What a truly incredible night it was on Tuesday. International football may have taken some stick in the last few years but it certainly regained some of its illustrious credibility with a night of the most scintillating football you will see. France overcame all the odds to overturn a 2-0 deficit at the Stade de France against Ukraine to the sheer delirium of the whole country. With nearly 90% of voters on a poll in Le Parisien admitting defeat before the game, the remaining 10% or so must be commended for their belief. Then there was the drama in Stockholm where Sweden and Portugal played their part in a pulsating second-leg that had everybody gripped. But it was a certain man from Real Madrid that stole the world’s headlines, cementing his place as the current world’s best. To top it all off, Paris Saint-Germain was affiliated with all this drama in a number of ways.
Mamadou Sakho. The Parisien boy. The cult hero of the Boulogne, now playing his trade in England for Liverpool, played a major part in getting Les Bleus to Brazil next summer. He opened the scoring to set the tone for the evening with a composed tap in before Karim Benzema made it 2-0 before the interval – despite the linesman failing to see that he was offside. Then with less than 20 minutes remaining, Mamadou made his presence felt again as his domineering physique caught Oleg Gusev unawares to turn into his own net from a Franck Ribery thunderbolt across goal.
From the depths of despair, Les Bleus delivered. Blaise Matuidi was involved in a midfield trio of Yohan Cabaye and the ever improving Paul Pogba. The scenes at the end were wonderful. Didier Deschamps may not be the most popular figure with PSG supporters due to his Marseille connections but he was the toast of Paris as the players hoisted him up in the air. Well done Blaise. Well done Mamadou. And well done Les Bleus.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not disappoint with his performance. With Sweden trailing 2-0 on aggregate, the King got his country believing again as he netted a brace within the space of five minutes with just under 20 minutes remaining on the clock. But he and the Blue and Yellow had their dreams dashed by one man, Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar netted an explosive hat-trick that had the world standing on their feet to applaud. No more so than Zlatan who showed his utter class by clapping CR7’s third.
Ibra admitted at the end of the game that his chance to play in a final FIFA World Cup appears to be over and that his interest in the tournament has wavered as he will not be there. Nevertheless, he may just have one more crack at the European Championships in 2016. And where is that of course? France!
That could be another chapter to the King’s illustrious career. Watch this space.