Going from 2012, I was this smiley, bubbly Gabby,” she explained. “And in 2014 to 2016, I was like, ‘I’ll be a little more mature, a little more sass.’ And everyone was like, ‘What’s wrong with her? She’s not smiling, something’s wrong.’ And I’m like, ‘No, this is mature Gabby.’ I love to laugh, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just don’t put me in a category, you know? Let me do what I need to do out on the floor.”Douglas has advice for other people who have dealt with cyberbullying: Don’t change.“There’s [sic] people out there that love you guys and your life is very important and very valuable,” she said. “Always be strong and you can overcome it, you really can.”
British prime minister Theresa May holds a news conference following an extraordinary European Union leaders summit to discuss Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium on 11 April 2019. Photo: AFPEuropean leaders agreed with Britain on Thursday to delay Brexit by up to six months, saving the continent from what could have been a chaotic no-deal departure at the end of the week.The deal struck during late night talks in Brussels means that if London remains in the EU after 22 May, British voters will have to take part in European elections.Prime minister Theresa May and the other 27 EU leaders “have agreed a flexible extension until 31 October”, European Council president Donald Tusk said in a tweet.”This means additional six months for the UK to find the best possible solution.”France’s President Emmanuel Macron was the strongest voice opposing a long extension, but most leaders backed it and the French had to settle for a promise that the delay will be reviewed at an EU summit on 21 June.Most of the leaders gathered for the emergency summit, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, had backed a plan for Brexit to be postponed for up to a year.But as the talks went into Thursday morning, Macron — with backing from Belgium, Austria and some smaller EU states — held out for a short delay of only a few weeks and demanded solid guarantees that London would not interfere in EU business during that time.May has already said that if Britain is still an EU member when the European parliamentary election begins on 23 May, UK voters will take part. But some EU leaders are unconvinced that she is sincere, despite one official telling reporters her presentation had been “solid”.Without a postponement, Britain would have ended its 46-year membership of the EU at midnight (2200 GMT) on Friday with no deal, risking economic chaos on both sides of the Channel.May agreed a divorce deal with the EU last November but MPs in London have rejected it three times, forcing her to turn to the main opposition Labour party in a bid to find a way through.’As soon as possible’ But these talks are moving slowly, and the prime minister is under intense pressure from hardline Brexit supporters in her Conservative party not to compromise.As she arrived, May said she wanted to leave the EU “as soon as possible”.”I’ve asked for an extension to 30 June but what is important is that any extension enables us to leave at the point at which we ratify the withdrawal agreement,” she said.She said she still hoped to leave the EU on 22 May, the last day before Britain must hold European Parliament elections.For as long as Britain is in the EU, it must take part in bloc elections for them to be valid.EU leaders have already agreed one delay to Brexit, from 29 March to 12 April, and Tusk has warned there is “little reason to believe” the British parliament can ratify May’s deal by 30 June.A draft copy of the summit conclusions seen by AFP before the leaders sat down to finalise it said “an extension should last only as long as necessary and, in any event, no longer than [XX.XX.XXXX].””If the withdrawal agreement is ratified by both parties before this date, the withdrawal will take place on the first day of the following month,” the draft stated.EU members want to ensure that a semi-detached Britain does not seek leverage in Brexit talks by intervening in choosing the next head of the European Commission or the next multi-year EU budget.May’s ministers have begun cross-party talks with Labour on a compromise to get the withdrawal agreement through the House of Commons.Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants Britain to commit to remaining within the EU customs union, an idea that many in Europe would be keen to accommodate.”We would be generous in negotiating that, understanding that the UK couldn’t be a silent partner in such an arrangement — it would have to have a say in decisions being made,” Irish premier Leo Varadkar said as he arrived at the summit.