World Cup diary: Mathieu Valbuena has last laugh over bullies Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery
Absence of pair, who tormented their teammate over his height at Marseille, might be one reason for improved team spirit in Les Bleus camp
One aspect of France’s impressive 5-2 thrashing of Switzerland that many noted was the evident camaraderie among the players.
The match was played exactly four years after Les Bleus' last World Cup squad disgraced itself by going on strike; their squads in general have often been characterised by infighting.
Eyebrows were raised in England when Manchester City’s Samir Nasri was not included, manager Didier Deschamps deciding he was more trouble than he was worth. And France’s hopes seemed to have taken a further blow when Franck Ribery pulled out just before the tournament after refusing to take a cortisone injection to play.
But perhaps what France might have lost in midfield creativity they have gained in team harmony with the absence of two of the prime movers in the South Africa strike.
Mathieu Valbuena is one of only four survivors from 2010 (the others are Hugo Lloris, Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna) and he provided further evidence of Nasri and Ribery’s apparent douchebaggery in an interview with RTL last year, AFP reports.
The 29-year-old winger, who scored against Switzerland, is 166 cm (5ft 4in) according to fifa.com and has, let’s not mince words, something of the little person about him, especially when comically foreshortened in photos like this:
The ‘petit velo’ (little bike), as he’s nicknamed, said Nasri and Ribery used to bully him about his height when they were all at Marseille.
“Despite it being over I still have a bad memory of what went on," he said.
“To be systematically singled out for bad jokes really hurts.
“Nobody else in the dressing room would have put up being targeted like I was. I was not ready to be subjected to that. I was too nice but I am now made of harder stuff.”
The pair would supposedly single out Valbuena in training for physical abuse as well. Nasri and Ribery stand a gargantuan 1.75m and 1.70m according to their club websites, by the way, not to mention Ribery’s matinee-idol good looks.
Good to see Valbuena getting the last laugh. Unfortunately, judging by the photos his girlfriend has been posting on Instagram all week, Nasri still seems to have it pretty good.
Tweet of the day
Ronaldo congratulates Miroslav Klose on equalling his all-time World Cup goalscoring record.
Welcome to the club #Klose
— Claro Ronaldo (@ClaroRonaldo) June 21, 2014
Coincidentally, both Ronaldo and Klose scored their 15th World Cup goals against Ghana:
Indian pair go hungry to make ninth finals in a row
Indians are generally far more interested in cricket than any other sport, but this is the ninth World Cup in a row at which 81-year-old Pannalal Chatterjee and his wife Chaitali, 72 will attend.
“This may be my last one, but I am so happy at getting the chance to watch a tournament in Brazil,” Pannalal told AFP.
“It’s always been my dream to watch the World Cup in Brazil. It’s the Mecca of football."
Their first taste was Spain 1982 when a friend with whom they were staying in London got them tickets.
“Such was the excitement of the tournament that I was determined from then on not to miss any World Cups in the future,” said Pannalal.
Their dedication is all the more remarkable given that they live off Pannalal's monthly pension of 7,500 rupees (HK$965).
“For the last four years, I have been holding back from eating my favourite fish and many days my stomach has been half-empty to make sure that we have enough money for this tournament in Brazil,” he said.
Fifa, in a rare bit of good publicity, have given them free accomodation as a reward for their commitment.
Maradona no fan of drug tests shock
Maradona has been entertaining at this tournament, blasting Fifa at every opportunity. In his latest rant he lashed them for drug-testing seven Costa Rica players after their win over Italy rather than the customary two.
“Why test seven players from Costa Rica and not seven from Italy ?” said Maradona, who was kicked out of USA 94 after a positive drug test.
“This is only happening because some people are annoyed Costa Rica, and not the big teams, are going through [to the next round], and so the sponsors won’t pay what they’d promised [to pay].
“It’s against the rules. Two players from each team are supposed to undergo doping controls. I know what I’m talking about, because it happened to me.
“But seven players? I’ve never seen something like that.”
Fifa says the extra five had to be tested because they weren't available for pre-tournament testing.
Earlier in the tournament, Maradona blew his top after supposedly being refused entry for Argentina's first game - a claim Fifa denied.
Luckily, he got in to Argentina's 1-0 win over Iran - but he apparently left his seat before Lionel Messi's wonder goal in the last minute.
Probably Fifa were to blame for that as well.
Fans going crazy of the day
Costa Rica celebrate qualifying for the last 16