French take on Euro 2020 win over Germany sparks criticism

Did France’s national sports daily stray offside with its reaction to the country’s win over Germany at Euro 2020?

That was the question preoccupying politicians, diplomats and commentators after L’Équipe ran the front-page headline “Comme en 18” (“like in 18”) — a rather ambiguous reference, either to France’s World Cup win in 2018, the end of World War I in 1918, or both.

For many, the headline following the 1-0 win was in rather bad taste. “Red card,” was the response from Olivier Faure, leader of the French Socialist Party.

German ambassador to France Hans-Dieter Lucas opted for a diplomatic response, writing on Twitter: “The memory of the German performance at World Cup 2018 remains painful, but thankfully our friends Les Bleus gave us great emotions that year. Long live Franco-German friendship!”

Germany had a torrid time at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, finishing bottom of their group and therefore missing out on the knockout stages. France, by contrast, won the tournament with a 4-2 win over Croatia in the final.

The newspaper headline is a play on the French phrase “ça repart comme en 14” (“starting again like in 14”), which can mean “Here we go again!” but is often used to describe misplaced or inappropriate enthusiasm, in reference to national sentiment at the start of World War I in 1914.

On Tuesday, L’Équipe’s pre-match editorial talked about “the footballing rivalry between France and Germany, which could not be disassociated, for a time, from the two world wars” but which eventually gave way to the “evolution of the European construction.”

It went on to say that a rise in Germanophobia “that resurged after Seville in 1982 … has totally disappeared” — a reference to a dramatic World Cup semi-final in Spain won on penalties by West Germany.

Despite the controversy, Clément Beaune, France’s junior minister for Europe, was clearly pleased with the result of Tuesday’s game, tweeting “in the end, France wins,” a play on a famous line from former England striker Gary Lineker, who said: “Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win.”

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