From Pogba to Mbappe: Why Greater Paris is the world’s top talent pool

December 29, 2017

“PARIS — Nearly a decade ago, Arsene Wenger ranked the Paris region as the second-best talent pool in soccer after Sao Paulo in Brazil. But by now, the French capital surely ranks top. Here are just a few of today’s players raised in Greater Paris: Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, N’Golo Kante, Kingsley Coman, Blaise Matuidi and Kylian Mbappe, plus three other regular Paris Saint-Germain starters, the Algerian internationals Riyad Mahrez and Yacine Brahimi, and various Senegalese and Moroccan internationals who will play at the coming World Cup. In fact, the Ile-de-France (as Greater Paris is known) probably produces more talent than Asia, Africa and North America combined. Why? I ask myself that question every weekend. …” ESPN – Simon Kuper

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The Three Epic, Early Champions League Showdowns

December 14, 2017


“The draw for the Champions League round of 16 is set, and even though the first games will not be played for two months, we already know that at least one true European power will be eliminated before the quarterfinals kick off, and a couple more elite clubs could be in trouble. This is because the Champions League draw pitted some of the best teams in the world against each other in early clashes. According to Soccer Power Index, six of the nine best teams to make the knockouts have been drawn against each other. These three matchups — each of which consists of two games, one at each club’s home grounds — should give the Round of 16 a new level of drama. … ” fivethirtyeight, NY Times: Real-P.S.G. and Barcelona-Chelsea in the Champions League, YouTube: The Three Epic, Early Champions League Showdowns


Applause at the Draw, but Will Russia Keep Cheering?

December 3, 2017


“MOSCOW — Half a million fans — by current, suspiciously optimistic, estimates — will descend on Russia next year for what Gianni Infantino, the FIFA president, has already decreed will be the ‘best’ World Cup in history. Every single fan, he has decided, will have “an amazing experience.” Billions of dollars have been spent on new, or renovated, stadiums to host the finest players in the world: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, on Friday promised a ‘major sporting festival of friendship and fair play.’ …” NY Times, The Ringer: The Four Must-Watch Games of the 2018 World Cup Group Stages (Video), NY Times – World Cup Draw: Group-by-Group Analysis


Identifying Ligue 1’s Next Breakout Talent: Houssem Aouar

December 3, 2017

“The summer of 2017 was when big named players from Olympique Lyonnais left for greener pastures. Alexandre Lacazette finally made his long-awaited move to Arsenal, Corentin Tolisso left for Bayern Munich, Maxime Gonalons took his talents to Italy and signed for Roma. Even Rachid Ghezzal, a player who was equally as frustrating as he was brilliant, left for Monaco on a free transfer. While it might be a bit much to claim that this was going to be a new era, it was clear that there was a distinctly youthful approach occurring, with the club once again tapping into its famous academy along with the youthful players they bought as replacements for the departed. …” Stats Bomb (Video)


Keita Baldé is slowly helping Monaco forget about Kylian Mbappé

October 31, 2017

“Keita Baldé Diao, the Senegalese forward who joined Monaco from Lazio this summer for €30m, was prepared to be compared with Kylian Mbappé. ‘I was expecting it,’ he said recently when asked about Mbappé. ‘We’re both young players. But I’ve come to write my story, to play my game. I don’t want to be compared with anyone. My goal is to play as many matches as possible, to score and provide.’ After his recent performances, Keita may find those comparisons harder to avoid, particularly if Monaco sustain their title challenge into the new year. …” Guardian


World Cup 2018 power rankings: Germany on top among qualified 23

October 12, 2017


“Twenty-three nations have booked their places for the World Cup in Russia, with the holders and Brazil looking in good shape but we rank England in 13th place, below Iceland.” Guardian (Video)


The Best Soccer Teams in History to Miss Out on Qualifying for the World Cup

October 8, 2017


France, 1994
“As World Cup qualification reaches its final stages, a number of major nations find themselves in danger of missing out on Russia 2018. As Argentina, the Netherlands, Chile and Ghana struggle to make it, and with reigning African champion Cameroon already eliminated, we look back at the most shocking failures to qualify in World Cup history. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson