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


Kylian Mbappe destroys Argentina to send Lionel Messi and co home in World Cup thriller

June 30, 2018


“It is one of the gifts of being the most talented teenager footballer in the world that Kylian Mbappe makes fast defenders look slow and slow defenders look ridiculous, although in the end this was about bigger things than just a first half demolition of poor old Marcos Rojo. The 19-year-old’s savage turn of speed that won France the penalty for their first goal saw him flash before our eyes in real time while simultaneously the careers of half a dozen Argentinian defenders and midfielders were flashing before theirs. One of those moments that every old pro recognises when the legs are getting slower, the youngsters are getting quicker and the best they can hope for is to kick him before he reaches the area.” Telegraph

Welcome to Kylian Mbappé’s Coming Out Party
“It’s Kylian Mbappé’s world. We’re all just living in it—even Lionel Messi. Mbappé became the first teenager to score more than one goal in a World Cup knockout match since Pelé in 1958, as he tallied twice and drew a penalty. When the final whistle sounded, the scoreboard read 4-3 in favor of Les Bleus, and no player was more responsible for the victory than the youngest player on the field.” The Ringer (Video)

France 4 – 3 Argentina
“Kylian Mbappe announced himself on football’s biggest stage with two fine goals that gave France victory in a classic World Cup encounter with Argentina, and a place in the quarter-finals. Though much of the focus before the game was on Argentina superstar Lionel Messi, it was Mbappe who produced a brilliant performance that will linger long in the memory.” BBC (Video)


Afro‑Europe in the World Cup

June 30, 2018

“It isn’t fair. Though Africa has more countries and a larger population than Europe, the continent only has five berths in the World Cup compared to Europe’s thirteen. And they had to fight for that: it was only a boycott in 1966, led by Kwame Nkrumah, that changed the policy that allowed only one spot for either an African or an Asia team. There are all kinds of justifications, of course, offered for this inequality. And it will likely take a long time for change to happen, and then it will come incrementally. While we wait patiently for institutions to change, however, the world has a way of rendering a kind of justice. Post-colonial migration has created a loophole in FIFA’s global apportioning of representation. This year, there will be two additional African teams in the competition: France and Belgium.” Roads and Kingdoms


World Cup Knockout Stage Statistical Primer

June 29, 2018


“The World Cup enters its knockout stage this weekend, which means we’ll see heartbreak and joy in every game. From multigoal thrillers to dour defensive battles that lead to anxiety-inducing penalty shootouts, the emotional roller coaster is about to ramp up a notch. Here are some statistical primers derived from the World Cup data collected by StatsBomb during the group stages.” The Ringer


World Cup 2018: Sacrés Bleus!

June 29, 2018

“It will escape hardly a single fan of Les Bleus that July 12, 2018, will mark the twentieth anniversary of France’s 3-0 triumph over Brazil to win the World Cup at home at the Stade de France outside Paris, after which a million revelers—black, blanc, beur (black, white, Arab) alike, as the story goes—stormed the Champs-Élysées, commencing Bastille Day celebrations a couple of days early and heralding, in the eyes of the hopeful, a new multicultural dawn for the Fifth Republic. Even those who were not yet born then—a group that includes Kylian Mbappé, perhaps the most electrifying player on the current France team, who was born later that year in the Parisian suburb of Bondy—will find it hard not to think about that 1998 victory. There are vivid narrative links between that iteration of Les Bleus and this year’s squad in Russia”  NYBooks


Ghetto defendants

June 27, 2018


“So far, so so: France’s journey to the World Cup was not without worry, and pre-World Cup friendlies were all but reassuring. France’s opening game against Australia was an assault on the nerves but ended in video-assisted victory. [The next game, a 1-0 victory over Peru, was equally unconvincing–Editor]. The best thing to come out of this may well be the fact that Paul Pogba’s diary has replaced in the media Antoine Griezmann’s unbelievably tone-deaf docudrama La Decisión, in which he wasted half an hour of life to announce that he would stay at Atlético Madrid. Team France lives under the sign of video: a sign of the times—constant contact has become a staple of modern sports culture and communication. Or lack thereof.” Africa is a Country


Algerian history as graphic novel: “The past flows into the future”

June 27, 2018

“The football World Cup of 1958 is mainly remembered for two men. The first is Pelé, and the second is Just Fontaine. On the way to the semi final, which they lost to Brazil, Fontaine scored thirteen goals for France, still a world cup record. France beat Germany in the play-off to finish the tournament in third. Absent from Les Bleues throughout the tournament was Rachid Mekhloufi, a twenty-one year old forward who played for Saint Étienne.” Africa is a Country


Argentina Gets a Clean World Cup Slate After Marcos Rojo’s Heroic Volley

June 27, 2018

“Day 13 of World Cup 2018 is done, and the second night of simultaneous group finales brought another evening of memorable drama. Argentina got the victory and help it needed to survive and advance in a thrilling 2-1 win against Nigeria, while Iceland lost to Croatia 2-1. And in Group C, France and Denmark played a dreadful 0-0 tie that allowed Denmark advance to the knockout rounds as a second-place finisher, while Australia squandered its chance to make things interesting in a 2-0 loss to Peru.” SI


Brazil, Spain, Germany, France failing to find attacking balance

June 25, 2018


Brazil – Neymar
“Football tactics are generally considered a mere necessary evil in football, discussed purely in terms of hampering individual freedom and disrupting opposition play. But tactical planning is also about attacking, about creating the right balance between different concepts to create a cohesive, harmonious but varied threat in the final third. Finding the balance in attack, combining different concepts and formulating how they come together smoothly is the most fascinating element of football strategy. An all-round attacking force offers various qualities: runs in behind, width to stretch play, movement to create gaps in the opposition, late runs from midfield, a target in the middle, a player between the lines to link play, and some degree of long-range, goal-scoring threat to ensure you don’t actually need to penetrate the defence. Limited to only three or four attacking individuals, however, coaches have a tricky balancing act. So far, none of the four favourites for World Cup 2018 — Brazil, Spain, Germany and France — have found the right balance.” ESPN – Michael Cox


World Cup 2018: How the likes of Andres Iniesta and Thomas Muller helped industrialise youth coaching

June 25, 2018

“Back in the 2010 World Cup, before Andres Iniesta had scored the winner in the final but while he was still suffering the injury problems that would make that moment more wondrous, one leading figure in European youth football spotted something so specifically special about the playmaker’s game. The Barcelona star would always position himself so that he was an equal distance from all the opposition players around him. It meant that even if he was not at his physical maximum, as was the case for much of that World Cup, he still had the maximum space and opportunity to escape.” Independent


Punchless Argentina Barely Hanging on, Pogba Comes to Life at World Cup

June 21, 2018

“MOSCOW — Day 8 of World Cup 2018 was defined by Lionel Messi’s continued frustration and the suffering of Argentina fans, who saw their team lose 3-0 to Croatia in a one-sided headliner of the day’s triple-header. Thursday was also defined by the resurgent Paul Pogba and France, which clinched advancement to the knockout stage along with Croatia following a 1-0 win over Peru; and by a brave 1-1 tie earned by Australia against Denmark that keeps the Aussies alive in Group C.” SI


France seal last-16 spot as Kylian Mbappé earns victory over Peru

June 21, 2018


“The audacity of youth was unfurled in all its swaggering glory. Kylian Mbappé bounded off after scoring the winner in an absorbing game, his first on this stage, a tap-in that was impossible to miss. Then he suddenly stopped and shrugged, as if to say: ‘What is the fuss all about?’ Life moves pretty fast for Mbappé. The whirlwind forward, already the most expensively valued teenager in football, became France’s youngest goalscorer at a major tournament and took it all in that easy stretch of a stride.” Guardian


Amid the Roars in Russia, the French Can Still Hear the Echoes of 1998

June 20, 2018

“KAZAN, Russia — The French forward Kylian Mbappé was not yet born when France beat Brazil, 3-0, to win the World Cup at home on July 12, 1998. But like any other French citizen, Mbappé, 19, has had no shortage of opportunities to relive the moment this month. There has been a deluge of material and events commemorating the 20th anniversary of France’s first and only victory in a tournament that was, lest anyone forget, the brainchild of two Frenchmen: Jules Rimet and Henri Delaunay. In the week before this World Cup in Russia began, French television networks broadcast three documentaries about the 1998 victory. One film, titled, ‘Le Sacre d’une Nation,’ contained video of a 7-year-old Antoine Griezmann, who, with a friend, was dashing around the French national team’s training ground near Lyon during the summer of 1998 while wearing a No. 7 French jersey.” NY Times


Mark Lawrenson’s pantomime punditry: a relic to cherish on the BBC

June 19, 2018

“Fifa are fond of telling us that football is a family. If so, Mark Lawrenson is the grumpy uncle one was compelled to invite to the gathering. But rather than simply sticking him in a secluded armchair and keeping him quiet with a gob full of Quality Street and cooking brandy, the BBC has let him loose on World Cup television viewers. Lawro has so far done two matches for BBC TV; reaction has been mixed. Which is to say, some people have hated it, and other people have really hated it. Or that has been the online response, anyway, with social media commentators vying to one-up each other with their spite and rage at his contributions to the France vs Australia and Belgium vs Panama matches.” Telegraph


VAR makes history as France awarded controversial penalty against Australia – but was it right decision?

June 16, 2018

“Arow erupted over the first use of video technology at the World Cup on Saturday night following a string of penalty incidents at the tournament. History was made in France’s Group B victory over Australia after it became the first competitive fixture to see a refereeing decision overturned since Video Assistant Referees became part of the Laws of the Game. Having waved play on after Antoine Griezmann went down in the penalty area, referee Andres Cunha awarded a spot-kick after viewing a replay of Josh Risdon’s challenge on the striker. The use of VAR divided opinion on social media, with Risdon getting a touch on the ball while sliding in on Griezmann before tripping his opponent with his trailing leg after the France player had regained possession.” Telegraph


World Cup 2018: How the likes of Andres Iniesta and Thomas Muller helped industrialise youth coaching

June 13, 2018


“Back in the 2010 World Cup, before Andres Iniesta had scored the winner in the final but while he was still suffering the injury problems that would make that moment more wondrous, one leading figure in European youth football spotted something so specifically special about the playmaker’s game. The Barcelona star would always position himself so that he was an equal distance from all the opposition players around him. It meant that even if he was not at his physical maximum, as was the case for much of that World Cup, he still had the maximum space and opportunity to escape.” Independent (Video)


France: Shine on you crazy diamond

June 12, 2018

“France are undoubtedly one of the strongest team in the competition. With a deep squad overloaded with talent and individual quality, they are one of the teams to watch this summer. The team has a lot to make up for after the lost European Championships on home soil two years ago. The talent pool got a lot stronger, in fact I would struggle to pinpoint either position as their clear weakness.” Discovering football one day at a time


World Cup favourites choosing defensive-minded midfielders over deep-lying playmakers

June 11, 2018


“The most fascinating tactical development over the past few World Cups has been the increased popularity of the deep playmaker. Having nearly become extinct around the turn of the century, it’s notable that recent World Cup winners have generally depended upon a great creative influence from deep.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)


World Cup Preview 2018: Messi vs. Ronaldo, Magic Cats, Iceland!!, and the Entire Emotional Context in Which Much of Human Life Transpires

June 10, 2018

“Ladies and gentlemen, start your psychic octopuses. The biggest and strangest sporting event in human history resumes next week in Russia, where thirty-two men’s national soccer teams will begin the monthlong competition for the strangely un-cup-like trophy given to the winners of the FIFA World Cup. For many of the world’s best soccer players, the tournament offers a chance to become legends in their home countries and icons in the history of the game. For billions of soccer fans, the tournament offers a chance to participate in modernity’s most sweeping collective frenzy, a spectacle that will shape the emotional context in which much of human life transpires for the next few weeks. For the United States men’s national team, which did not qualify, the tournament offers a chance to feel gloomy while eating Cheetos on the couch.” New Yorker – Brian Phillips


Who’s the Best No. 10 at the World Cup?

June 9, 2018


“In Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics, Jonathan Wilson describes the symbolism of the no. 10 as “the ‘free-spirited epitome of the artistry of soccer.’ And while free-spirits have become fewer and farther between as more money’s been poured into the game and managers have systematized their tactics, the no. 10 is still typically given to the most creative player on the team. Or, in Poland or Nigeria’s case, it’s given to a defensive midfielder best known for his ability to make tackles and pass the ball sideways. But each team has its reasons, and so with all of the World Cup squad lists now officially released, we each ranked all the nos. 10 set to play in Russia this summer, tallied the results, and came out with the following list. No. 1 is obvious, but that’s about the only spot we came close to agreeing on. Yes, someone, who shall remain nameless out of our sheer fear for his safety, didn’t put Lionel Messi first.” The Ringer


France’s Group-Stage Tuneup Will Tell Us Whether It’s A Contender

June 9, 2018

“Group C is all about France. The issue isn’t so much whether the team will qualify for the knockout stage of the World Cup. Rather, it’s what France’s play over its matches with Peru, Denmark and Australia will say about its chances of winning the whole tournament.” FiveThirtyEight