Team France – the most distressing stories: 1920, delay, a glass of Porto and a shameful rout in Italy

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Come on, after a little tour in the 70s and 90s, we come back to this incredible period of the interwar period, so fertile in shameful episodes for the France team! For the second time in five episodes of this black series, we are going to be interested in a rout against Italy, which was the black beast of the Blues for 79 years, the period between the successes of 1913 (1-0) and 1982 (2-0). It must be said that it was a real opposition of style between Transalpine always very sharp in their preparation, at the top physically, in advance tactically, and the French… amateurs to the end of their nails.

Thus, on January 18, 1920, the Habs conceded a nasty 9-4 at the Velodromo Sempione in Milan. As often at this time, they put on a good figure in the first half (3-4) and then collapsed, for lack of a physical condition worthy of the name. It was also necessary to add to that logistical concerns which made them arrive only 90 minutes before the kick-off, a total disorganization due to the absence of a real coach (it is a committee which summoned the players) and especially this little inclination for alcohol which made some people believe that a glass of Porto would instil vigor in the Blues!

« At the time, we didn’t bother with tactics… »

In 1948, the former international Gaston Barreau spread his memories in France Football, returning in particular to this match. What he says is edifying of the lack of seriousness made in France in terms of football… « At the time, we didn’t bother with tactics, or strategy, or even the study of the game of football. opponent. We were playing, that’s all. For once the Selection Committee wanted to compose the French team according to the game and the temperament of the opponent, bad luck. It was during the first match played under the aegis of the FFFA, the famous January 18, 1920, in Turin, against Italy. We were crushed there by 9 goals to 4. Taking into account what we knew of the Italian game, we had resolved to oppose a fiery and quick rear defense. »

« One of the members of the Selection Committee had gone to see US Boulogne play, which was doing well in the Northern Championship, and came back enthusiastic about the two rears of the maritime club, the Mony brothers, Pierre and Alexis. Gamblin and Mathieu, international holders, who had played a brilliant game ten months earlier in Brussels, against Belgium, not being in very good shape, it was enough for them to be sacrificed for the benefit of the tandem fraternal Mony. You see, I don’t want to put the Mony brothers on trial here, let alone the Selection Committee of the time and the selection committees in general. They may have their good sides since countries like England, Belgium and others have remained faithful to them. But it must be recognized that any serious and sustained work was made difficult. For, when several breeders traveled each Sunday to the North, Alsace, South or Brittany , each one of them came back having noted on his tablets one or more « indisputable » candidates. However, the club team is one thing, the France team is another, such a brilliant player in his club may very well be only a mediocre international. It is a point of view that I have always had and that I still keep today: I am not in favor of continual modifications, as it intervened at that time, but of a stable national selection. She really had no luck, this poor team of France of January 18, 1920. We had left Paris on Friday evening and were to join Turin on Saturday, at the beginning of the afternoon. But when we arrived in Lausanne on Saturday morning, we learned that the correspondence for Milan had not been waiting for us! So we had to take an omnibus train to Brig, where we were in the evening, look for rooms, which we found after many difficulties, sleep in Brig and leave on Sunday morning for Turin, where we arrived at 1 p.m., exactly 90 minutes before the match kicks off. The Italians weren’t expecting us anymore! »

« No need to tell you that after such an outing, our men weren’t in great spirits! One of them, Emilien Devic, said to them: « Listen, guys: I know a recipe to get us all back on our feet . Two beaten eggs in a tall glass of port. That works ? Timidly, I protested, in my capacity as manager. Wasn’t the recipe recommended by Devic going to permanently cut off the legs of our players? In the end, he was the only one to experience his « pick-up ». And I must say that he played neither better nor worse than his comrades, running backs and defenders! Only our forwards Devaquez, Rénier, Nicolas, Dard and Dubly behaved honourably, scoring three goals before half-time against four for the Italians. But the second half saw a complete collapse of our team, to the delight of the 20,000 spectators at the Sempione velodrome… »

to summarize

You already know everything about the heroes of the Swedish campaign in 1958, Seville 1982, Guadalajara 1986, the triumphs of 1984, 1998, 2000 and 2018. But the history of the France team has long been the incarnate loss , that of a mixture of obvious unprofessionalism and unbelievably bad choices. Here is the fifth of ten telling examples.

Raphael Nouet

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