Stade de Reims: France’s first continental superpower

August 6, 2012

“Before Tiki Taka and Total Football, there was ‘Champagne Football’. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Stade de Reims dazzled France and the rest of Europe with their exhilarating brand of effective attacking football which, as described by the great Just Fontaine, was ‘based on one-twos and a constant search for space’. Beauty went hand in hand with efficacy as, in just over a decade, the club won six leagues titles, two French cups, one Latin Cup and made two European Cup finals. And even if their successes have been scarce since (a third division championship being their sole achievement since the sixties), that great Stade de Reims side will always remain in football legend.” World Soccer

Joe Cole at Lille – success or failure? What next for Liverpool’s Londoner?

July 26, 2012

“He arrived in France on deadline day, greeted by fanfare and trumpets and great expectations. By the end he left almost under the radar, the attention of most Lillois occupied more by the departure of golden child Eden Hazard. Joe Cole’s season long stay in the North of France was in many respects a curious one. But can it be deemed successful, and what is the next step for the man once hailed as the future of English football?” Just Football

Spending spree buys PSG top talent, and maybe a Ligue 1 title

July 22, 2012

“Just before Sweden played France at Euro 2012 last month, as the players were waiting in the tunnel, Swedish captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic walked slowly along the line of French players, staring at each of them eye-to-eye. When he reached Adil Rami, the center back charged with marking him, he stopped. ‘You,’ he said, ‘today, you are my target.’ Sweden went on to win the game 2-0, with Ibrahimovic opening the scoring with a volley that was one of the best goals of the tournament.” SI

Paris Saint-Germain – Dream Into Action

July 18, 2012

“So, barring any problems with a medical, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will today sign for Paris-Saint Germain. Many in the football world have been shocked by PSG’s audacious €65 million swoop for the Milan duo of Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, but it really should come as no surprise given the club’s massive transfer outlay ever since it was purchased by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) last summer.” Swiss Ramble

The Hijab on the Pitch

July 10, 2012

“On Friday, the French Football Federation announced that it would ban the wearing of hijab during all organized competitions held in France. The Federation declared that in doing so it was fulfilling its ‘duty to respect the constitutional and legislative principles of secularism that prevails in our country and features in its statutes.’ The decision came one day after the International Football Association Board — the body within FIFA that governs the laws of the game — unanimously declared that it would, for a ‘trial period’ allow players to wear the hijab during international competitions. France, then, is seeking to carve out an exception to an international ruling, one that links its football regulations to a broad set of laws that ban veils in public schools and public administration, as well as banning the burqa in all public spaces.” Soccer Politics

The Best Football Shirts of Euro 2012

July 7, 2012

“Spain reigned supreme on the pitch, but which nation stole the sartorial show? Euro 2012 was a tame tourney for football kits when compared to some of the shock shirts of years past, but still had its fair share of gems which we will see again soon when World Cup 2014 qualifying begins this fall. And remember, all these shirts and more, including new Premier League releases for 2012-13, are available through” EPL Talk

Devaluing the Euros

July 5, 2012

“After just over three weeks of football, the world’s second biggest football tournament has played out in front of our eyes in Poland and Ukraine. Sixteen of Europe’s best teams have competed in thirty nine games to determine who would win the Henri Delaunay and join the likes of France, Holland, Denmark, West Germany, Greece and Spain in being crowned the champions of European Football. A few weeks before the tournament the bookies suggested that you should look no further than 2008 champions Spain for the winner of the tournament and when Iker Casillas elbowed Platini out of the way to lift the trophy they proved that class and form were both well judged.” The Ball is Round

Internal strife forces Blanc, Van Marwijk to pay ultimate price

July 5, 2012

“The end of a major tournament often brings a rash of coaching changes. Euro 2012 has been no different. Some, like Franciszek Smuda (Poland), Dick Advocaat (Russia) and Slaven Bilic (Croatia) already were at the end of their contracts — but Laurent Blanc and Bert van Marwijk, who coached France and Holland, respectively, were two surprise coaching casualties following Euro 2012.” SI

ZM’s team of Euro 2012

July 5, 2012

Iker Casillas, Spain
“Iker Casillas, Spain. This wasn’t a tournament of particularly fine individual goalkeeping displays, but the best two goalkeepers of the tournament – and of the century – met as captains in the final. Until the, there was nothing to separate Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon, but after Casillas made a fine save from Di Natale and prompted Spain’s second goal with a good ball out to Alba, he must get the nod. …” Zonal Marking

The Reducer: Euro 2012 Final Retro Diary

July 2, 2012

“When it was over, when Fernando Torres was wearing a look on his face that said, ‘Holy shit! I won the Golden Boot!?’ I didn’t want them to leave. I didn’t want it to be over. It had been a month, but it felt like it was just beginning. Some countries wait generations to win a major football tournament. Spain, for instance, waited 44 years. Then the right generation came along. On Sunday, Spain defeated a valiant, gassed Italy, 4-0, in Kiev, to win Euro 2012. They have now won two consecutive European championships and are the World Cup holders. They are the first team to ever successfully defend their European Championship. Spain’s victory on Sunday marked the third time they won the Euros. The only other country to pull off that feat is West Germany. In terms of accomplishments, this Spanish side can only be compared to the Brazil team, led by a young Pele, that won the World Cup in 1958 and 1962, or the early ’70s West Germany team that won the Euros in 1972, the World Cup in ’74, and placed as runners-up to Czechoslovakia in Euro ’76.” Grantland (Video)

Spain sheds ‘boring’ charges in Euro 2012 final, with Italy’s help
“Everything in football is relative. How one team plays is necessarily conditioned by how the opponent plays. When Spain was accused of being boring, the response was always that it was very hard for it not to be when opponents packed men behind the ball. Italy didn’t, and Spain showed just how unboring it could be, its 4-0 win the largest margin of victory in a European Championship or World Cup final. Spain’s game plan, essentially, was a game of chicken — and it never blinked first. When opponents sat deep against it — and in the past two tournaments only Chile and Italy have not — Spain held the ball.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Euro 2012: Perfect Spain justify Vicente del Bosque’s beliefs
“Playing without a defined striker remains a relatively novel concept but Vicente del Bosque was actually returning to Plan A. After unsuccessful attempts to incorporate a proper No9 into his side Del Bosque reverted to his initial system of six midfielders and Spain became the first side to win the European Championship by using the same XI in their opening game and the final.” Guardian – Michael Cox

Friedrich Nietschze Reflects Upon the European Championships
“We are honored at Futfanatico to welcome Friedrich Nietschze as a visiting scholar, classical philologist, philosopher, and soccer analyst. The German intellectual heavyweight took a break from his grueling publish or perish schedule to answer pressing questions on the European Championships, the gay science, post-nihilist studies, and the final between Italy and Spain. His answers will probably confuse (but may amuse) you.” futfanatico

Spain earns the big prize, but here are my Euro 2012 tourney awards
“Spain ended two debates once and for all with its master-class performance in a sensational 4-0 Euro 2012 final victory against Italy: No, it is not boring to play with six midfielders and no clear center-forward; and yes, it deserves to be called one of the greatest teams of all time after becoming the first side to win three major international tournaments in succession.” SI

The European Cup and the New Europe

June 26, 2012

“During international football competitions like the European Cup, eleven players briefly become their country, for a time, on the pitch. A nation is a difficult thing to grasp: unpalpable, mythic, flighty. Historians might labor away to define the precise contours of a country’s culture and institutions, and even sometimes attempt to delineate it’s soul, while political leaders try mightily (and persistently fail) to stand as representatives of it’s ideals. But in a way there is nothing quite so tactile, so real, as the way a team represents a nation: during their time on the pitch, they have in their hands a small sliver of the country’s destiny. And in those miraculous and memorable moments when individual trajectories intersect with a national sporting victory, sometimes biographies and histories seem briefly to meld. At such moments, the players who inhabit the crossroads of sporting and national history –Maradona in 1986, Zidane in 1998 — become icons, even saints.” Soccer Politics

Gavin Hamilton Euro 2012 diary: June 26, Kiev

June 26, 2012

“England are out and the inquest begins. Though the initial angst over penalties was inevitable, the long-term discussion needs to go deeper. The question should not be why do England keep losing on penalties, but why do England keep ending up in so many penalty shoot-outs. The simple fact is that England were not good enough to beat Italy over 120 minutes. Indeed, they were a very poor second. For Italy, you can substitute Portugal in 2004, Argentina in 1998 and Germany in 1996.” World Soccer

Spain 2-0 France: Blanc’s double right-back plan fails and Alonso deservedly scores both goals

June 24, 2012

“Laurent Blanc named an extremely reactive team – but France neither stifled Spain’s threat down the left, nor played their own game effectively. Vicente del Bosque had hinted he would make changes from the team that beat Croatia, though it was still a surprise to see Cesc Fabregas return to the side in a false nine role, meaning Spain played the XI that started against Italy in the opening game – an experiment that didn’t go well.” Zonal Marking

Three thoughts on Spain-France
“1. Laurent Blanc’s tactical gamble backfired — As a coach who spent a year playing for Barcelona — he would often talk tactics with Jose Mourinho, then on the coaching staff, as well as teammates Pep Guardiola and Luis Figo — Laurent Blanc has made no secret of his admiration for Spain’s style of play. He talked of wanting France to play like the reigning champion, and was happy to pick technical players — like Samir Nasri, Marvin Martin, Jeremy Menez and Mathieu Valbuena — over physical ones; he wanted his defenders to start attacks and his forwards to play a fast-passing game.” SI

Spain still the team to beat
“Legendary French icon Zinedine Zidane turned 40 on Saturday. He celebrated with an appearance on French radio in which he made a birthday wish that France would play with ambition. ‘We’ve got the players, we’ve got the manager,’ he declared. ‘What we need is some folie [madness].’ Not all birthday wishes come true. What Zidane received was a lineup that L’Equipe described as ‘ultra-defensive.’ Manager Laurent Blanc used five midfielders, one of whom, Mathieu Debuchy, is a right back. Samir Nasri, rumored to be at the center of the team’s Gallic midweek bickering, was relegated to the bench.” ESPN (Video)

Euro 2012: Xabi Alonso strikes at double for Spain to knock out France
“One hundred caps, two goals and victory against France for the first time in Spain’s history. There was also revenge for the last time they were knocked out of a major tournament, six long years ago. Xabi Alonso was on the losing side that night in Hanover. Everything has changed since them; Spain have gone from habitual failures to perpetual winners. And, ultimately, they were comfortable winners here, France were simply unable to truly trouble them. Alonso controlled much of this game. He decided it too.” Guardian

Euro 2012 Quarterfinals Preview

June 22, 2012

“…Greece vs. Germany. How They Got Here: Greece, despite all their history (the last couple of tournaments, not the battle of Sparta and Athens), have been pretty entertaining throughout Euro 2012. Or at least they’ve been involved in entertaining matches. They are an example of what happens if you just keep playing (Russia might want to write this down). After drawing with Poland and losing to the Czech Republic, they looked down. But in their third and final match, a goal from 35-year-old captain Giorgos Karagounis put them up on Russia, and saw the Greeks through to the quarters.” Grantland (Video)

Germany, Spain still favorites as Euro 2012 quarterfinals begin

June 20, 2012

“A new tournament starts in Euro 2012 on Thursday with the first of four quarterfinals, a showdown between Portugal and the Czech Republic here at the National Stadium. After a breathless run of 24 games in 12 days, Wednesday was the tournament’s first off-day, which gives us a chance to do a new set of power rankings and preview each quarterfinal.” SI

France has reason to worry

June 20, 2012

“In a hurry, the optimism surrounding France at the European Championships has faded. Set to win Group D and avoid a confrontation with defending European and world champion Spain, France lost 2-0 to already-eliminated Sweden in Kiev on a steamy Tuesday night to set up that unwanted pairing in the quarterfinals. England, as group winner (yes, you’re seeing right), gets Italy instead. After France won at a major tournament for the first time in six years on Friday, out went Les Bleus’ 23-match unbeaten streak with a stunning Zlatan Ibrahimovic volley in the 54th minute.” ESPN (Video)

France 2-0 Ukraine: Ribery v Husiev battle decides the game

June 16, 2012

“After a long rain delay, France took the initiative and went onto win the game comfortably. Laurent Blanc made two changes. One was a straight swap, with Patrice Evra dropping out and Gael Clichy starting at left-back. Higher up, the introduction of Jeremy Menez at the expense of Florent Malouda meant Samir Nasri moved into a permanent central position, and France switched to a 4-2-3-1. Oleg Blokhin had said before the tournament that he didn’t have a set first choice XI, and would switch from game to game, but after Ukraine’s famous 2-1 victory over Sweden on Monday, he stuck with the same side.” Zonal Marking

France comes alive in second half, beats co-host Ukraine in Group D
“France won a match at a major tournament for the first time since Zinedine Zidane’s head-butt, beating Ukraine 2-0 Friday in a storm-delayed match at the European Championship. Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye scored early in the second half for the French, who last won a major match in the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup. In the final of that tournament, Zidane was given a red card for his head-butt in the last match of his career.” SI

Three thoughts: France’s tactics work in 2-0 victory over Ukraine
“Three thoughts from France’s 2-0 victory over co-host Ukraine from Donetsk, Ukraine. 1. The tactical and personnel changes of Laurent Blanc worked perfectly. France’s 4-3-2-1 against England, with Samir Nasri and Franck Ribéry on either side of Karim Benzema, was switched to a 4-2-3-1 against Ukraine. In the latter formation, Nasri was side of Ribéry and Jérémy Ménez, who came in for Chelsea’s Florent Malouda.” SI

France’s talent too much for Ukraine
“The Ukrainian national anthem, “Ukraine has not yet Perished,” rang out raucously in the driving rain ahead of the team’s game against France, yet the co-hosts could not summon a performance to match the title. In this contest, French quality snuffed out the opponents’ passion. France coach Laurent Blanc tweaked his lineup ahead of the game, dropping veterans Patrice Evra and Florent Malouda in favor of Gael Clichy and Jeremy Menez, hoping to find sharper movement in the attacking third. Blanc knew his team had mustered 15 shots on goal against England yet created few clear-cut chances. His changes would prove to be vindicated.” ESPN (Video)

The Reducer: Orange Crushed

June 16, 2012

“Game of the Week: Germany 2, Holland 1. When the final whistle blew on this Group of B (B is for Death) match, one image in particular kept running through my head. There was Arjen Robben and his crinkled, baby Benjamin Button face, dickishly taking the long way around to the Dutch bench after being substituted for in the 83rd minute. He didn’t try to hype up his teammates, he didn’t shake hands with his sub, Dirk Kuyt, or give a quick man-shake to his manager. Nope, instead he tore off his jersey, parading past the famously passionate, good-traveling Holland fans, looking like a kid who’d just been Tasered while sucking on a lime.” Grantland

Euro 2012 Analysis – Day 1, Groups A, B, C, D

June 15, 2012

“This is the first piece in our Euro 2012 Analysis series, during which we’ll analyze all the matches based on our FootballrRating score. The app is currently in public beta. Register now to gain access to our match, player, and team analysis.” chimu solutions

France 1-1 England: France dominate possession but creativity stifled by England sitting deep

June 12, 2012

“A match with little invention, played at a very slow pace. Laurent Blanc chose his expected side in a 4-3-3, with Florent Malouda shuttling forward from the midfield. Roy Hodgson’s side contained one surprise name – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who started on the left. James Milner started on the other flank, and Danny Welbeck got the nod over Andy Carroll upfront. As expected, France dominated possession (65%) and had 21 shots compared to England’s 5, but many were from long-range, as Blanc’s side struggled to create clear-cut chances.” Zonal Marking

Three thoughts: England’s set play success forces draw with France
“1. England thrives with English goals. In the Balkans and perhaps elsewhere, a goal scored with a powerful header is known as an English goal. If that header comes from a set play, that makes it even more English (British, really, but in the Balkans comprehension of the distinction is blurry). So far in this tournament, that stereotype has proven to be true. Only two goals have been scored with one touch from a set play, and, appropriately, both were scored by players on English clubs: Sean St Ledger of Leicester City for Ireland and Joleon Lescott of Manchester City for England.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

France 1 England 1: match report
“Good point, average creativity. England were under sustained pressure towards the end of their opening Group D game but they held on and will take deserved satisfaction from this result, if not necessarily the display. It’s a good start though. The French were more technical, more assertive through the likes of Franck Ribery and their terrific right-back, Mathieu Debuchy, comfortably the man of the match. Uefa awarded the honour to Samir Nasri, who had brilliantly equalised Joleon Lescott’s header, but Debuchy really impressed most.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Euro 2012: Samir Nasri’s goal for France echoes England’s old failings
“New coach, but familiar pattern. England have scored before conceding at every international tournament they have competed at since 1990. Yet so often they lose that lead with a goal struck from a similar position. For years England’s weak zone has been the space between defence and midfield and it has constantly been their downfall in opening games. In 2000 the game-changer was Portugal’s Rui Costa, who got all three assists as England squandered a two-goal lead to lose 3-2. In 2004 Zinedine Zidane scored a superb free-kick after a clumsy Emile Heskey foul in that position. Two years ago Clint Dempsey turned past Frank Lampard’s poor challenge before his weak shot squirmed between Robert Green’s legs.” Guardian – Michael Cox

Not a bad start for England, France
“Not a win for England, but not a bad start. A team devoid of four regulars, including Wayne Rooney, showed grit, organization and calm to earn a 1-1 draw with tournament dark horse France, which extended its unbeaten streak to 22 games. Les Bleus won’t be disappointed, either. Neither team wanted to lose.” ESPN (Video)

England, France draw in Group D
“England held on for a 1-1 draw with France on Monday at the European Championship, giving the Group D favorites one point each. Joleon Lescott put England in the lead with a header in the 30th minute, and Samir Nasri leveled for France shortly before halftime with a strike into the bottom corner of the net. France still has not won a match at a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup. The national team, however, is unbeaten in its last 22 matches.” SI

Gavin Hamilton Euro 2012 diary, Gdansk, June 10

June 11, 2012

“It was always a little premature to hail Denmark’s victory over Holland’s as proof of a new defensive mood enveloping the European game. First Chelsea win the Champions League, then Denmark provide the tournament’s first shock by keeping a clean sheet against much-fancied Holland.” World Soccer

The Reducer: The Big Stories at Euro 2012

June 8, 2012

“Euro 2012 kicks off Friday at National Stadium in Warsaw. The producers of the Turin Olympics opening ceremony are in charge of the festivities in Poland, and it has been reported that the tournament will be inaugurated, musically, with a performance of Frédéric Chopin’s Etude in A Minor.” Grantland (YouTube)

Gavin Hamilton Euro 2012 diary: Warsaw, June 8

June 8, 2012

“Welcome to Warsaw! Euro 2012 is slowly cranking into life after yesterday’s bank holiday in the Polish capital; victory for the hosts over Greece in this evening’s match may be the tonic the tournament needs to capture the imagination of the Polish people.” World Soccer

Euro 2012 preview: France

June 7, 2012

“Whatever happens at this tournament, Euro 2012 will be an improvement on the sheer embarrassment of World Cup 2010 for France. The off-field problems meant it was almost impossible to determine how good a side France could have been, and therefore it’s difficult to judge how well Laurent Blanc has performed. But then, repairing the morale of the squad was key, and Blanc seems to have handled that well; his side are now on a 22-match unbeaten run.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012 preview: Ukraine
“It’s difficult to make a case for Ukraine performing well at this competition. They have home advantage, of course (they wouldn’t be here otherwise) but in the long-term they’ve had four coaches in four years, and in the short-term their squad has been suffering from food poisoning, which has hampered pre-tournament preparations.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012: France – an animated history – video

June 6, 2012

“James Richardson rounds off our series of potted animated international football histories with France, all the way from early humblings at home to old rivals England and through to their three truly great teams, via dominance in their own back jardin. You can watch the Germany, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Spain and England animated histories too” Guardian – James Richardson (Video)

Once a fan favorite, Franck Ribery seeks redemption in Euro 2012

June 6, 2012

“Like all the best rags-to-riches stories, this one has a twist. In fact, Franck Ribery’s story dovetails nicely with that of the France national team: both were loved and supported after reaching the 2006 World Cup final, and both were vilified following the strike threat in protest of Nicolas Anelka’s exclusion from the squad four years later. Neither has been completely forgiven, but Euro 2012 offers the perfect opportunity for redemption.” SI

Spain: Euro 2012 preview

June 2, 2012

“Spain are the world and European champions. They qualified for this summer’s competition with an eight-wins-from-eight record. They hold the world record for winning 14 competitive games in a row. And they followed up their qualifying campaign with a stunning 5-0 victory in a friendly against Venezuela that showcased them at their very best. Success at Euro 2008 and in South Africa two years later did not just wipe out the past, it provided a road map for the future.” World Soccer – Spain: Euro 2012 preview, Ukraine: Euro 2012 preview, Sweden: Euro 2012 preview, Russia: Euro 2012 preview, Republic of Ireland: Euro 2012 preview, Portugal: Euro 2012 preview, Poland: Euro 2012 preview, Italy: Euro 2012 preview, Holland: Euro 2012 preview, Greece: Euro 2012 preview, Germany: Euro 2012 preview, France: Euro 2012 preview, England: Euro 2012 preview, Denmark: Euro 2012 preview, Croatia: Euro 2012 preview

French hero Thuram working to battle racism in soccer and society

June 2, 2012

“Five years ago, to illustrate the development of mankind, scientists at the Musée de L’Homme in Paris chose three human skulls: the fossil of a generic Cro-Magnon; the cranium of philosopher René Descartes; and a facsimile of the strikingly active and wide-ranging brain of Lilian Thuram, the Guadeloupe-born defender and longtime captain of the French national soccer team.” SI

How to find the right coach

April 9, 2012

Marcelo Bielsa
“In one week last month, the British newspapers reported on names in the running to be the new Chelsea coach. Pep Guardiola, it was reported in some quarters, will be offered a contract worth £40 million ($63M) after tax, while The Times reported that Laurent Blanc was the front-runner. Jose Mourinho is still a target, claimed the Daily Mail, while The Mirror had Marcelo Bielsa snubbing an approach, via intermediaries, from Roman Abramovich. Four coaches, all at the top of their profession: but each with totally different philosophies and visions about how the game should be played, how their players should be treated, and, presumably, how they would approach their role if they worked at Stamford Bridge.” SI

Bayern take big step towards semi-finals

March 29, 2012

“Marseille’s decision to field third-choice goalkeeper Elinton Andrade backfired as his mistake gifted Bayern Munich the opening goal in their Champions League quarter-final. The 32-year-old, preferred to number two Gennaro Bracigliano with first choice Steve Mandanda suspended, allowed Mario Gomez’s shot to squirm under his body in the 44th minute of the first leg at the Stade Velodrome.” ESPN

Kalou secures vital away win for Blues
“Chelsea may not be as good as they used to be but even a makeshift line-up was strong enough to put them in touching distance of the Champions League semi-finals. There was as little to fear from Benfica as Didier Drogba allegedly indicated, the side that helped eliminate Manchester United producing arguably one of the most toothless performances ever witnessed in a quarter-final home leg.” ESPN

Benzema brace puts Real on brink of semis
“Substitute Kaka sparkled and Karim Benzema scored twice as Real Madrid finally broke down Cypriot underdogs APOEL in Nicosia. The Brazil international was introduced in the 63rd minute and set up Benzema for a 74th-minute opener before tucking away fellow sub Marcelo’s excellent cutback eight minutes later.” ESPN

APOEL v Lyon a good example of when the away goals rule creates a defensive game

March 11, 2012

“Despite the ultimately exciting method of victory, and the novelty of having a Cypriot club in the final eight of the European Cup, the APOEL v Lyon game was actually a dull spectacle. This was true in both technical and tactical terms. Technically, the sides finished with fairly low pass completion rates (71% and 74%), and tactically neither changed much throughout the game. Even when it did look as if the coaches might shake things up, when APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic switched from two strikers to one striker, and Lyon boss Remi Garde did the opposite at the same time, the sides continued to play in much the same manner.” Zonal Marking

Blanc’s France still searching for an identity

March 2, 2012

“For a team protecting an unbeaten record that now stretches to 543 days, France will approach Wednesday night’s friendly against Germany in Bremen with a surprising degree of uncertainty. Since going down 1-0 at home to Belarus in Laurent Blanc’s first competitive game in charge in September 2010, France have qualified for Euro 2012 – without recourse to the play-offs – and enjoyed friendly wins over England, Brazil and the United States (as well as some forgettable draws against Croatia, Chile and Belgium).” Football Further

Laurent Blanc’s France side are still searching for an identity

February 29, 2012

“For a team protecting an unbeaten record that now stretches to 543 days, France will approach Wednesday night’s friendly against Germany in Bremen with a surprising degree of uncertainty. Since going down 1-0 at home to Belarus in Laurent Blanc’s first competitive game in charge, in September 2010, France have qualified for Euro 2012 – without recourse to the play-offs – and enjoyed friendly wins over England, Brazil and the US (as well as some forgettable draws against Croatia, Chile and Belgium).” Guardian

Marseille 1-0 Inter: Marseille finally get the breakthrough with their 44th cross of the match

February 25, 2012

“Andre Ayew pounced in stoppage time, and Marseille will take a one goal lead to Inter. Didier Deschamps was without top scorer Loic Remy, so Brandao was upfront. In midfield, Benoit Cheyrou started rather than Charles Kaboré. Claudio Ranieri made the fitness-related decision to omit Diego Milito, and instead play Diego Forlan and Mauro Zarate – otherwise, the side was as expected. A strange game here – Inter looked in control midway through the second half, but then increasingly invited pressure. 0-0 was probably a better reflection of the balance of play.” Zonal Marking

Marseille 1-0 Inter: Marseille finally get the breakthrough with their 44th cross of the match

February 23, 2012

“Andre Ayew pounced in stoppage time, and Marseille will take a one goal lead to Inter. Didier Deschamps was without top scorer Loic Remy, so Brandao was upfront. In midfield, Benoit Cheyrou started rather than Charles Kaboré. Claudio Ranieri made the fitness-related decision to omit Diego Milito, and instead play Diego Forlan and Mauro Zarate – otherwise, the side was as expected. A strange game here – Inter looked in control midway through the second half, but then increasingly invited pressure. 0-0 was probably a better reflection of the balance of play.” Zonal Marking

PSG 2-2 Montpellier: narrowness versus width

February 21, 2012

“First played second in Ligue 1, and PSG maintain their one-point lead. PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti was unable to use Javier Pastore from the start – he was fit only for the bench. The only change from the 0-0 draw with Nice was Blaise Matuidi coming in for Mathieu Bodmer on the left of midfield. Rene Girard made three changes, bringing in Hilton at the back, Souleymane Camara on the right, and Jamel Saihi in the centre of midfield, in a 4-2-3-1 formation.” Zonal Marking

Nationalities of managers in European leagues

February 18, 2012

“England are without a manager, and the FA are known to favour an English candidate for the job. Harry Redknapp is the overwhelming favourite, but the problem with favouring an English candidate is that there are so few English managers working in the Premier League. How does this situation compare to other major footballing countries in Europe?” ZonaL Marking

So that is why they are one of the richest club in the world!

February 10, 2012

“What is the most you have ever paid for a ticket for football? An official one, mind, not one from a tout. £50? Certainly not if you follow your team away from home and have been to the Emirates, Stamford Bridge, White Hart Lane or even in the nPower Championship at Upton Park recently where £50 will get you entry and not even a sniff of a bottle of Emirates water or pie and mash in East London. What about for a cup final? The FA think fans will bend over backwards to be shafted for these tickets but rarely do they go into three figures.” The Ball is Round

Marseille on an inexorable rise

January 24, 2012

“Speculation over Paris Saint-Germain’s manifold transfer targets may be dominating football coverage in France at the moment, but the headline story on the pitch has been the stunning return to form of Marseille.” ESPN

Ten questions for 2012

January 11, 2012

Borussia Dortmund celebrate
“As the major continental leagues resume following the winter break – Serie A and La Liga returned to action over the weekend, with Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga set to follow suit in the next fortnight – Pitchside Europe looks at ten issues that will help determine the balance of power across Europe in the 12 months ahead.” Eurosport

Top ten Ligue 1 transfer targets

January 3, 2012

“Ligue 1 has proved a fertile hunting ground for Premier League sides in recent years – not least for Newcastle United – and as the January transfer window opens, several names from the French top flight find themselves linked with clubs from the English elite. Football Further runs the rule over the players making the headlines and identifies which of them are likely to be on the move.” Football Further

Ten Ligue 1 players who could move in January transfer window
“Ten Ligue 1 players who could move in the January transfer window…” SI

Hakuna Matata #12: Italy-France ’98 – Di Biagio and the trembling crossbar

January 3, 2012

“On 3rd July 1998 in Stade de France in Saint Denis, the first World Cup ’98 quarter final was played between the hosts, France, and Italy. It was an encounter that would be ultimately be remembered for the Luigi Di Biagio penalty that smashed against the bar to end Italy’s campaign.” The Football Express (Video)

Biggest soccer stories in 2011

January 2, 2012

“It’s that time of year again where we look back on a selection from the standout soccer stories in the year just passed. Here’s the best of 2011…” SI

Football’s role in Algeria’s fight for independence from France

December 30, 2011

“In April 1958, Rachid Mekhloufi stood on the brink of international superstardom. Having scored 25 goals in thirty games to help Saint-Étienne win their first Championnat the year before, Mekhloufi was about to win his fifth France cap in a friendly against Switzerland, with coach Paul Nicolas including him in the forty-man pre-selection for Les Bleus’ highly fancied World Cup squad.” World Soccer

Brian Glanville on Lyon’s improbable Champions League qualification

December 14, 2011

“Seven goals scored and consequent qualification in the European Cup for a Lyon team which until then had found scoring in the group so difficult. True, Dynamo did have a man sent off in the first half, but seven goals? Michel Platini, ever more controversial and disappointing President of UEFA, seems airily unconcerned, reassured it would seem, by the fact that there was no sign of unusual betting at the bookmakers.” World Soccer

Irish underdogs

December 4, 2011

“It may have seemed as if Ireland’s Euro 2012 dreams had suffered a hammer blow as they were thrown into a opening group featuring Spain, Italy and Croatia, yet the reaction in Dublin has been surprisingly upbeat as the gravity of the task facing Giovanni Trapattoni’s rank outsiders was digested.” ESPN

French fancy their chances
“It goes without saying French football owes a big debt of gratitude to Zinédine Zidane, from his headers to help win the World Cup to his silken contribution to the Euro 2000 success and even to his retribution-filled coup de boule – his ‘head-butt’ – on Marco Materazzi. Zizou added another reason for Les Bleus to be thankful to him when he produced another coup de boule – which could also mean ‘ball trick’, honestly, it works in French! – by drawing a clement Euro 2012 group for his old mate Laurent Blanc.” ESPN

Premier League’s best struggle in Champions League group stage

November 26, 2011

Franck Ribéry
“Twelve Champions League thoughts from Round 5 of the Group Stage…” SI

Lyon 0 – 0 Ajax: Goalless draw sees Ajax come close to the CL knock-out rounds

November 23, 2011

“Ajax managed to obtain exactly the result they came for in their fifth Champions League Group stage match, duplicating their home result with a 0-0 away draw at Lyon. Considering Real Madrid’s absolute dominance and Dinamo Zagreb’s failure to grab any points so far, the balance in results between Ajax and Lyon see Ajax now firmly hold an advantage of seven goals over their French rivals for a place among the final sixteen of this season’s Champions League.” 11 tegen 11

France 1-1 Bosnia: Bosnia dominate first half, France lucky to get back in the game late on

October 12, 2011

“Bosnia were 15 minutes from topping the group, but Samir Nasri’s late penalty put France into Euro 2012. Laurent Blanc brought in Anthony Reveillere and Eric Abidal at the back, and Jeremy Menez came on down the right in a 4-2-3-1. Safet Susic also went with a 4-2-3-1 – albeit with some important modifications, explained later. Despite the result favouring France, Susic got things right tactically from the outset. Bosnia were much more of a force in the first half and can consider themselves unfortunate to have lost the lead late on – they allowed France few clear chances, though rash tackles meant set-pieces were always likely to be a way back into the game for the home side.” Zonal Marking

Shallowness of France squad echoes Blanc’s Bordeaux slump

October 6, 2011

“In the build-up to France’s final two Euro 2012 qualifiers, the French press have been quick to draw comparisons with the situation that faced Les Bleus at the end of their ill-fated qualification campaign for the 1994 World Cup. Needing just a single point from their last two matches at home to Israel and Bulgaria, Gérard Houllier’s side somehow conspired to lose both to gut-wrenching last-minute goals. The stunning failure confirmed France’s unwelcome reputation for producing gifted but psychologically fragile sportsmen and the trauma of the event was only partially alleviated by the outcome of the next World Cup on home soil five years later.” Football Further


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