One of the few memorable moments from a dull Nations League match between France and Germany came in the 24th minute on Thursday. France’s Benjamin Pavard challenged Antonio Rüdiger, left his feet and came out it just a teensy bit worse for wear.
Since there wasn’t much else to talk about and Pavard had some racy-looking scratches on his neck, out came the torches and pitchforks.
OUCH.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 6, 2018
Benjamin Pavard has some battle scars after Antonio Rudiger accidentally stood on his neck... pic.twitter.com/nLN0tGqJ70
Well, anything that dramatic certainly couldn’t have happened by accident. The condemnation wasn’t long in coming.
Rüdiger’s a “butcher”, claimed French football commentator Gilbert Brisbois. AS, the Spanish outlet, called it a stamp, which implies that it was deliberate. “Red card” screamed one fan, “lucky to still be in the pitch” wrote another (never mind that the referee didn’t even issue a yellow). Tancredi Palmeri said it was the act of “an animal” if it was deliberate.
The video, however, tells a slightly different story.
The nasty stamp from Rudiger on Pavard. Looks an intentional kick out from the last angle. pic.twitter.com/4rlrIdMxeu— Ball Street (@BallStreet) September 7, 2018
Hysterical commentary notwithstanding, it’s pretty obvious that Rüdiger was merely trying to keep his balance and that Pavard’s slide carried him under our defender’s feet. Racing incident, as they say in Formula 1.
For his part, Pavard told the TV camera he wasn’t sure that it was intentional. And Rüdiger himself apologized both then and after for the contact.
“It hurts a lot, but it’s part of football. I don’t know if [he] did it deliberately, I haven’t seen the video. It’s part of football.”
-Benjamin Pavard, post match
Sorry for @BenPavard28, it wasn't intentional. I have apologized to him right after it happened and I also want to use this opportunity to wish him a speedy recovery!— Antonio Rüdiger (@ToniRuediger) September 7, 2018
So a non-controversy that was one of the few sparks in a mostly uninteresting first day of a mostly uninteresting tournament ginned-up by UEFA to make more money.
But you know what? This could actually be useful for Chelsea.
Maurizio Sarri is busy building a team that capitalizes on the smaller, skillful players Chelsea have been buying and raising through the youth system. I can see a day in the future when we’re labeled soft, a taunt we’d never have heard during the ancien régime of Terry et al.
So is it such a bad thing to have a centre-back labeled a butcher? An animal? Those are ridiculous accusations that aren’t based in truth. But if they serve to intimidate anyone, to burnish Chelsea’s reputation as a team, then maybe the bottom line of the 24th minute of France versus Germany will be a net benefit to Chelsea.