What does the end of the tunnel look like? For the French football team, the light finally broke through on November 16, 1977, when Michel Hidalgo, in tears and tight in his blue windbreaker, was carried in triumph by his players at the Parc des Princes. The young Michel Platini and his teammates have just beaten Bulgaria (3-1) and thus validate their ticket for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.
This may be a detail, but at the time it means a lot for a country unable to qualify for a final phase (European Championship or World Cup) since the 1966 World Cup.
Michel Hidalgo died on Wednesday March 25 at the age of 87. With its disappearance, French football turns its romantic page and opens the box to nostalgia. Hidalgo was Seville 1982, the “magic square”, the Platini generation, an eight-year term and 75 games between 1976 and 1984, finished in majesty by a title of European champion. The very first trophy for the Blues.
But Michel Hidalgo would not like to have his career reduced to statistics. “Some coaches talk about numbers, statistics, percentages. Bazaar technicians! “, he said.
Kovacs the mentor
A last digit then. Hidalgo is 43 when he wakes up at 1er January 1976 in the shoes of the France team coach. At the time, there was a much better situation. Big names like the Snella-Arribas duo broke their teeth, Just Fontaine was fired after two games and as many defeats nine years earlier. Even Stefan Kovacs, the legendary Ajax coach, failed to shake the sleeping beauty between 1973 and 1975.
The Romanian knows he is passing by and is preparing the ground for his assistant, a certain Michel Hidalgo. The former midfielder (Le Havre, Reims, Monaco) will pay tribute to him at the time of the first successes:
“I found someone in him to guide and guide me. He was a man of dialogue, delicious. It didn’t have any results, it’s true, but it allowed me to have some, then. “
In the absence of victories, Kovacs has put down the diagnosis to treat blue ailments. French football is a Gallic village made up of irreconcilable castes. Realistic and romantic dangle more or less fresh fish in the face through magazines and newspapers. On the one hand, there are the defenders of muscle and concrete football – led by the national technical director, Georges Boulogne – for whom salvation depends on physique and discipline. They despise José Arribas’ Nantes school – which makes them feel good – more intellectual and technical-oriented.