French on the crest of a ‘blue wave’

“Surfing a blue wave” is how L’Équipe described the mood in France, following Les Bleus triumph against Spain — a triumph that few were expecting given the team’s stuttering performances before and during the first round of matches.

There were more than 10,000 celebrating on the Champs Elysées.

“Suddenly it feels like 1998 all over again, a festive scent is in the air.”

It was a victory for the oldies — “Avec les meilleurs vieux” as the paper pointed out, with a pun as excruciating as it is untranslatable (meilleurs voeux — best wishes).

Claude Makelele, 33, was one of them. “No one can say any longer that we are a team of old men,” he said. “Against Spain we showed we can compete with anyone in the world, and that includes Brazil.”

On the other side of the Alps confidence is also climbing.

You can always tell when Italian journalists start to sense the possibility of victory — they do an interview with Enzo Bearzot, the man who brought the trophy home from Spain in 1982.

Brushing aside any worries about Andriy Shevchenko, he wants Germany in the semi-final: “We’ve always beaten them, not just in 1982,” he told the Gazzetta dello Sport.

“It’s true they’re at home, but if we want to win the World Cup we must fear no one. Germany are a powerful side, very strong physically, but other things being equal, speed always beats power, and we can be quicker than they are, if not with our legs then at least in the thoughts that direct our action.”

Most people would question whether this view of the Germans — “they may be strong but they’re a bit slow in the brain department” — conforms with reality.

And Bearzot is evidently hoping that they are clever enough to deal with the boys from Buenos Aires. The Argentinians, he said, are not just technically good and tactically sound but they have speed aplenty, especially with Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez on the bench.

In which case, you might ask, how are those slow Germans going to cope?

The pain in Spain arrives like clockwork every four years, and by now people are so used to it that the papers have almost given up on wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Twelve million watched on television, and 15,000 gathered in the Plaza de Colon in Madrid hoping that this time it would be different. It wasn’t.

Juan Jose Arnaut, of Marca, returned to a perennial theme of Spanish football — the failure to translate their success at club level into success for their country.

“The saddest thing is how the sense of unity has disintegrated with defeat. We’ve turned on each other, demonstrating yet again that this is a country of clubs, not the Seleccion.

“I have an Argentinian friend who is a diehard fan of River Plate. Before the tournament started I was teasing him about the fact that their great leader is from Boca. He turned to me, very serious, and said ‘When Maradona puts on the shirt he is God. When Riquelme plays for Argentina he is God’.

“What an example to us. The sad reality is that we celebrate when Spain win, but when things turn against us we blame players because they are with this club or that club.”

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