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)


Euro 2020: Can Portugal’s Latest Golden Generation Defend Their Euro Crown?

June 14, 2021


“With Germany in something of a slump, Italy improving but still inexperienced at the sharp end of tournaments, and Spain lacking the depth of the previous generation, the national team out of Europe’s ‘big four’ (nations that have lifted both the World Cup and European Championships) favored by the bookies is France. The door is open for one of three countries harboring golden generations of players. Outside of family lineage, a generation is a tricky thing to define. The flux of bodies through an institution—in this case, a national soccer team—cannot easily be separated out. Doing so is inherently arbitrary, certainly not scientific, though nevertheless useful. We have chosen a figure of seven years, which would in theory allow players of, say, 26 and 19 years of age to play a cycle of four tournaments together: two World Cups and two continental Championships. The first two parts of our look at these Golden Generations examined Belgium and England. Third up, Portugal. …” The Ringer


Euro 2020 Power Rankings: France the Clear Favorite—but Then What?

June 11, 2021


“Five years removed from Portugal’s coronation just outside Paris, the next European Championship begins on Friday, and with it comes the quest for the 2016 host and runner-up to make amends and follow a World Cup title with another triumph—and for 23 other national sides to do something about it. France is as good if not better than it was when it lifted the World Cup trophy in Russia three summers ago, and after an extra year’s wait due to the pandemic, it’s out to confirm its status as the world and region’s preeminent team—it’s No. 2 FIFA world ranking notwithstanding. Before the competition begins, with Italy facing Turkey in Rome, we examine team form, ability and outlook based on the draw to rank the 24 contenders vying to be crowned European champion (group opponents listed in order of when they’ll play in the opening stage). …” SI – Jonathan Wilson, Guardian: At the Euros, winning teams can start badly. It’s how they respond that matters, ESPN – Euro 2020 preview: Picks, scouting reports, must-see games, biggest ‘upset’ teams and much more (Video)


How Euro 2020 Was Saved

June 8, 2021


“If Aleksander Ceferin has any say on the matter, there will never be another European soccer championship like the one that starts this week. And that decision has nothing to do with the coronavirus. Ceferin, the president of European soccer’s governing body, quickly listed the headaches that came with organizing this summer’s championship. Matches in 11 countries, originally 13, meant finding 11 cities and 11 stadiums capable of hosting them. It meant creating teams to run each site and arranging for dozens of hotels to house everyone who would go. But it also meant navigating legal jurisdictions and linguistic boundaries, tax laws and big politics as well as soccer politics, currency values and visa rules. And that was before the coronavirus made it all exponentially harder. …” NY Times, NY Times – Euro 2020: Schedule, How to Watch and More, UEFA Euro 2020 match schedule


Joachim Löw’s flawed planning leaves talented Germany at the crossroads

June 6, 2021


“At least now there is no future to work towards. After 15 years as Germany manager, Euro 2020 will be Joachim Löw’s seventh and last major tournament. There is no need for him to have an eye on the next cycle: his only job is to get the best result possible in the here and now – and to rescue a reputation that took a battering in Russia. Löw is a World Cup winner who helped to oversee the great stylistic transformation of German football and for that, he deserves enormous credit. But he also led Germany to their worst World Cup in more than eight decades and, given the extraordinary quality of players available, it is hard to avoid the sense that he has underachieved in recent years. …” Guardian


Euro 2020: England and Spain Drop Big Names; France Adds One

June 4, 2021


“Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold was one of four right backs included in England’s final 26-man roster for this summer’s European Championship as Manager Gareth Southgate trimmed his roster hours before the tournament deadline. But after one exhibition game, he was out again. Alexander-Arnold, a late inclusion in England’s team, withdrew on Thursday, a day after sustaining a thigh injury in a friendly match against Austria. England and Liverpool confirmed that the young defender was out. … Instead, all four players made the team — at least initially. England is in a group with Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic. If it reaches the final, it could play as many as six matches at Wembley Stadium in London. …” NY Times, W – UEFA Euro 2020, Euro 2020 squads: Every confirmed team for the 2021 tournament, Guardian – Euro 2020: your complete guide to all 622 players


The Super League Thought It Had a Silent Partner: FIFA

May 22, 2021


“Tucked away in the pages and pages of financial and legal jargon that constitute the founding contract of the Super League, the failed project that last month briefly threatened the century-old structures and economics of European soccer, were references to one ‘essential’ requirement. The condition was deemed so important that organizers agreed that the breakaway plan could not succeed without satisfying it and yet was so secret that it was given a code name even in contracts shared among the founders. Those documents, copies of which were reviewed by The New York Times, refer to the need for the Super League founders to strike an agreement with an entity obliquely labeled W01 but easily identifiable as FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. …” NY Times


Money, Power, and Respect at the Champions League Final

May 10, 2021


“The grand spectacle is almost upon us. Real Madrid, the great but ancient empire of European soccer, have been swept aside for now; Paris Saint-Germain, the fast-rising upstart, have faltered in their ascent. As Chelsea and Manchester City, their respective conquerors, prepare to contest the third men’s UEFA Champions League final between two English teams, there is a sense that they are announcing another next great rivalry. … Now, Foden has been coached by Pep Guardiola for only a few seasons. Yet he is such an accurate embodiment of the Spaniard’s footballing philosophy—tactically versatile, endlessly fluid in his movement—that he seems to have been working with him since he was able to walk. … Both should be leading figures for their club for several seasons to come. …” The Ringer (Audio)


How the Super League Fell Apart

April 22, 2021


“For 48 hours, soccer stood on the brink. Fans took to the streets. Players broke into open revolt. Chaos stalked the game’s corridors of power, unleashing a shock wave that resonated around the world, from Manchester to Manila, Barcelona to Beijing, and Liverpool to Los Angeles. That internationalism is what has turned European soccer, over the last 30 years, into a global obsession. The elite teams of western Europe are stocked with stars drawn from Africa, South America and all points in between. They draw fans not just from England, Italy and Spain, but China, India and Australia in numbers large enough to tempt broadcasters across the planet to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the rights to show their games. …”
NY Times
W – The Super League
CBS – European Super League collapse explained: What’s next? Real Madrid, Barcelona quiet; Premier League clubs out (Audio)
BBC – European Super League: All six Premier League teams withdraw from competition (Video)
YouTube: All six English clubs confirm plans to exit European Super League


Capitalist Greed Created the European Super League

April 21, 2021


Roberto Firmino of Liverpool shoots while under pressure from Éder Militão of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second-leg match on April 14, 2021 in Liverpool, England.
“Yesterday, once again, the prospect of a breakaway European Super League (ESL) reared its head. The proposal — to carve out a continental competition in which fifteen of the game’s elite clubs could never be relegated — was met with widespread dismay by those who love the game. Despite a year that has shown just how vital fans are for the ‘spectacle’ of football, it was the match-going fans that once again were of least concern. Instead, if the plans go ahead, the future of football will be shaped by television and advertising — an entertainment industry that the top clubs estimate will deliver them £300 million per year, far outstripping their current domestic and Champions League revenues. It’s important to point out that the Super League isn’t an anomaly. …” Jacobin, European Super League explained: the contracts, plots and threats that shook football to its core, Guardian: The greed of the European Super League has been decades in the making, Guardian – ‘It’s war’: what the papers say about the European Super League, NY Times: Super League Appears to Collapse as City Walks Away


Europe Plunders Paris for Talent, and P.S.G. Pays the Price

April 7, 2021



“Paris St.-Germain could not, in the end, have sped Tanguy Nianzou along much quicker than it did. He was captain of the club’s under-19 side when he was only 16. He was called up to the first team at 17, training alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappé and the rest, and soon made his debut. He even started a game in the Champions League. And still, despite all those opportunities, he left. Nianzou had just turned 18 when, on July 1 last year, he was presented as a Bayern Munich player. P.S.G. did not even have the solace of being able to pocket a premium fee for a player it had nurtured. Nianzou’s contract was expiring. He walked out of his hometown club for nothing. …” NY Times


‘It’s over, Jogi’: German press reacts to historic defeat by North Macedonia

April 1, 2021


“It had felt like a new and happier time. Since Joachim Löw announced he was standing down after the European Championship, his young and vibrant side had beaten Iceland and Romania convincingly to get their World Cup qualifying campaign off to the perfect start. The mood in the squad relaxed, they took on North Macedonia in Löw’s final World Cup qualifier on Wednesday night – and promptly lost 2-1. The feelgood factor that had been building up in the previous seven days was gone in an instant, replaced by questions about team tactics and selections and even a call for the national coach to leave his post immediately. Writing in Bild – in a piece headlined ‘It is over, Jogi’ – Matthias Brügelmann said: ‘This is the third historical debacle that Jogi Löw, after many successful years as national coach, is responsible for. There was the first elimination from the stage at a World Cup ever in Russia. There was the biggest defeat since 1931 with the 6-0 defeat against Spain. And now this 1-2 against North Macedonia, No 65 in the World Cup rankings.’ …”
Guardian, Guardian: Euro 2020 power rankings: Belgium back on top as Germany plummet, Guardian: North Macedonia inflict historic World Cup qualifying defeat on Germany, Guardian: Ronaldo on target in Portugal win


Sometimes the Numbers Lie

February 20, 2021


“This is the story of a struggling striker. He has scored only twice since November: once in a cakewalk of a cup game against an overmatched opponent, and once from the sort of position in which he really could not miss, the ball falling to him a couple of yards out, a goal by accident rather than design. The latter was a welcome fillip — sometimes that is what you need, after all, that jolt of luck — but it did little to gloss over the striker’s troubles. Five goals in 23 league games since joining his new club remains a paltry return. His confidence seems to be shot, as if he has hit ‘rock bottom,’ as one pundit observed. …” NY Times


Le Classique

February 10, 2021


Le Classique (French pronunciation: ​[lə klasik], The Classic) is the name given in football to the rivalry between French professional clubs Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille. Equivalent to Spain’s El Clásico, the fixture is the biggest rivalry in France, and one of the most notable in world football. Security measures are taken ahead of their matches but violent episodes still often occur between fans when they meet. The clubs are the two most successful clubs in French football , and the only French teams to have won major European trophies. PSG and l’OM were the dominant teams prior to the emergence of Olympique Lyonnais in the 2000s, and are the most followed French teams internationally. Both clubs are at or near the top of the French attendance lists each season. …” Wikipedia, Kylian Mbappe speed vs Marseille 2021 | Mbappe goal OM- great pace 36km/hr and run (Video), PSG are still searching for an identity under Mauricio Pochettino


Champions League’s Last 16 Will Be Quite Telling

December 16, 2020


“By the time the UEFA Champions League’s knockout stage begins, much could change. A winter transfer window will have come and gone, though with COVID-19 impacting club finances across Europe and some already having spent big in the summer, it remains to be seen how substantial the forthcoming moves will be. Barcelona will have held its club presidential elections, a pivotal moment for a giant in turmoil and one that could have plenty of say in how the club operates moving forward. Influential players currently out injured should return, and the form, fitness and focus levels of clubs will certainly vary to what they currently are. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Specials Dutch Vs Deutsch: An inherent difference between Performance & Achievement

April 29, 2020

“A longstanding intense football rivalry between the Netherlands and Germany has lessened with time. The post-war hatred, especially from the Dutch side, was projected on the football pitch in the early 1970s and decreased considerably after 1990. The scenes of Ronald Koeman wiping his bum with the German shirt and Rijkaard’s spitting in Völler’s hair are not what come to our mind recently, but more likely the mutual respect between Cruyff and Beckenbauer and the amount of Dutch coaches and players in the Bundesliga. It is the 21st century now, and in Football some nations are seeking perfection and for that, in certain aspects, they can learn from the best. It is only easier when the best are just the ‘neighbors next door’. …”
FootyAnalyst


Golden Goal: Jean-Pierre Papin for France v Belgium (1992)

April 20, 2020

“Karim Benzema has been publicly reflecting, let’s say, on France’s ability to win the World Cup with a ‘go-kart’ of a striker, Olivier Giroud. He might also recall Stéphane Guivarc’h, who led the line for France in 1998. For their two World Cup triumphs, France have had centre-forwards who went through the whole tournaments without finding the net. In the early 90s, on the other hand, they had one of the deadliest finishers the game has seen – and they made fools of themselves on the international stage. Go-kart? Go figure. …”
Guardian (Audio)


Carlos’s 1986 World Cup foul and the value of rethinking our villains

April 18, 2020

“Football can give you completely the wrong idea about people. One incident in one match can skew the perception. For years I thought I hated Carlos, the Brazil goalkeeper who pulled back Bruno Bellone after the France forward had gone round him in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final and somehow went unpunished. How, four years after Harald Schumacher’s horrendous assault on Patrick Battiston, could that glorious France – Platini! Tigana! Giresse! – be cheated once again by a goalkeeper? Carlos’s offence had nothing like the raw violence of Schumacher’s, but it was cynical. And so, for compounding the injustice of Seville 1982, he went on the blacklist. …”
Guardian


Champions League: Neymar’s Hat Trick Powers P.S.G. in Rout

October 5, 2018


“Paris St.-Germain’s attack overwhelmed Red Star Belgrade, 6-1, in the Champions League on Wednesday, with Neymar scoring a hat trick that included two brilliant free kicks. P.S.G. Coach Thomas Tuchel went with his strongest lineup up front, with Neymar, the World Cup star Kylian Mbappé, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di María. They all scored in the first half except for Mbappé, who had to wait until the 70th minute for his goal, created with some more deft footwork by Neymar.” NY Times


The Tantalizing Talent of Lille’s Nicolas Pépé

October 5, 2018

“It’s still early. Even with seven or eight games already played in Europe’s biggest leagues, the sample size is too small to come to concrete conclusions. A hot or cold streak can still change a club’s underlying numbers and their season projections in a meaningful way. But by this point, trends can develop. And things that have persisted over the duration of the season to date warrant further investigation. It’s possible to being to what’s likely to continue from what won’t. This is especially important when talking about young players who have performed at a higher level from last season and are perhaps in the beginning stages of ‘making the leap.'” StatsBomb


Paul Pogba: which clubs could offer him escape from Manchester United?

September 30, 2018


“Paul Pogba, who was stripped of the Manchester United vice-captaincy on Tuesday, could potentially leave the club in January after his relationship with José Mourinho hit an all-time low. But with a salary of £250,000 a week and a fee likely to be in the region of £100m, which clubs have the financial might to sign the French World Cup winner?” Guardian


An Ex-Owner of the Dodgers Takes Another Swing in Marseille

September 16, 2018


“MONACO — Not long after Frank McCourt arrived at his luxury hotel here, there was a knock at the door. A valet had returned with a newly pressed shirt. McCourt, freshening up after an overnight trans-Atlantic flight, called out from the bathroom with an instruction to hang the shirt in the closet. McCourt carried on with his ablutions. The valet, in that smooth, five-star silence, carefully slid the shirt onto the rail and, without seeing McCourt, prepared to slip out the door. As he was leaving, though, he could not help himself. ‘Allez l’O.M.,’ the valet said, and vanished.” NY Times


France may have conquered the world but PSG find Europe a little harder

September 16, 2018

“What jolly scenes those were in the Stade de France last week as Les Bleus’ World Cup-winning squad and 80,000 fans serenaded N’Golo Kanté, football’s most self-effacing superstar and, apparently, its most adorable card cheat. Yes, it’s been all whoops and giggles in France since Didier Deschamps’ team added a second gold star to the nation’s shirt this summer. But the return of the Champions League this week is a reminder of a sorrier facet of the country’s football history – its incorrigible haplessness in European club competition.” Guardian


Uefa Nations League – as it stands: Who are the winners and losers following the opening rounds of group games?

September 12, 2018

“A goalless draw on the opening day of the tournament may not have been the result the suits in Nyon had wanted, but the point earned by France in Munich provided the world champions the foundation to build upon. Goals from Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud in their second game, the 2-1 defeat of Holland, leaves Didier Deschamps’ side top ahead of their return leg against Germany in Paris next month.” Telegraph


Kylian Mbappé needs to control his temper. Perhaps Neymar can help

September 4, 2018


“‘You have to a protect us,” implored an increasing irked Kylian Mbappé to the referee as he picked himself up from another forceful challenge. Newly promoted Nîmes had made a point of pressing the Ligue 1 champions aggressively in midfield and ruffling as many Parisian feathers as possible. Mbappé, however, saw their tactics differently. With less than 20 minutes on the clock, he was already booked for protesting, with Neymar having to lead the 19-year-old away from the referee for fear of further punishment. Mbappé’s ire did little more than simmer, however, and in injury time – after his thunderous finish had won the game for PSG – he reacted aggressively to a trip from Nîmes midfielder Taji Savanier and was dismissed for the first time in his Ligue 1 career.” Guardian


Gus Poyet melts down as Bordeaux go from crisis to crisis

August 26, 2018

“Crisis has become a part of day-to-day life at Bordeaux. Fan unrest, player indiscipline and the threat of relegation have become endemic across recent seasons. When Gus Poyet arrived at his press conference on Thursday evening, implosion was again imminent.” Guardian


The Illusion Train

August 22, 2018

“As the referee’s whistle signaled the end of the 2018 World Cup final between France and Croatia, I confess that I wept, more from relief than from joy. The blunder by French goalie Hugo Lloris that allowed Croatia its second score had struck me as suicidal. It reminded me of Zinedine Zidane’s narcissistic, self-destructive foul in the 2006 final World Cup match, when the Italian defender Marco Materazzi allegedly insulted the French superstar and Zidane responded by attacking him, causing Zidane to be ejected and weakening his team to a degree that I felt cost France the game. Was there something in the collective unconscious of les Bleus that didn’t want France to win its second world title, following on the great triumph of 1998?” Harpers


Ligue 1 season preview: PSG will be even stronger under Thomas Tuchel

August 12, 2018


“Anything other than an eighth Ligue 1 title in PSG’s history would be huge surprise. Although PSG have skirted the transfer spotlight so far this summer, with FFP still a concern, they have quietly made a few shrewd moves. Thomas Tuchel will make them a more proactive and tactically diverse team and Gianluigi Buffon could be the dressing room leader (and quality keeper) they have long lacked. Their 4-0 win over Monaco in the Trophée des Champions confirmed the gap is only widening.” Guardian – Ligue 1, Guardian – PSG expect European excellence after letting Thomas Tuchel make his mark


The Player Kylian Mbappe Really Plays Like

August 2, 2018


“Breakout performances seemed to be everywhere at the 2018 World Cup — young talents were launched to international fame, and established players had their names crystallized on the world stage. The world’s biggest soccer tournament gives players a chance to shine outside the club-level paradigm of consistency and — apart from the English Premier League — a largely domestic audience. On the back of a few impressive performances, players like CSKA Moscow’s Aleksandr Golovin, one of the key players in Russia’s run to the quarterfinals, can earn themselves the chance to move to one of Europe’s top clubs, even if this recruitment trend is less common than it once was.” FiveThirtyEight


Tactical Analysis: France 1-0 Belgium | Set Piece Decides Game Dominated by Determined Defences

August 2, 2018

“France sealed their place in the World Cup final for just the third time in their history after a narrow victory over Belgium on Tuesday. As is common in the latter stages of knock-out competitions, the reluctance of both teams to give anything away made for a cagey game with few risks taken, inescapably creating a situation where the first goal would essentially prove decisive. With both sides desperately trying to avoid being the team that makes the crucial first mistake, it is probably unsurprising that the source of the winning goal ended up being a set piece; a detached moment of attacking freedom away from the rigid, careful flow of open play.” Outside of the Boot


World Cup 2018 Best XI: France’s Champions Lead the Top Players in Russia

July 17, 2018


“After 64 games and more drama than any World Cup in at least 20 years, there’s one piece of business left to do: Pick a team of the tournament. It’s been picked as a team that might function together rather than just the 11 best players, and to avoid the temptation of packing it with France’s champions, a limit of four players per country has been self-imposed. In a 4-3-3 formation fit for the world stage, here is our 2018 World Cup Best XI.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


For all the ills of the world, World Cup 2018 showed that a bit of football done right can make the planet smile

July 17, 2018

“Monday morning dawns with a grim and crushing inevitability. Unless you’re peeling yourself off a Paris pavement, or drowning your sorrows in a Dubrovnik dive bar, the 2018 World Cup is over. As a month of sporting hedonism slips from present tense to past, real life and its hard borders re-sharpen their focus, bringing with them a cruel reckoning. It was only football, after all. It felt like more than that when Kylian Mbappe was burning through opposition defenders, or Lionel Messi was fighting back the tide, or Russia and South Korea were pulling off the unfeasible, or when England’s town squares throbbed with rasping songs and nervous tension and the prickly spines of a faint dream. But no: ultimately, it was only football, no more and no less.” Independent


World Cup 2018 goal celebrations: A statistical analysis of unbridled joy

July 17, 2018


“How would you celebrate if you scored at a World Cup? A jig by the corner flag, an emphatic sprint, jump and punch of the air, an emotional tussle with the goalnet, or just run as fast and far as you can until someone finally, gleefully leaps on you? Whether you’re a Milla, a Josimar or a Tardelli kind of guy, there are plenty of ways with which to physically revel in what, for most players, is the once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime act of scoring on the world’s biggest stage. Goal celebrations – often just as complex, slow-motion-worthy and memorable as the goals themselves – are an art form. But, just like everything else, they’re moulded by cultural trends, context and just pure momentary instinct.” Telegraph


In a Dark, Endless News Cycle, the World Cup Gave Us Light

July 17, 2018

“When history looks back and remembers the stunning 2018 World Cup, what will be the lasting images: Neymar attempting, game after game, to break the land speed record for rolling while clutching your ankle? The referees experimenting with VAR? The replays of celebrating players and fans in rapture, tossing their drinks in the air, after yet another last-minute game-winning goal? (This tournament’s 23 stoppage time goals shattered the previous record.) Or maybe it will be a singular moment, like Kylian Mbappé’s strike to make it 4-1 and become the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since a man named Pelé.” NY Times


World Cup 2018: A View from the Stands

July 17, 2018

“I’ve been staying in an Airbnb in a Soviet-era apartment block in Moscow to cover the World Cup, but my children back home in Paris are living the tournament more intensely than I am. Though I’m British and my wife is American, our children were born in Paris and identify uncomplicatedly as French. For France’s first few games, each of their gang of friends took turns to host a viewing party at home. Parents and kids would cram into somebody’s little apartment, cheer on France over helpings of pizza, then sing Beatles songs together and watch whichever match was up next. Our living room was left smeared with red-white-and-blue face-paint after all the children rolled on the floor to celebrate France’s goals. My kids’ friends have family origins in Portugal, Greece, and Senegal, but everyone supports les Bleus (and sometimes the family’s ancestral team, too).” NYBooks


France, Finally Showing Its Class, Wears World Cup Crown

July 15, 2018


France’s celebrates after winning the World Cup.
“France’s first goal came off a Croatian’s head. The second was scored with the aid of the Argentine referee, and became the first video-assistant-reviewed goal in World Cup history. But the next two — hard low shots by the young French stars Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappé — confirmed what everyone knew even before France polished off its 4-2 victory on Sunday: France was the best team in the field this summer in Russia, and for that reason its team — a potent mix of greatness, grit and good fortune — is the world champion again. The title is France’s second and the first since it won on home soil in 1998, and it ended a thrilling run by Croatia. The Croats survived three consecutive extra-time games and two penalty shootouts to reach their first final, and they even had the better of the game on Sunday. …”
NY Times
Aljazeera: France beat Croatia to win World Cup 2018
Guardian: France 4 – 2 Croatia
YouTube: France vs croatia 4-2 ¶¶ hightlight all goals final


Kylian Mbappé, Karim Benzema and France’s Second-Class Citizens

July 15, 2018

“Fascists love Kylian Mbappé because his exceptional talents and attitude confirm to their ideal of citizenship for black and brown people. The 19-year old kid, the new Pele, is not only the amazing forward who is now the second-most expensive transfer in the history of professional football and the third teenager ever to play in a World Cup final, he is also wonderful philanthropist who will donate his entire World Cup earnings to fund a charity that sets up sport activities for children with disabilities. Mbappé, and other black French football players such as Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté transcend race and class because they continue to embody these assumptions of what it means to be a good French citizen.” Africa is a Country


What Would a World Cup Win for France Mean in the French Caribbean?

July 15, 2018

“The symbols associated with France’s advance to the World Cup final have followed a familiar formula: the singing of Marseillaise and police breaking up over exuberant celebrations at the Champs Élysées. As for the players, their post-match celebrations however, are not what some would consider traditionally French. The victory playlist is Martinican zouk and Haitian kompa, a reminder that French can mean many things. In a viral video doing the rounds, Presnel Kimpembe, whose mother is from Haiti, organizes the music. Apart from Kimpembe, two other players in the 2018 World Cup squad, have strong connections to the French Caribbean.” Africa is a Country


Whose World Cup Is This?

July 13, 2018

“Football might not be coming home, but this should be Harry Kane’s World Cup. After a few years dominating the Premier League, the 24-year-old showed the wider world why we’re all freaking about a guy who looks like an apprentice magistrate from Bleak House and speaks like his mouth is filled with marbles covered in peanut butter. Kane’s six goals are two more than anyone else in the tournament, and even if you add assists to everyone else’s tallies, Kane has still produced more than all of his competitors. The reemergence of the England national team as something close to a world soccer power will likely go down as one of the defining stories of the 2018 World Cup, and it’s Kane who got them there: He wore the captain’s armband for all five games he played in, and he won the Man of the Match award in three.” The Ringer


World Cup 2018: A View from the Stands – Simon Kuper

July 13, 2018

“I’ve been staying in an Airbnb in a Soviet-era apartment block in Moscow to cover the World Cup, but my children back home in Paris are living the tournament more intensely than I am. Though I’m British and my wife is American, our children were born in Paris and identify uncomplicatedly as French. For France’s first few games, each of their gang of friends took turns to host a viewing party at home. Parents and kids would cram into somebody’s little apartment, cheer on France over helpings of pizza, then sing Beatles songs together and watch whichever match was up next. Our living room was left smeared with red-white-and-blue face-paint after all the children rolled on the floor to celebrate France’s goals.” NYBooks


World Cup 2018: How France exposed Nacer Chadli and turned defence into attack to nullify Belgium’s flair

July 13, 2018


France’s 1-0 victory over Belgium wasn’t quite the match it might have been. With four of the world’s most exciting attacking talents on the pitch together, a variety of dynamic midfielders and centre-back pairings comfortable in a high defensive line, this could have been fast-paced, frantic, end-to-end. Instead, it was something different entirely, based around patience, turnovers and the odd counter-attack. It was intriguing rather than enthralling, and the first goal was always likely to be crucial. With the exception of Blaise Matuidi returning following suspension, Didier Deschamps’ starting XI is now set in stone.” Independent – Michael Cox


In Praise of Defensive Football

July 13, 2018

“A few years ago, at the beginning of a French course I was taking at Tel Aviv University, a new student entered the classroom. His face looked familiar. ‘It’s Dan Roman,’ I murmured to myself. Roman was a footballer who played for Maccabi Tel Aviv, my beloved team. In 2008, he’d set up a heroic, last-minute winning goal against Hapoel in the Tel Aviv derby. I sat with the Maccabi Ultras that game, a devoted and fanatic supporters’ organization composed of a couple hundred half-naked teenagers. The memory of the obscene gestures I’d made toward the Hapoel fans at the final whistle was still wonderfully fresh.” Popula


Samuel Umtiti header puts France in World Cup final with win over Belgium

July 10, 2018


“At the final whistle the pocket of French supporters behind the goal to the left, with their tricolours and memories of 1998, could celebrate another triumphant night. France had made it to the World Cup final and will surely fancy their chances of being reunited with that coveted piece of gold in Moscow on Sunday. The players in blue were embracing and a Belgium side heavily made up of players from the Premier League will have to wonder whether the time will ever come for their golden generation.” Guardian


France’s Benchwarmers Are Worth More Than Most Starting Lineups

July 10, 2018

“France enters today’s semifinal match against neighboring Belgium as the favorite to win the 2018 World Cup. At least on paper, though, France has been the least remarkable team of the four that remain: Les Bleus have scored fewer goals than each of the other semifinalists, they’ve possessed less of the ball than two of the other semifinalists, and they’ve taken the fewest shots.” FiveThirtyEight


Semifinal questions: How do Belgium counter France’s front three? England speed or Croatia possession?

July 10, 2018

“The World Cup has reached the semifinal stage and it’s an all-European affair, with France facing Belgium on Tuesday, followed by Croatia vs. England the following day. Ahead of the final four, here is one key question that each team must answer.” ESPN – Michael Cox


No goals? No problem. Olivier Giroud’s mission to supply France with glory

July 10, 2018

“Can France win the World Cup with a centre-forward who fails to score a goal? Olivier Giroud has yet to get off the mark in 412 minutes of football spread across five appearances at these finals but his name will be among the first on the France teamsheet for Tuesday’s semi-final against Belgium and neither player nor manager is losing any sleep about his drought continuing.” Guardian


How Zinedine Zidane’s flawed genius defined the 2006 World Cup

July 10, 2018

“Everyone remembers the headbutt, but not so much what came before. The background to that defining moment in the career of Zinedine Zidane – and the history of the French national team – has been lost in the stark brutality of such an arresting image. A thrilling journey has been forgotten, completely overlooked in favour of the tragic destination. In the final moments of the 2006 World Cup final, with the score at 1-1 and penalties on the way, Zidane planted his head firmly into the chest of Italy defender Marco Materazzi.” The Set Pieces (Video)


Neymar Can’t Quite Copy Cruyff, Football Might Really Be Coming Home, and More Takeaways From the World Cup Quarterfinals

July 8, 2018


1. European dominance continues. When Germany won the 2014 World Cup, it was the first time any continent had produced three-straight World Cup winners. And after the elimination of Brazil and Uruguay on Friday, that streak will now extend to four. In 2002, it seemed like we might be seeing a challenge to world soccer’s established hierarchy. Senegal and the United States both made the quarterfinals, while South Korea and Turkey both advanced to the semifinals. Of course, it ended with Brazil and Germany, the two all-time great soccer-playing nations, in the final, but even that was something of a surprise, as they were ranked 11th and 10th, respectively, in the pre-tournament Elo Ratings.” The Ringer (Video)


Fear of a Black France

July 8, 2018

“I was born in the late 70s of a mother from Martinique and a father from Lorraine region in Eastern continental France: I was always aware that, for good and bad, France was more than white, more than Europe, more than what most thought and took for granted. I looked to history to make sense of the very existence of my family, and the history I found was a history of exploitation, slavery, abuse ignored by most French people.” Africa is a Country


The World in a World Cup

July 7, 2018

“I would never have watched the World Cup if it weren’t for my partner, a British national who grew up on Gary Lineker, the striker who towered over the English game in the 1980s and early 1990s. I find televised sports—all organized sports—boring. But after celebrating my birthday last weekend, my boyfriend voiced a tentative wish to watch France play Argentina, and I wanted to be with him. So we found ourselves in our pajamas in front of the TV at midnight, watching toy-sized men kick a tick-sized ball around.” New Republic


Uruguay 0 – 2 France

July 6, 2018

“France are into the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 2006 after seeing off Uruguay with the help of a terrible error by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. In terms of excitement, this quarter-final tie did not come close to Les Bleus’ win over Argentina in the last 16 but will still be remembered for the contrasting fates of the two goalkeepers, with Hugo Lloris producing a contender for save of the tournament while his opposite number made a mistake that was even more memorable.” BBC (Video)

Deschamps holds golden ticket but faces tough double for France glory
“Advantage France. On a cool summer’s day in Nizhny Novgorod, jewel of the upper Volga, Russia 2018 turned a slight but significant shade of blue. There are different ways of announcing yourself as the most likely winners of a World Cup. With nine days to go before the house lights come up the ideal outcome for Didier Deschamps’ France would have been a loosening of the throttle, a moment for those delicious attacking talents to click together and illuminate the late stages. There is of course a basic problem here. For that situation to arise it would be necessary for Didier Deschamps’ France to be somebody else’s France.” Guardian


2018 World Cup Predictions

July 5, 2018


“The World Cup is back, and so is another edition of FiveThirtyEight’s World Cup predictions. For those of you familiar with our club soccer predictions or our 2014 World Cup forecast, much of our 2018 forecast will look familiar. We show the chance that each team will win, lose or tie every one of their matches, as well as a table that details how likely each team is to finish first or second in their group and advance to the knockout stage. This year, we’ve added a few features to our interactive graphics. We have a bracket that illustrates how likely each team is to make each knockout-round match that it can advance to, as well as its most likely opponents in those matches. …”
FiveThirtyEight
Metafilter: it’s coming to someone’s home. (Video)


World Cup Summer in Postcolonial France

July 5, 2018

“Summertime in France tends to be hot – and not just in terms of degrees of Celsius. Of course, the occasional temperature heatwave (canicule) – famously in 2003 – does raise the question of national preparation and social protection, of the progressive neoliberal abandonment of the urban poor and elderly to the precarity of meteorological circumstance and unequal access to air conditioning. But the French summer also heats up in more metaphoric, if equally consequential, ways. State-mandated breaks from schoolyear demands and workday routines provide the occasion for pondering broader existential questions about individual futures and collective destinies. And more often than not, such public reflections tend to question the shifting meaning of Frenchness and the future of the Republic.” Pluto Books, Postcolonial France: Race, Islam, and the Future of the Republic – Paul A. Silverstein


Kylian Mbappe in prime position for the Golden Ball despite just one truly good performance

July 5, 2018

“SOME feared the second round of the World Cup would prove underwhelming after an eventful group stage, but those fears now appear misplaced after a hugely entertaining four days in Russia. The second round featured nail-biting penalty shoot-outs, a major upset with Spain departing, and an all-time classic with France and Argentina’s seven-goal thriller. That game, with France prevailing, also proved crucial in the race for the Golden Ball. This round unquestionably belonged to one man: Kylian Mbappe. Fielded on the right of France’s 4-2-3-1 system against Argentina, he produced one of the most rampant, dominant performances you’ll ever witness at a World Cup.” Unibet – Michael Cox


World Cup 2018: How Blaise Matuidi laid the platform for Kylian Mbappe to put in the performance of the tournament

July 2, 2018

“Didier Deschamps appeared entirely unsure of his best system ahead of the opening game of this tournament, but recent World Cup winners have tended to suddenly find their optimum formation midway through the tournament. In 2002 Brazil clicked into gear once introducing a second holding midfielder, in 2006 Italy’s switch from 4-3-1-2 to 4-2-3-1 worked wonders, in 2010 Spain thrived once they added more directness and width to their attack, and Germany’s 2014 side changed considerably from their opening game to the final.” Independent – Michael Cox

Why Argentina’s road to World Cup failure is long, complicated and paved with greed and corruption
“… Sebastian Fest’s line in La Nación on the day of Argentina‘s World Cup 2018 elimination this weekend was so starkly poignant because it gets straight to the crux of the matter, cutting through every excuse offered and pointing straight to the institutional rot that is fundamentally to blame for Argentina’s ills. That bumpy road that ended in Kazan, Russia, in the baking summer of 2018 is our current waypoint but this path truly began all the way back in the mid-winter of Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1978 on the day that the Albiceleste won their first-ever World Cup.” Independent