France Overcomes the “Curse” for a Deja-Vu


Tony Yoo, Staff Writer

In 2018, the French national team brought home the FIFA World Cup Trophy, kicking off its golden age of soccer. This lively team was led by a variety of youthful players such as 19-year-old Kylian Mbappé, Ousmane Dembélé, and Antoine Griezmann. Having one of the youngest and most inexperienced squads in the tournament didn’t stop France from completely taking over. This team, otherwise known as Les Bleus, fired on all cylinders and celebrated its second ever World Cup victory. However, the champions were unaware of the ominous signs awaiting them four years later.

Many fans worldwide began to doubt the defending champions even before the kickoff of the 2022 World Cup, since the team had been inconsistent in its recent performances. Moreover, the France National Team faced various adversities prior to the tournament, from its disappointing early exit in the Euro 2020 to numerous key players’ injuries, including 2022 Ballon D’or winner Karim Benzema, 2021-22 Bundesliga Player of the Season Christopher Nkunku, and star midfielder Paul Pogba. Due to these unfortunate circumstances, France was forced to rebuild its squad around young players, teenagers included. Going into the World Cup, the roster had been weakened greatly, lacking the dynamic and artistic French soccer that the world had witnessed in 2018. 

Still and all, the factor that made every French fan’s knees knock was surprisingly a superstition known as the “Champion’s Curse,” which expresses that the winners of the World Cup will fail to exit the group stage in the next one. Although some might say it’s silly to believe in these baseless superstitions, this curse has troubled four out of the five defending World Cup champions in the past two decades. Ironically, France set up this curse after getting eliminated in the Group stages in the 2002 World Cup despite its victory in 1998. Unfortunately, France’s own curse came back to haunt the team in 2022. 

France entered the tournament sensing the whole  world’s attention on them. In the opening match, France faced Australia, a nation who barely clinched a spot for the tournament at the last minute. Although France had an advantage in FIFA World Rankings, making it sound like a one-sided contest, it seemed like the curse was working against them when Australia shockingly scored the early opening goal nine minutes into the game. It appeared like fans started to bet on the curse, predicting the downfall of the defending champions.  Nevertheless, when the stakes were high, France rose to the occasion. They began to demonstrate the overpowering qualities of the champions the world remembered them as, defeating Australia 4-1. 

The Blues were simply on fire. It went on to defeat the “dark horse” Denmark 2-1, asserting its position in the group once again. Even though the final group stage match ended with a 0-1 loss against Tunisia, France utilized a heavily rotated squad in preparation for the Round of 16 matchup against Lewandowski’s Poland. France, led by the incredibly talented Mbappé, made its way to the Quarterfinals with ease after a 3-1 win. France, who was projected to grapple in this tournament has not only broken the deadly curse of their own, but it also embarked on its journey to glory once again. 

With only three matches remaining until the taste of gold anew, France faced the Three Lions, England, who possessed a promising young squad in mix with seasoned veterans. The clash between these two brilliant European nations resulted in a tight battle, but France was the team smiling after the 2-1 victory. Driven by the thought of renown, the reigning champions were able to reach back to back World Cup Finals, ending Morocco’s miraculous run in the Semifinals. 

The World Cup Finals was an extraordinary game between the greatest-of-all-time Lionel Messi of Argentina and young talent Mbappé challenging Messi’s throne. This neck-and-neck battle couldn’t be decided within 90 minutes or with extra time, ending up in penalties. Throughout the game, both players displayed individual brilliance, with Messi finishing with two goals and one assist, and Mbappé scoring three goals. However, in the end, Messi’s Argentina was the last team standing, defeating France 4-2 in penalty shoot-out. 

World Cup 2022 was a bittersweet tournament for the French. Despite the result, France’s route to the Finals was dramatic. It’s truly unfair to define this astonishing team solely based on the results, as The Blues’ perseverance inspired countless fans globally. France shocked the world by breaking a lethal curse, gifting soccer fans innumerable moments of brilliance throughout its journey, including when Mbappé represented France and was awarded the “Golden Boot” Trophy. Overall, this tournament provided a great stage for lesser known French players, such as Randal Kolo Muani and Youssouf Fofana, to shine on the grand stage and well known players to assert their outstanding abilities. Remember, this French team is getting better and better and they will come back stronger to challenge the title in four years!