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From “Les Bleus” to “the Blues”

PARIS – Is football (soccer) just a mirror that reflects the collective emotions of a country? Or should it instead be seen as a magnifying glass, if not sometimes a distorting mirror, that reveals on the playing field the frustrations, fears, ambition, or hope of a nation?

It would be tempting to attribute to football a “mapping” of the emotional state of the world. Asia is doing less well in the World Cup than it is doing in economic terms, yet it is definitely progressing, compensating for the current lack of individual talent by the greater collective discipline shown by its teams.

By contrast, in terms of creativity, Latin American flair shines well beyond Brazil and its confirmed emerging-power status in the world to encompass countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, and even Chile. Africa, despite some rare individual national successes, continues to underperform, even with the World Cup in its backyard.

As a Frenchman who watched with a mixture of sadness and humiliation the behavior of the French national team, on and off the field (happily, the torture is over), the image in the mirror makes a lot of sense. But can one go so far as to say that a depressed country can produce only a depressed team?