Toronto's World Cup Warriors: The Frenchman
The Team: France
World Cup history: Won the World Cup once, on home turf in 1998
Group games: Uruguay (June 11, 2:30 pm), Mexico (June 17, 2:30 pm), South Africa (June 22, 10 am)
The Fan: Mike 'Parkdale' Langevin, age 31
Occupation: Editor, Media Manager
Favourite player: France is in a transition period, and it's very clear that the old guard is moving out. This will be the last trip to the big show for many key names like Franck Ribery, Thierry Henry and (thankfully) Coach Raymond Domenech. The new crop of talents is waiting to emerge, and I'm going to be watching Yoann Gourcuff very closely.
How far do you think your team will go in the tournament?: You never know with France. It wasn't a surprise when they made it to the finals in 2006, and it wasn't really a surprise when they tanked out of the group stage in 2002. It seems like anything can happen, and there's no safe middle ground for this team. Realistically, I expect them to make the quarters, and would be thrilled with the semis.
What's the key to your team's success this year?: The key to success is blending the styles of old and new players. There's amazing talent with Henry, Ribery and Nikolas Anelka, but the torch is being passed to a the new generation of Govou. France is already taking the role of villain this year, partly due to the missed call in their qualifying match against Ireland. People will be gunning for us to fail, but it didn't stop us from beating Brazil in the '98 final and in the elimination rounds of 2006. Blend old and new, and we've got a good shot.
Where will you be watching the games?: I will be watching the games with my fellow Toronto FC supporters, the Red Patch Boys. I watch all the Toronto FC games with these guys and girls, so to me, there's no group of people I'd rather watch the matches with than them. Sure we all have different national teams, but I'd rather be heckled by friends in different jerseys than be bored with strangers in the same colours. I know the hip spot for France watching is at St. Tropez on King West, but I'd rather watch with a mixed group of friends who really understand the game.
Any pre-game rituals?: During the 2006 tourney I only drank Kronenbourg 1664. It made for a long month without variety, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make. I don't drink anymore, so it will probably be Perrier and lime. I'll make an exception for some real Champagne if we get to the Final though.
Which team is your most hated rival and why?: France and Italy are big rivals, and not just because of the showdown in 2006, but because they share a border and a few thousand years of history. That headbutt didn't help smooth things over either.
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