Coutinho’s downward spiral: how it went wrong for Barcelona’s record signing

January 14, 2022


“‘All Barcelona fans, all around the world, are very excited about getting to know Coutinho,’ said Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, as the Catalan club’s new record signing was presented at the Nou Camp in early January 2018. … That welcome has not aged well. Flush with the money from selling Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record €222 million the previous summer, Barcelona could have targeted any player they wanted. They fixed their gaze on Coutinho, and would not let go until Liverpool had haggled the fee up to €120 million, plus another €40 million in add-ons. For all that money, Barcelona have so far got 106 games, 25 goals, and 14 assists. … But the move has actually been a disaster, for the club and the player. …”
The Athletic


Monaco’s decision to sack Niko Kovac looks like an unforced error

January 11, 2022


“Monaco’s shock removal of Niko Kovac over Christmas fell somewhere between eye-wateringly ruthless and bafflingly naive. Before Kovac was appointed in the summer of 2020, relegation was Monaco’s greatest concern. Thierry Henry’s disastrous reign was followed by the ill-advised re-appointment of Leonardo Jardim, who had won the title with the club in 2017, before he was sacked for the second time in 14 months in December 2019. Spanish coach Robert Moreno then lasted just 13 games before Kovac arrived. Monaco barely survived, finishing 17th in the 2018-19 season before struggling to ninth in the following campaign. Nevertheless, Kovac’s team entered the final day of last season with a chance of winning the title. …”
Guardian


UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics

January 8, 2022


“Taking in José Mourinho’s touchline charge, La Remontada and plenty more besides, UEFA.com picks out a classic last-16 tie from each of the last 18 seasons. The 2021/22 UEFA Champions League is the 19th edition since the knockout round of 16 replaced the second group stage. UEFA.com picks out a classic tie from each of the past 18 seasons – all headline scores are aggregate. …”
UEFA (Video)


2021 was the year when football’s silent majority finally found its voice

December 27, 2021


A mural in Rome depicting Juventus president Andrea Agnelli puncturing a football with a knife. Juve backed the doomed European Super League breakaway.
“Remarkably, the website is still live. Eight months after the European Super League disintegrated in an embarrassing fireball, you might think its founders would be minded to erase all trace of their hubris and humiliation. But perhaps that would be to credit them with too much competence. And so there it remains to this day: ‘The Super League is a new European competition between 20 top clubs comprised of 15 founders and five annual qualifiers.’ Well, good luck with that. There is, of course, an alternative theory. After all, the Super League is still not quite dead in a legislative sense; certainly not if you believe the loud and persistent avowals of Andrea Agnelli at Juventus, Joan Laporta at Barcelona and Florentino Pérez at Real Madrid, the three remaining hoarse men of the apocalypse. …”
Guardian


The Premier League Chose Festive Fixtures Over Safe Fixtures

December 23, 2021


“So, things are a bit of a mess in the Premier League: On Monday, Tottenham were bounced from the Europa Conference League by the governing body itself, UEFA, which awarded a 3-0 win to French side Rennes in the final game of the group phase. The match was supposed to be played on December 9, but a COVID outbreak among Tottenham’s players and coaching staff forced Spurs to postpone—the team’s third such postponement in just over a week. …”
The Ringer


Plagued by Fan Violence, French Soccer Asks: Why?

December 15, 2021


PSG fans welcome Manchester City to Paris.
“Only 3 minutes 54 seconds into the match, Dimitri Payet jogged gingerly toward the corner flag at Groupama Stadium. The game between his team, Marseille, and the host, Lyon, was young and still formless. There had been no goals. There had barely been time for a chance. Everybody, fans and players alike, was still settling in. In the stands above him, Wilfried Serriere, 32, a food delivery driver, looked down and saw a half-liter bottle of water at his feet. It was full. Payet was placing the ball for a corner. His back was turned. In images captured by the stadium’s security cameras and later played in a courtroom, Serriere can be seen picking up the bottle, lowering his hood, and throwing it. A beat later, Payet fell to the grass, clutching his face. The bottle had caught him flush on the cheek. …”
NY Times
Guardian: Lyon are paying for their lack of a long-term plan


WTF is Group G?

December 14, 2021


“… Needless to say, there was plenty more where that came from. Rightly or wrongly, the prospect of Lille, Sevilla, Red Bull Salzburg and Wolfsburg going head to head over the next four months was not exactly setting pulses racing. For The Athletic, that was only ever going to mean one thing: watching every minute of every Group G match. If you thought that would be a slog, prepare to be disappointed. Two Champions League records were set inside the first 45 minutes of the opening game, a Bulgarian referee made the worst penalty decision in living memory, a manager was sacked, a 28-match unbeaten run came to an end and a teenage striker showed why he is on the radar of every top club in Europe. …”
The Athletic


France: 2021-22 Ligue 1 – Location-map, with 2 charts…

December 13, 2021


The map shows the twenty clubs in the current season of the French Ligue 1 [2020-21]. The map features the locations and crests of the 20 current Ligue Un clubs, along with the 10 largest French cities, and the 13 Regions of Metropolitan France (aka European France). {Largest French cities’ metropolitan area populations from 2016 census, here}. The major French rivers are also shown {see further below, at the foot of this post, for more on that}. …”
billsportsmaps
W – 2021–22 Ligue 1
Get Football News France


What Do We Mean by Good Soccer?

December 11, 2021



“Jesse Lingard was streaking away, the ball at his feet, on the right wing. Their legs weary and their hopes dwindling, Arsenal’s defenders heaved and hauled to keep up with him, as if they were running into a stiff wind. And on the other side of the field, Cristiano Ronaldo started to sprint. It was a true sprint, too, a track sprint, a coached sprint: starting in a low crouch, his back straightening as he reached full tilt, head held high, arms pumping. The clock had just ticked past 90 minutes, but there seemed to be a magnet drawing Ronaldo to Arsenal’s penalty area, some elemental force. …”
NY Times


The Data Day No 15: Our Rolling Football Blog

December 10, 2021


December 9: Villarreal qualified for this season’s Champions League despite not finishing in the top six of La Liga, the cutoff for traditional Europa League qualification. They did so by beating Manchester United in the Europa League final. And although they couldn’t chase down United to win Group F on Thursday, they did more than they needed to in Bergamo to carry on to the Champions League last 16 despite sitting 13th in La Liga. …”
The Analyst
SI: Champions League Group Ouster Is Barcelona’s New Bottom – Jonathan Wilson


French football in crisis: Missiles thrown, fans invading the pitch and matches abandoned

December 5, 2021


“It is a cold, dark December evening in south-west Paris and kick-off in Paris Saint-Germain’s home game with Nice is less than two hours away. Beneath the white awning that overhangs the heated outdoor terrace at the Aux Trois Obus brasserie, just around the corner from the Parc des Princes, PSG supporters in parkas and puffer jackets while away the time before the match, their face masks pulled down below their chins as they sip from their glasses of beer and take drags on their cigarettes. At the entrance to the Porte de Saint-Cloud metro station, a ticket tout weaves his way through the crowd. …”
The Athletic


ESPN FC 100: Messi, Lewandowski, Oblak among No. 1s; Premier League has most representatives

December 4, 2021


“For the sixth consecutive year, ESPN presents its annual ranking of the best men’s players and coaches in world soccer! Welcome to FC 100. As always, rankings are broken down into Top 10 lists for positions, plus a countdown of managers, in order to present the most meaningful look at talent on the pitch and the sideline. Whereas last year was dominated by Liverpool and Bayern Munich — the clubs combined for eight of the 10 No. 1 spots — the leaders in this year’s edition are spread across six teams, with none having more than two men on top of their respective category. …”
ESPN (Video)
Go to: Goalkeeper | Right-back | Centre-back | Left-back | Central midfield | Attacking midfield | Winger | Forward | Striker | Manager


Marseille turn

December 3, 2021


“The Marseille turn, also known as the 360, the Spin, the Mooresy Roulette, the Roulette, the Girosflin, and the double drag-back, is a specialised dribbling skill unique to the game of football. With so many different names, still the exact origin of this trick is unknown. The Marseille turn was first popularized in Europe by French striker Yves Mariot in the 1970s. Diego Maradona and Zinedine Zidane are arguably the most notable exponents of the move, thus it has also been known as the Maradona turn and Zidane turn. Zinedine Zidane has been known to use different variations of the Marseille turn. Instead of using his sole to drag the ball back in the move’s first phase, he sometimes uses the inside of the foot, especially if he is performing the move while running at high speed. …”
Wikipedia
YouTube: HOW TO LEARN THE MARSEILLE TURN | The Zidane Roulette football skill


16 football clubs sitting outside the elite

December 2, 2021


“Should European football ever morph into a super league structure, the landscape will be substantially changed, no matter how any new league might manifest itself. For the past decade, a set of global, elite players have evolved, but beneath the top layer, there are a number of clubs who have scale and presence, some with back stories that belong to a more democratic age. Some of these glorious names may be dominant forces in their own backyard but do not have the financial clout to compete with Europe’s gargantuan institutions. Others were once feared names across the continent, metropolitan clubs from major cities such as Lisbon, Amsterdam, Rome, Rotterdam and Glasgow. …”
Game of the People


Shocking rise of fan disorder leaves Ligue 1 facing an existential crisis

November 28, 2021


“This was supposed to be a season of celebration and new acclaim for the French league. Not only would crowds return to stadiums after a year of matches behind closed doors but Lionel Messi’s arrival at Paris Saint-Germain guaranteed unprecedented global interest in Ligue 1. Three months in, France is shocked and embarrassed and the talk among authorities is of an existential crisis. …”
Guardian


He Knows Who Won the Ballon d’Or. No, He Won’t Tell.

November 28, 2021



“At this time of year, Pascal Ferré seems to field the same call, over and over again. They come from across the world. Sometimes, it is a team executive or a club president. Often, it is an agent, charming and inquisitive. Occasionally, it might even be one of the world’s most famous players themselves. Regardless of the voice on the other end of the line, they all follow much the same pattern with Ferré, the genial, bearded editor in chief of the prestigious French soccer weekly France Football. They start by shooting the breeze, asking casually after Ferré’s general health. Then, they start to shift gear. …”
NY Times


Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup?

November 24, 2021


“With a year to go, almost half the field for the 2022 World Cup is set. Thirteen countries have already booked their places for the tournament, which opens in Qatar next Nov. 21: some with ease, cruising through qualifying, and some with a touch more drama. Quite what the tournament, riddled with scandal and concern from the day Qatar was announced as the host, will be like cannot yet be known. The identities of the teams who will contest it, though, are remarkably familiar. Most — if not quite all — of the traditional contenders are already there: a 10-country-strong European contingent led by France, the defending champion, and Belgium, officially the world’s best team, as well as the likes of Spain and England and Germany. They have been joined by the two great powerhouses of South America, Brazil and Argentina. …”
NY Times


Cox: City can beat elite teams without a prolific forward – it’s against the cautious sides it becomes a problem 

November 23, 2021


“Sometimes it feels like every Manchester City game is a test of whether playing without a prolific forward is viable, and the consensus can swing wildly from one match to the next. But City’s upcoming week might demonstrate why. On Wednesday, they face Paris Saint-Germain — a side averaging 62 per cent possession in Ligue 1, and naturally attack-minded by virtue of having multiple superstar forwards. Either side of PSG’s visit, City host Everton and West Ham United, two of the more cautious sides in the Premier League. Everton are averaging just 41 per cent of possession, the fourth-least in the league, and while West Ham are more positive in that respect, only Newcastle United pressure the opposition less frequently in the final third than David Moyes’ side. City’s next three opponents are typical of their managers. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox


World Cup 2022: ranking the top 10 contenders a year before Qatar

November 19, 2021


“With just over a year to go until the World Cup kicks off, 12 teams have qualified alongside hosts Qatar. All four semi-finalists from 2018 have sealed their spots and are joined by former world champions Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain, while recent European champions Portugal and Italy still have more to do. With most of the big hitters now able to prepare for the tournament, we assess where they stand as the countdown to Qatar begins. …”
Guardian
The Athletic: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying: Where USMNT, Canada, Mexico and Panama stand with six matches left
World Cup 2022 Power Rankings: France & England the early favourites as Portugal & Italy falter


World Cup 2022 qualification: Who will be in Qatar and who is in play-offs?

November 16, 2021


Gareth Southgate’s England are heading to Qatar 2022, while Wales and Scotland have a play-off place secured
“England have qualified for the 2022 World Cup finals while Wales and Scotland are heading to the play-offs along with some surprising names. European champions Italy and Portugal will also have to go through two rounds of play-off games next March after failing to win their respective groups. Heading to the World Cup so far are: Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland. The Netherlands, Norway and Turkey are the three teams left who can still qualify automatically. The winners of each group secure a place at the World Cup, with the 10 runners-up joining two Nations League teams in the play-offs, where three further places are up for grabs. …”
BBC


1998 World Cup terror plot

November 15, 2021


“From March to May 1998, a terror plot against the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France was uncovered by European law enforcement. More than 100 people were arrested in seven countries as a result of the plot. Organised by the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and backed by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the plot is thought to have targeted the England–Tunisia match on 15 June 1998, and involved infiltrating the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille in order to attack players and spectators during the game, attack the hotel in Paris hosting the United States national team, and finally hijacking an aircraft and crashing it into the Civaux Nuclear Power Plant near Poitiers. … Although Osama Bin Laden had a rented place in the stands of Arsenal Football Club, he wanted to destroy English football. Terrorists had reportedly planned to blow up the England substitute bench (targeting youngsters David Beckham and Michael Owen), shoot English players and throw grenades into the stands. …”
Wikipedia
Howler: Net of Suspicion


Rennes hammer Lyon and take aim at Champions League places

November 9, 2021


“On a weekend when the other teams in the mix for the European places stumbled – draws for Monaco and Marseille, a defeat for Nice – Sunday night fixture looked like an appealing one, with Lyon traveling to Rennes. It was no shock that the match would feature so much attacking play but it was a surprise that nearly 90% of it came from Rennes. They ran out convincing 4-1 winners to move up to fifth in the table, just a point behind Nice and Marseille. The result was something approaching a shock given Lyon’s impressive recent form and the fact that Rennes were missing a handful of important players. …”
Guardian


Red Star, Paris St-Germain and the contrasting global brands of Parisian football

November 8, 2021


“If Paris St-Germain are a Hollywood blockbuster, says David Bellion, then Red Star are an indie film directed by Ken Loach or Michel Gondry – one about the oldest and undoubtedly hippest football club in the French capital. Making links between football and the arts comes naturally to Bellion, the former Manchester United and Sunderland striker who is now creative director at Red Star, a cult French third division team who like PSG have a brand that resonates with fans around the world, but for different reasons. Founded in 1897, they sit at the heart of Saint-Ouen, a diverse, working class suburb of northern Paris, and were formed by Jules Rimet, the longest-serving Fifa president whose name gleams on the original World Cup trophy. …”
BBC
W – Red Star F.C.


Zonal Marking: From Ajax to Zidane, the Making of Modern Soccer – Michael Cox

October 29, 2021


August 24, 2019: “In life, it takes time to create successful ideas and concepts. Scientists and researchers spend years, even decades, analyzing and studying data to create trials or a study before publishing the results to the world. … I mention this because it may seem odd at first to take a 17-year period and be able to identify seven overarching and different tactical revolutions in soccer in Europe. However, Michael Cox has long established himself as a tactical observer par excellence and his new book argues that the dominant soccer cultures in Europe in the recent past have existed for merely 2-4 years. Zonal Marking: From Ajax to Zidane, the Making of Modern Soccer makes the claim that we have seen six dominant styles of soccer in Europe since 1992 with each based around a national soccer culture. …”
World Soccer Talk
Intelligent football: Michael Cox and the rise of tactical analysis (Oct 2020)
Zonal Marking
Vox in the Box: Michael Cox
amazon
YouTube: Football Tactics with Michael Cox (Zonal Marking)(Aug 13, 2019)


Football Performance Analysis How Mauricio Pochettino Readapted PSG’s Structure to Reflect His Football Philosophy

October 24, 2021


“Since replacing Thomas Tuchel in early January, Mauricio Pochettino has been able to stamp his mark on Paris Saint-Germain. This is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. The former Spurs boss hasn’t changed the team radically and it was hard to see a replica of his Tottenham too, as he barely had time to coach the team into his playing style, as PSG played a game every four days since his appointment. The team is made by the players and Pochettino has the exact same ones that Tuchel had, as PSG haven’t signed a single player during the winter transfer window. It’s no surprise then that Pochettino relied heavily on the legacy of Tuchel’s work at the club, only changing small details. Marginal details maybe, but still important enough to shape PSG playing style in a different way, making the new manager’s touch visible on the pitch. …”
Hudl (March 2021)
Five ways PSG could line up with Lionel Messi
YouTube: Pochettino PSG 4-2-3-1 MASTERPIECE | Mauricio Pochettino PSG Tactical Analysis


Who invented the red card?

October 15, 2021


Referee Horacio Elizondo of Argentina shows the red card to Zinedine Zidane 2006 World Cup … Berlin, Germany, July 09, 2006.
“… Yet that law was only instigated in 1992. Those that watched football throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s still find themselves wondering why the defence doesn’t kick the ball back to the goalkeeper to waste some time. Of all the rules that have been introduced to football over the years, perhaps none have been as influential as the decision to issue players with yellow and red cards for infractions of the rules of the game. The backpass rule that we’ve just mentioned is widely considered to be one of the game’s most successful changes, but it has never had the ability to influence a match in the same way that a sending off has, for example. …”
Yellow And Red Cards In Football
Who has more red cards in their career: Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?
W – Fouls and misconduct
YouTube: Who invented the red card?


France’s Win Over Spain Was a Prelude to an Epic Rivalry in the Making

October 14, 2021


“If the UEFA Nations League final between France and Spain was a trailer for the next era of international soccer, then I can’t wait for the feature film. Here were two teams that, when playing at their peak, could make a good claim to be the best on the planet. We had Spain, whose intricate patterns of passing bewildered Italy during this summer’s European championships, and who were the only team to make Roberto Mancini’s champions look consistently vulnerable. … To be reductive, this final was poetry against pragmatism: and France duly and sometimes dully prevailed 2-1. Still, some might say, it was only the Nations League, right? A tournament formed as no more than a series of glorified friendly fixtures. Who truly cares? …”
The Ringer


In One Moment, Messi and P.S.G. Make It All Work

September 30, 2021


“Lionel Messi picked the ball up in that spot, the one that has served as the starting point for so many of his finest moments, the one that he knows so well that it might as well be his spot. It has, for 15 years, been his base camp, his happy place: a few yards inside from the right touchline, a few yards from halfway. He was standing still as he controlled it. He had been standing still for some time, by that stage. Paris St.-Germain had taken an early lead, through Idrissa Gueye, and had spent most of the rest of the game desperately trying to fend off Manchester City’s unrelenting attacks. …”
NY Times


Champions League roundup: Sheriff Tiraspol shock Real Madrid

September 28, 2021


Sheriff Tiraspol shock Real Madrid
“The Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol pulled off a remarkable 2-1 win away against Real Madrid in the Champions League, snatching a shock victory thanks to a sensational 89th-minute strike from Sebastien Thill. The competition debutants Sheriff went ahead against the 13-time European champions in the 25th minute with a header from the Uzbek midfielder Jasurbek Yakhshiboev, who narrowly missed a chance to double the visitors’ lead later in the first half. …”
Guardian
YouTube: Real Madrid vs. Sheriff: Extended Highlights, AC Milan vs. Atlético Madrid: Extended Highlights, Porto vs. Liverpool: Extended Highlights, RB Leipzig vs. Club Brugge: Extended Highlights, PSG vs. Man. City: Extended Highlights, Dortmund vs. Sporting: Extended Highlights


Lens win in Marseille and set their sights on European football

September 27, 2021


Olympique de Marseille’s Bamba Dieng in action with RC Lens’ Christopher Wooh
It’s no wonder Marseille feature so often in the Sunday evening slot in Ligue 1. Big derbies – such as the clash between Lyon and Saint-Étienne next week – are also chosen for the glamour match of the weekend, but the atmosphere at the Vélodrome has been electric this season and their match against Lens this weekend was no exception. Lens are hardly box office but, after a strong start to the season, they went into the game knowing that a victory would take them above the hosts and into second place in the table. They succeeded, winning a scintillating game 3-2 to show that they might have enough about them to finish in the top six this season. …”
Guardian


1998 FIFA World Cup Final

September 26, 2021


Aimé Jacquet – Zinedine Zidane
“The 1998 FIFA World Cup Final was a football match that was played on 12 July 1998 at the Stade de France in the Parisian commune of Saint-Denis to determine the winner of the 1998 FIFA World Cup. The final was contested by defending champions Brazil and the host nation France, marking the first time that a World Cup final was disputed between the host nation and the defending champion. France won the match 3–0 to claim their maiden World Cup, with the timing of the match two days before Bastille Day adding to the significance of the victory. Zinedine Zidane, who was named man of the match, scored twice before half-time and Emmanuel Petit added a third goal in the last minute. The match had an attendance in the region of 75,000. … The match also saw speculation on the condition of the Brazilian striker Ronaldo, who suffered a convulsive fit on the eve of the match. After initially being left out of the team sheet, in spite of his physical state, it was announced just 72 minutes before kick-off that he was going to play. In the match, he sustained an injury in a clash with French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez. Although it was believed that the decision to play Ronaldo had backfired, it was understandable as the player had been a crucial member of the side throughout the tournament, having scored four goals and created three more. …”
Wikipedia
Tactical Analysis: France vs. Brazil
W – Aimé Jacquet, W – Roger Lemerre
W – Zinedine Zidane, W – Didier Deschamps
NY Times: Sun Shines on France’s National Heroes
YouTube: Tactics Explained | 1994-1998: A History Of The World Cup, How France’s 4-3-3 won the 1998 World Cup | Tactical Analysis: France 3-0 Brazil | Zidane vs Ronaldo


Jorge Sampaoli is building something special at Marseille

September 24, 2021


“‘Nietzsche thought while walking too,’ said Marseille coach Jorge Sampaoli to explain why he constantly paces up and down the touchline. ‘I analyse things better while on the move.’ Following Sampaoli’s arrival in March, Marseille lacked the ferocity and intensity of their coach. Now, however, they are playing with intensity and dynamism, embodying their manager’s snarling, prowling touchline presence. Club and coach are a perfect match and, after years of underachieving, Marseille may have finally found the right formula. Known as a Marcelo Biesla ‘disciple’, even if he quietly rejects the comparison, Sampaoli has based his success this season on a gung-ho outlook. It is working, with four wins and two draws from Marseille’s first six games. …”
Guardian
Jorge Sampaoli: Coach Watch (Video)
W – Jorge Sampaoli
Jorge Sampaoli: 5 things on the inbound Marseille coach


2021–22 UEFA Champions League

September 22, 2021


“The 2021–22 UEFA Champions League is the 67th season of Europe’s premier club football tournament organised by UEFA, and the 30th season since it was renamed from the European Champion Clubs’ Cup to the UEFA Champions League. The final will be played at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was originally scheduled to be played at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. However, due to the postponement and relocation of the 2020 final, the final hosts were shifted back a year, with Saint Petersburg instead hosting the 2022 final. The winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Champions League will automatically qualify for the 2022–23 UEFA Champions League group stage, and also earn the right to play against the winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Europa League in the 2022 UEFA Super Cup. …”
W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League, W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League group stage
Guardian – Champions League 2021-22 draw: group stage analysis and predictions


What The Heaven Happened To PSG?

September 17, 2021


“Created in 1970, PSG are still a young club. A club that had its first golden age before suffering a significant decline… But a club that despite everything has remained very ambitious! And since being bought by Qatar, PSG want to win the Champions League at all costs. Now with Leo Messi, Sergio Ramos, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, PSG could really fulfill their dream.. But is it really possible? How did PSG go from a young Paris club to a MEGA CLUB?! What the heaven happened to PSG?!”
YouTube: What The Heaven Happened To PSG?


2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage

September 11, 2021


The map is a standard location-map showing the locations of the 32 qualified teams in the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage. There are several other aspects to the map page… 1). Groups A through H… At the very top of the map are the eight 4-team groups of the Group Stage, arranged with with each club’s home-country flag shown alongside. 2). Allocations vs. Qualified teams, by country… At the left side of the map page, Allocations (by member-nations) are shown, via a list of the top 41 UEFA Member-Associations in their current [2021-22] Country Co-efficient ranking. I stopped at 41 (out of the 55 total UEFA member-nations) because #41 is the current ranking of Moldova, and Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova was the club from the lowest-ranked country to qualify for this season’s tournament. This is the first time a club from Moldova has qualified for the elite competition that is the Champions League. But it is not really any sort of fairy-tale story of a David making it into the realm of the Goliaths. …”
billsportsmaps


UEFA World Cup qualifying scores: Poland end England’s winning streak; Spain, Germany notch victories

September 8, 2021


Poland 1, England 1
“…In a night of relatively low drama most of the big guns of European football eased to a further three points, not least Germany, who looked impressive in swatting aside Iceland 4-0. An early goal from Serge Gnabry set Hansi Flick’s side on course for a win that takes them four points clear in Group J before Antonio Rudiger, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner found the net, the latter only after wasting a string of presentable opportunities. After two games in which they dropped points the visit of Lithuania came at a good time for Italy with new Juventus striker Moise Kean netting a first-half brace. Their lead in Group C had been looking precarious after a draw against Switzerland but they had Northern Irish goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell to thank as he saved a penalty that meant Northern Ireland held the Swiss to a goalless draw in Belfast. …”
CBS Sports (Video)
BBC – World Cup 2022 qualifying: Who is close to qualifying? Who are the surprise packages?
Guardian: Szymanski denies England as Poland snatch late draw after Kane’s opener
ESPN: England’s draw in Poland keeps Three Lions on track for Qatar 2022, but they’ll need complete performances to vie for World Cup


Spain Loses World Cup Qualifier For The First Time In 66 Matches, 2-1 Against Sweden

September 6, 2021


“The Spanish national team tasted defeat for the first time in 28 years in a World Cup qualifying match after they lost to Sweden 2-1 on Friday in Stockholm. Sweden came back from a goal down to defeat Spain who lost a World Cup qualifying match after 66 games undefeated. The defeat means that Spain have lost a World Cup qualifying game after 66 matches and 28 years. During this undefeated run, they also managed to win 10 in a row before the 2010 World Cup which they ended up winning. A defeat that Luis Enrique would not have excepted as his men had done well in the Euro 2020 having made the semi-finals where they lost eventual Champions Italy on penalties. …”
Republic World
YouTube: Sweden stuns Spain 2-1 in World Cup qualifier | WCQ Highlights | ESPN FC
UEFA: European Qualifiers: England and Belgium rampant, Sweden stun Spain


Fans don’t want legacy clubs dominating or state-funded clubs, so can football ever be happy?

September 4, 2021


“OK, so let me get this straight. We don’t want blue-blood clubs, like Liverpool and Manchester United, dominating for decades at a time and we are deeply suspicious of how enthusiastically these aristocrats embraced financial fair play (aka, Operation Drawbridge). When it comes to winners, we want to spread it around a bit — we like disruption. But we do not want these new challengers to be funded by oligarchs or sovereign wealth funds — unless it is our club, then it is completely fine — and we are not too keen on American investors coming over here and expecting to make some money. Is that right? If it is, many of you are going to be disappointed. But you will not be the only ones. …”
The Athletic


Nice v Marseille descends into chaos as fans heap more shame on Ligue 1

August 26, 2021


“Kasper Dolberg walked down the tunnel, removed his shirt and ruefully shook his head. The Nice striker’s reaction reflected the thoughts of nearly everyone watching. There were still 15 minutes remaining of Marseille’s trip to Nice on Sunday night, but the Danish international, whose stunning chested finish had lit up the game minutes earlier, had not been substituted or injured. He had simply left the pitch in disgust as events descended into farce and humiliation for French football. After 18 months without fans at the Allianz Riviera, Nice’s derby with their south-coast rivals was their first big home game in front of supporters since March 2020. However, sections of the crowd embarrassed themselves throughout the 75 minutes of play, as bottles were thrown at Marseille players. …”
Guardian (Video)
Guardian: Another Ligue 1 season, another Lyon manager and another crisis
YouTube: OGC Nice vs Marseille | LIGUE 1 HIGHLIGHTS


Mauricio Pochettino

August 1, 2021


Mauricio Roberto Pochettino Trossero (born 2 March 1972) is an Argentine professional football manager and former player who is the current head coach of Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain. Pochettino played as a central defender and began his career in 1989 with Primera División club Newell’s Old Boys, winning a league title and finishing as runner-up in the 1992 Copa Libertadores. In 1994, at age 22, he transferred to newly-promoted La Liga club Espanyol, helping establish their top-flight status and won the 2000 Copa del Rey, their first trophy in 60 years. In 2001, he joined Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain, and had a stint with Bordeaux, before returning to Espanyol in 2004, winning another Copa del Rey in 2006. He was capped 20 times for the Argentina national team and played at the 1999 Copa América and 2002 FIFA World Cup. …”
Wikipedia
W – List of Paris Saint-Germain F.C. managers


Pep Lijnders’ Euro 2020 tactical diary: A young genius, why Grealish is dangerous and what went wrong for France

July 17, 2021


“Euro 2020 has been an absolute triumph for the collective. I’ve loved watching it every step of the way. I’ve loved the commitment of so many teams to an attacking style of football. I’ve loved the tactical battles between different systems. I’ve loved the sight of supporters back inside stadiums across Europe and the atmospheres that have been generated. Credit to England and Italy for making it this far. They deserve to be there. I wouldn’t bet on the outcome of Sunday’s final. It’s too close to call. Two evenly matched, well-balanced teams. …”
The Athletic (Audio)


Euro 2020: our writers select their highs and lows from the tournament

July 15, 2021


“Italy’s performances and goals from Patrik Schick and Paul Pogba illuminated a wonderful championships. Sadly, some England supporters let the country down. Match of the tournament. Ed Aarons: It was going to take something to beat Spain’s thrilling 5-3 victory over Croatia after extra-time but the sequel on a crazy Monday evening was even better. Paul Pogba’s elaborate celebration having scored France’s third goal came back to haunt him as Switzerland scored twice in the last 10 minutes to force extra time before Kylian Mbappé missed from the spot to eliminate the star-studded world champions. …”
Guardian


Were these the best games at UEFA EURO 2020?

July 10, 2021


Spain celebrate their fifth goal in the absorbing 5-3 win against Croatia
“From group stage thrillers to knockout phase goal fests, UEFA EURO 2020 has been jam-packed with pulsating contests from start to finish. We decided to pick out our favourites ahead of Sunday’s final at Wembley Stadium – do you agree these were the choice cuts? …”
UEFA (Video)


No Semifinalist Is an Island

July 6, 2021


“Kalvin Phillips came home, for the first time, as a fully fledged England international with four jerseys as souvenirs. He had asked his new teammates to autograph one, destined to be framed and mounted on a wall at home. Two others were reserved for his mother and grandmother, as tokens of gratitude for years of support. The final one he earmarked as a gift for the man who, he felt, deserved the bulk of the credit. A couple of years earlier, Phillips had been a promising but inconsistent midfielder in the Championship, England’s second-tier league. Now, despite having not yet played a minute in the Premier League, he had been called into a gathering of the country’s finest players. Without the intervention of Marcelo Bielsa, the Leeds United manager, Phillips said, none of it ‘would really have been possible.’ …”
NY Times


At Euro 2020, Calculated Risks Reap the Greatest Rewards

July 3, 2021


“Euro 2020 may be the most arrogant and audacious major tournament in soccer history. It is certainly the most counterintuitive. It’s being played amid a global pandemic, brought on by a virus that is particularly spiteful and startlingly contagious. Yet our beloved sport has chosen not to remain within its cities and ride out that storm, but to swagger out of the gates and meet it. The plan for Euro 2020 to be staged in multiple countries at once, effectively a festival of burning fossil fuels, was a concern for environmental activists long before COVID-19 came on the scene. …”
The Ringer


An appreciation of Paul Pogba’s incredible passing

June 30, 2021


“Watching Paul Pogba pass is a special experience. It feels luxurious. It feels expensive. It feels like those of us on our sofas at home should have to pay to watch him in central midfield, just like the in-stadium crowd did. Few can do what Pogba can do. We were treated to Pogba’s brilliance while watching France at Euro 2020, even if we won’t be anymore. His distribution in their last-16 defeat by Switzerland on Monday was a major highlight of what was otherwise a disastrous night for the world champions. …”
The Athletic
Tactical Analysis: France vs. Switzerland


Switzerland’s Sommer saves Mbappé’s penalty to send France crashing out

June 29, 2021


“Kylian Mbappé was France’s sure thing. That is why he was fifth in their list of penalty takers and is why, when he stepped up to keep them in Euro 2020, the thought he might miss felt like too heady a twist in the narrative. Things like that have simply not happened to Mbappé during a young career of rare accomplishment, but here came the kind of horror that exposes even the preternaturally gifted as flesh-and-blood mortals: Yann Sommer, Switzerland’s exceptional goalkeeper, smelled weakness and read his intentions correctly, diving right and clawing the spot-kick away. France were out; their delirious opponents had made their own slice of history and a tournament of unstinting drama took its least plausible turn yet. …”
Guardian
BBC: Kylian Mbappe and world champions France’s fall from top
BBC: France 3 – 3 Switzerland
Four Four Two: France out of Euro 2020 as Kylian Mbappe misses in shoot-out loss to Switzerland


EURO 2020: tactical trends

June 27, 2021


No team has pressed or had the ball as much as Spain but that did not help them beat Sweden in their opening game
“Thirty-six matches played, with 94 goals scored at an average of 2.61 per game. It is a ratio lower than the 2.93 recorded in last season’s UEFA Champions League, yet this is no surprise for the UEFA technical observers analysing the action at UEFA EURO 2020. Their reflections on the opening fortnight of action point to less risk-taking than in the European club competitions with a tendency towards three centre-backs and low blocks – arguably motivated by the wish to avoid early elimination. …”
UEFA (Video)
Tactical trends from the Euro 2020 group stages: What we’ve learned


The Case for a 32-Team Euros

June 26, 2021


Portugal found a way through to the round of 16.
“Thomas Vermaelen’s header hit the ground first and then rose before colliding with the post near the corner where it meets the crossbar. As the ball spun out, sideways toward the middle of the goal, Lukas Hradecky, the Finland goalkeeper, was still turning around. It was all happening in the blink of an eye. Instinctively, Hradecky reached out a hand to try to swat the ball away. In that instant, on his fingertips, a substantial portion of Euro 2020 hung. Had Hradecky been able to claw the ball away from his goal, away from danger, Finland might have been able to hang on, to keep a vaguely interested Belgium at bay, to qualify for the knockout stages of the first major tournament it has ever reached. Denmark, playing simultaneously in Copenhagen, might have been sent home. …”
NY Times


Euro 2020’s flying full-backs show risk-free football is not the only path to victory

June 25, 2021


Lukaku & De Bruyne
“… Which is perhaps a polite way of saying a little bit boring. But then most successful international sides are, based on the construction of a solid base and a couple of gifted creators who can extemporise upon that – or at least they have been. The sophisticated models that dominate at elite club level take time to instil. To press effectively in the modern game takes weeks of repetitions on the training ground so that players know instinctively when to hunt the ball and when to ease off. And pressing is pointless if it isn’t coherent: it’s just players running about. It works only if conducted in packs: one or two men to the man in possession, a wave of others blocking off his options, either by closing down opponents or the passing lanes. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The tactical trends you’ve not noticed at Euro 2020

June 25, 2021


“After 36 games condensed into less than two weeks, the group stage of Euro 2020 is over. Sadly for us football fanatics, it means there are just 15 more games remaining to get your European international football fix for the summer. There have already been some interesting tactical battles, some records broken, and plenty of drama but we have picked out a few interesting trends that feel worthy of discussion in a little bit more detail. Is this the year of the three-man defence? Just how much do some players have to adapt between club and country? And is everyone just a bit… shattered? …”
The Athletic (Video)


The Euro 2020 Group Stage Is Over: Here’s What We Learned

June 24, 2021


“With a couple of minutes to play in Budapest, the French midfielder Adrien Rabiot looked squarely at Sergio Oliveira, his Portuguese opponent, and advised him to back away. Like everyone else in the stadium, Rabiot had heard the news. The group stage of Euro 2020 was effectively over. Both France and Portugal were through to the knockout rounds. There was no need to run or to chase or to press. Now was the time for watching the clock. It had not, for either team, been a straightforward evening. The game had oscillated — Portugal led, then France, then Portugal struck back — and so had their fates, dependent to some extent on the outcome of the group’s other game, between Germany and Hungary in Munich. At one point or another, each of the four teams had believed they were going through. …”
NY Times


Analysed: Which Euro 2020 country matches which club side’s style?

June 24, 2021


“How are you finding the European Championship so far? Not missing club football at all? Or are you sitting on your couch lamenting the inferior standard of these international games, in between scrolling Twitter and replying to football journalists tweeting about Germany’s defensive system with ‘(insert name of sexy transfer target here) update?!?’ If you are, don’t worry. Major international tournaments are very different creatures from the European club season, for better and worse, and they’re not for everyone. Just ask Maurizio Sarri, who shocked journalists in January 2019 while Chelsea head coach when he admitted he didn’t watch a single minute of the previous summer’s World Cup because ‘there is not anything to learn from them’. …”
The Athletic


Euro 2020 power rankings: Italy lead the way after impressive group stage

June 24, 2021


“France and Belgium have been impressive but Italy are unbeaten in 30 and with a comfortable-looking last-16 tie. 1) Italy. The Roberto Mancini juggernaut rolls on. Three games, three wins, seven goals scored and none conceded in the group stage. Italy are unbeaten in 30 games, have not let in a goal for more than 1,000 minutes and beat Wales in their last group game having made eight changes. The introduction of Marco Verratti in that match added another layer to their game – he had been injured – and they are huge favourites against Austria. 2) France. The main question before the tournament was whether the reintroduction of Karim Benzema would destabilise the squad, but they won the group of death and the Real Madrid striker scored twice in the 2-2 draw with Portugal. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Euro 2020: the standout players from the 16 teams left in the tournament


As France Chases Title at Euros, Its League Faces a $400 Million Hole

June 20, 2021


Chief executive Maxime Saada
“French soccer’s new television deal was supposed to save the league and its clubs from a financial meltdown. Instead, it may have made a bad situation worse. Soon after France’s top soccer league, Ligue 1, announced this month that it had enticed Amazon to become its lead broadcaster, its longtime television partner, Canal Plus, reacted with fury. Canal Plus would neither pay for nor broadcast the two games per week it owned the rights to, the company said. Not at the premium price in its contracts, at least. And certainly not when Amazon was paying roughly $100 million less for four times as many games. …”
NY Times


Euro 2020: Budapest – the host city enjoying a summer renaissance

June 19, 2021


“It was almost the shock of Euro 2020 so far, played in front of a capacity crowd and inspired by raucous and feisty home fans. Hungary drew 1-1 with world champions France at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on Saturday as more than 60,000 people created an atmosphere befitting of the hosts’ dogged performance. Four days earlier, the Magyars had held defending champions Portugal for 84 minutes before slipping to a 3-0 defeat and this time they led before being pegged back in the heat. Supporters can now look forward to two further games in the Hungarian capital – France’s crucial clash with Portugal in the group and one of the last-16 ties. It is proving something of a summer renaissance for a city that helped produce one of the most talented generations the world has witnessed, had a hand in the formation of the European Cup and whose coffee houses played host to the game’s early deep-thinking tacticians. …”
BBC


At Euro 2020, a Reminder That Good Can Be Great

June 19, 2021


Italy: unbeaten, but not unbeatable.
“Let’s start with a little intellectual exercise. A purely hypothetical, entirely subjective, ultimately inconclusive one, admittedly, but still: Now that each of the presumed contenders to win the European Championship has shown at least some of its hand, how competitive would any of them be if they were to be parachuted, as they are, into the Champions League? Instinctively, it feels as if France, at least, would do pretty well. A front line of Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé bears comparison to any attacking trident in the club game. …”
NY Times


We Are All Mats Hummels – Brian Phillips

June 18, 2021


“Let’s talk about gods and heroes. One of the strangest things about myths and legends is how often the protagonists lose. They fly too close to the sun. They take an arbitrary arrow to an unprotected heel. The stories build them up in order to knock them over, and their falls are as compelling as their rises. Often they’re more compelling. The adventures and victories and feasts are exciting to read about, but the deepest truths of life, the hardest lessons of poetry, are in the tragic ends. It’s Achilles’s death that makes him a story. Without it, he’s only a cheat code. …”
The Ringer


France Doesn’t Stray From Its Championship Formula In Beating Germany to Open Euros

June 15, 2021


“There is something slightly odd about this France side, in that the scores of its games so rarely reflect what has just happened. No team seems quite so often to hammer an opponent by a single goal. Germany may have won the shot count and the possession battle in Tuesday’s 1–0 triumph for Les Bleus in the teams’ first match of what’s the competition’s most difficult group. But this was rarely a game Germany looked like winning, with it never quite able to put France under pressure and always appearing vulnerable to the counter. Ultimately, an own goal from Mats Hummels, who had scored the winner at the right end when Germany beat France in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals, was enough, but Adrien Rabiot hit a post, Karim Benzema had a goal ruled out for a tight offside and Kylian Mbappé did as well, albeit for a slightly more obvious infraction. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video), Guardian: Paul Pogba full of bite and craft even after Antonio Rüdiger tries a nibble, Joachim Löw’s Legacy (Video, June 12 2021), NY Times: France, So Deep and So Dominant, Finds One Goal Is Plenty


The Athletic’s 10 Euro stars – Joshua Kimmich: ‘The best No 6 in the world’… and a world-class right-back

June 14, 2021


“It’s 8am and here’s a fully-kitted Joshua Kimmich on the call, doing his Joshua Kimmich thing: striking the perfect balance between attack and defence. … You sense he likes it this way. Over the last two or three seasons, Kimmich has developed into ‘the best No 6 in the world’ in the eyes of former Bayern Munich team-mate Javi Martinez and many others, the player who dominates the ball, the space and the rhythm of the game. …” The Athletic (Video)