Tag Archives: France

World Cup health check: The issue each country must address before Qatar


“The September international break is normally relatively relaxed — a chance to tweak tactics and focus on formations. Not this time. For almost all 32 competing nations, this is the final set of international fixtures before the World Cup begins in Qatar on November 20. So that you can go into the break feeling prepared, The Athletic has identified one issue every team need to try to fix this break…”
The Athletic (Video)

How the Champions League final descended into chaos – visual investigation

“On 28 May 2022 the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool took place at the Stade de France in Paris. But the showpiece match between two great clubs was disfigured by chaotic organisation, in which Liverpool supporters suffered a near disaster and riot police teargassed spectators while failing to protect people from violent attacks by local thugs. Yet the French government, police and Uefa united instantly to put the blame on Liverpool supporters, claiming that the chaos was caused by thousands seeking entry with fake tickets. …”
Guardian (Video)
Guardian – ‘I had to leave’: concerns raised over state of Uefa amid cronyism claims
Guardian: Uefa pre-prepared Champions League final statement blaming ‘late’ fans

Most Goals Scored in a FIFA World Cup by One Player


“The only players to score nine or more goals in a single FIFA World Cup did so between 1950 and 1970 – a competition with nearly a century of history cramming its one-tournament stars into two decades. It seems the game’s defensive focus and organisation had yet to catch up to its emerging individual attacking skill. It was a time of free goals, and in some places free love, and if you weren’t around to experience it in person, you’re left with grainy video – and of course the numbers. None of the five players to score that many did it in more than six games while the modern-day format for World Cup tournaments has made it possible for top goalscorers to get seven in should they reach the last four. …”
The Analyst

Lorient are seizing the moment and challenging the elite in Ligue 1

“There was always going to be one club who made the most of the World Cup interruption and challenged the elite this season. A few clubs on the fringes of Europe made this calculation in the summer transfer window and, instead of selling players, they held firm. Lens and Strasbourg were chief among these sides in Ligue 1. …”
Guardian

European roundup: Bayern held by Stuttgart, Napoli and Milan grab wins

“Bayern Munich conceded a stoppage-time equaliser scored by the VfB Stuttgart striker Serhou Guirassy from the penalty spot, as the champions endured a third consecutive Bundesliga draw. The game started well for Bayern, with Mathys Tel scoring their opener in the 36th minute. The France youth international Tel, who at the age of 17 years and 136 days became the youngest player to start a league game for Bayern, had already scored in the German Cup first round. He scored his first league goal by drilling in a low drive from an Alphonso Davies cutback. …”
Guardian

Kylian Mbappé Is Coming for It All


“Kylian Mbappé will eventually turn up for his interview in an oversized vehicle outfitted with tinted windows, and accompanied by his mother, two P.R. reps, two lawyers, a small documentary crew, a stylist and a friend whose role is, initially, unclear. This is how one of the world’s biggest sports stars travels these days. Kylian Mbappé doesn’t just walk through the door. He arrives. But not just yet. …”
NY Times

Champions League: Michael Cox’s tactical guide to this season’s leading contenders

“Judging by the bookmakers’ odds, there are eight sides who stand a decent chance of winning this season’s European Cup. Broadly speaking, they look familiar from last season — few clubs have undergone a dramatic overhaul in terms of their starting XI and only one of these eight clubs appointed a new manager in the summer. If you haven’t watched any of the favourites since last season, here’s the lowdown on their approaches for 2022-23. …”
The Athletic

Franck Haise is doing something very special by maximising talent at Lens

“Tranck Haise welled up. The Lens manager was being interviewed on the touchline after his team had won a game last season when Thierry Henry, who was working as a TV pundit, broke into a glowing review of Haise’s “contagious and impressive” team. Haise, who had been completely unknown to most fans just two years earlier, struggled to contain his happiness when hearing a French football legend enthuse about his dynamic side. He is doing something special at Lens. When Haise took over two years ago, they were in Ligue 2. Now his players are breathing rarefied air at the top of Ligue 1. And this is his first senior management role. …”
Guardian

What the Champions League Is Lacking


“PARIS — There will be stories, of course. There are always stories. The Champions League delivers them so frequently and so reliably that it is impossible to dismiss the nagging suspicion that all of this might just be scripted, the product of some complex simulation being run from a secret lair in Nyon. Robert Lewandowski, clad in the blue and red of Barcelona, will return to Bayern Munich, only a few weeks after forcing his exit. Manchester City’s visit to Borussia Dortmund will see Erling Haaland standing once more before its Yellow Wall, that great force of nature no longer at his back but marshaled in his face. …”
NY Times
The Athletic: Champions League draw analysed – The biggest games, the shocks in store, the toughest groups

‘22 Goals’: Kylian Mbappé, 2018 World Cup in Russia

“The Ringer’s 22 Goals: The Story of the World Cup, a podcast by Brian Phillips, tells the story of some of the most iconic goals and players in the history of the men’s FIFA World Cup. Every Wednesday, until the end of Qatar 2022, we’ll publish an adapted version of each 22 Goals episode. Today’s story involves Kylian Mbappé announcing himself as a global superstar at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. …”
The Ringer (Video)

After a terrible season, Lyon now look like the second-best team in Ligue 1

“Rhetoric can be powerful but it also can be a double-edged sword, coming across as bluster if not properly backed up. Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas, who sold a controlling interest in the club to American businessman John Textor this summer, has never been one to mince his words. Having steered the club for 35 years, he has inevitably made the odd misstep, but their run of seven straight Ligue 1 titles in the 2000s and regular appearances in the knockout rounds of European competitions are firm evidence of his acumen. …”
Guardian

Rating the best and worst of Europe’s 2022-23 kits: From stunners to zany stripes

“We’ve rated the Premier League home kits. We’ve rated the Premier League away kits. So now it’s time to go Euro. It’s a big ask to review the design choices of an entire continent, but The Athletic has broad shoulders and is very happy to take on the job. Someone has to — you may think that this is not something that is absolutely vital for the smooth continuation of public discourse, but unfortunately, we’ve checked, and actually, it is. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Why the through ball is becoming a dying art in European football


“The number of through balls in the UEFA Champions League dropped 50 per cent between the 2018-19 and 2021-22 seasons. In Europe’s top five leagues, the number of through balls dropped on average 30 per cent over the same period. In the Europa League, it dropped 24 per cent. The through ball is not extinct, but it is endangered.Before examining why, we need to define the term. FBref data define a through ball as a: ‘Completed pass sent between the back defenders into open space.’ It is a complex pass to complete, hence the number of through balls is never particularly high and is in fact lower than the goals-per-game total in Europe’s top divisions. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Ligue 1 intrigue surrounds France’s ‘other 19’ with PSG still worlds apart

“Since the takeover of Paris Saint-Germain by the Qatari government’s investment fund in 2011, the club have failed to win the Ligue 1 title only three times. The first was in their maiden season under their new ownership, when a dogged Montpellier took advantage of the tumult caused by the mid-season dismissal of Antoine Kombouaré to bring home an unlikely first top-flight title. Monaco in 2017 and Lille in 2021 similarly seemed to catch lightning in a bottle, riding the play of clever experienced strikers (Radamel Falcao, Burak Yilmaz) working in tandem with unheralded youngsters (Kylian Mbappé, Jonathan David) to edge their more moneyed competitors. …”
Guardian

Barcelona’s incompetence should be celebrated in an age of gross inequality


“The winner of the 2022 Football Book of the Year award is Barca by Simon Kuper, which was originally intended to be about how Barcelona became the world’s most revered football club. During Kuper’s research, however, the situation changed. Barcelona were no longer the world’s most revered club. Rather, they were being roundly mocked for their haplessness at board level. The book was published just before the departure of Lionel Messi on a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain last summer, which occurred because the club were in such a ridiculous state they weren’t able to register him as a player, despite them wanting to keep Messi and Messi wanting to stay. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Inside Monaco: Paul Mitchell, their revamped talent factory and a team that runs and runs


“Inside the auditorium of Monaco’s €55 million training base, the club’s sporting director Paul Mitchell reflects on his first days in the job in June 2020. This was amid the COVID-19 crisis that handicapped European football’s capacity to spend in the transfer market, as commercial, broadcasting and ticketing income all took a nosedive. Owing to the pandemic, building work had slowed down on the expensive regeneration of the club’s training facility and the perception, at least externally, was that Monaco had lost their way since lifting the Ligue 1 title in 2017, when they also reached the Champions League semi-finals during the same season under coach Leonardo Jardim. …”
The Athletic

Auxerre – Are They Worth Replacing Saint-Ètienne in Ligue 1?


“The second most successful French team of all time seemed set to stay in Ligue 1 next year, after a late goal nabbed a draw against Nantes on the final day of the season. However, in the relegation playoff, Saint Etienne fell on penalties in the second leg to Auxerre, a team who themselves have historical success to boot. They may have resided in the second tier since 2012, but this is still a side that got into the Champions League group stage in 2010. With one league title to their name, coming in 1996 with Laurent Blanc in defence, Auxerre have waited 10 years to return to their rightful home. The political nightmare of legendary coach Guy Roux warring with Jean-Pierre Papin is behind them, and 64-year-old Jean-Marc Furlan is at the helm. …”
Breaking the Lines (Video)

Why Kylian Mbappe didn’t join Real Madrid


Kylian Mbappe is almost certainly now the highest-paid footballer in the world. In a saga that appeared to show Real Madrid as his favoured destination, Mbappe has recently signed a new deal at PSG, making him perhaps the most expensive player of all time. But why did he decide to stay? And how did this saga unfold? Written by Adam Crafton, illustrated by Henry Cooke.”
YouTube

The Dust Settles: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings Over the Course of this Season


“So that’s that. Another season in the books. Lots happened, but in some ways, lots stayed the same. As tends to happen, European football’s hierarchy tightened their stranglehold on silverware. Real Madrid, the very definition of footballing heritage, won their record 35th La Liga title and a 14th European Cup/Champions League. Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain continued their domestic league dominance. Elsewhere, it was a renaissance season for AC Milan, who won their first Scudetto in 11 years and returned to the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14. Forty-two years after winning the UEFA Cup in 1980, Eintracht Frankfurt won the famous trophy again, beating Rangers in the Europa League final. …”
The Analyst

Malo Gusto: Lyon’s new right-back is already a star and is being chased by clubs around Europe


“It has been a season of disaster for Olympique Lyonnais. The French side finished eighth in the league, accumulating just 61 points , the worst points haul since the 2013-14 season (except the 2019-20 season curtailed by Covid-19). Even though PSG restored their supremacy at the top, the fact that Lyon were eighth indicated their poor season especially after finishing fourth, the prevous year. However, they fared a little better in the Europa League, topping their group before being eliminated by West Ham United in the quarter-finals. …”
Foot the Ball
W – Malo Gusto

UEFA Nations League: What to look out for on Matchday 2


Raheem Sterling, England
“The third edition of the UEFA Nations League has kicked off. The first matchday is done, with five more to come ahead of the final tournament in June 2023. UEFA.com picks out the big fixtures from the Matchday 2 encounters. …”
UEFA Nations League (Video)

‘They build an image of the enemy’ – France’s struggles to police football fans


“It might be of little consolation to the Liverpool fans, young and old, who were aggressively kettled, callously tear-gassed, arbitrarily struck with batons, cruelly denied entry to the stadium or viciously mugged on the day of the Champions League final, but there has been almost as much outrage in France over what happened at the Stade de France last weekend as there has been in the UK. Within hours of the game, and with the dust having barely begun to settle on Real Madrid’s 1-0 win, journalists and commentators from across the political spectrum were deploring the stark organisational failures that had led to the dangerous bottlenecks that were allowed to build up before the game and angrily denouncing the French government’s attempts to blame the travelling Liverpool supporters. …”
The Athletic

Strasbourg: 21/22 Season – Ligue 1 Overachievers?


“Racing Club de Strasbourg Alsace were formed in 1906 and have been a professional football club since 1933. The club has had a fairly chequered history in recent times, being relegated to the fifth tier of French football after liquidation. Les Bleu et Blanc rebuilt themselves and secured promotion to Ligue 1 in 2017, where they have remained ever since. In May 2021 the club hired Julien Stéphan to take the reins of the first team and since then, they have gone from strength to strength. …”
Breaking the Lines
W – Julien Stéphan
W – RC Strasbourg Alsace

Futures bets for EPL, Serie A title chases and other tight European races


“The Champions League final is set between Liverpool and Real Madrid, but there are still two incredibly close title races in two of the biggest leagues in Europe. The Premier League and Serie A titles are coming down to the final few weeks. There are also close battles for European places and relegation battles across the top five European leagues. Here’s a look at what’s on the line, the biggest matches to come and how the betting market views the close races in the final few weeks of league play. …”
The Athletic

Pochettino and the paradox at PSG, a club that is almost unmanageable


“There is probably only one thing a manager can do at Paris Saint-Germain that would enhance his reputation, which is to win the Champions League – and even then there would be plenty of people looking at the £900m net spend since the Qatari takeover in 2011 and thinking: ‘About time.’ Mauricio Pochettino has not done that. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

PSG Has Turned Cause for Celebration Into Mere Consolation


“PSG is going to win Ligue 1’s title. It didn’t wind up happening Wednesday despite the opportunity, so it will drag out a little while longer. But what has been inevitable for months—was inevitable before the season started, really—will come to fruition. It should be cause for celebration. The club will join Marseille and Saint-Etienne as the most successful in France’s history with 10 Ligue 1 titles all-time. Eight will have come in the last 10 seasons, a product of the Qatari investment that has turned the club into one of Europe’s handful of domestic monopolizers. …”
SI

European roundup: Barcelona earn late win at Levante, Milan held by Torino


Barcelona striker Luuk de Jong scored a header in added time to give his side a 3-2 win at struggling Levante after a remarkable, end-to-end game in which his side gave away three penalties. Levante began the game in 19th place but took a deserved lead against lacklustre opponents in the 52nd minute. The captain José Luis Morales scored from the spot after a foul by Dani Alves and moments later the hosts earned a second penalty, for a handball by Eric García. This time striker Roger Martí stepped up to take it and his effort was saved by Marc-André ter Stegen. …”
Guardian

Marseille weather storm and revive their Champions League ambitions


“In like a lion and out like a lamb. The old adage about weather in March has been a perfect description of Marseille’s form and their chances of qualifying for the Champions League over the last month. Marseille were floundering at the end of February. What had looked like an iron grip on a Champions League place suddenly seemed uncertain after home defeats to Clermont and Monaco, as well as a draw against a Troyes side who have not exactly set the league alight this season. …”
Guardian

The 2022 World Cup draw analysed: ‘The Group of Dark Arts’, favourites France and that song


“Cringe-inducing cartoon meant to engage with no youngster we have ever met? Check. Song-and-dance routine combing local colour with avant-garde twist? Check. A massive advert for the official ball (the fastest ever, no less)? Yep, we had that, too, and several speeches, a first performance of the first song from the official Qatar 2022 album and a very contrived moment with France manager Didier Deschamps and a young lad who was in the crowd in Moscow four years ago. The 47 minutes of preamble before the draw for the 2022 World Cup at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre flew by! …”
The Athletic (Video)
NY Times – World Cup Draw Highlights: Matchups Let Teams Look Ahead to November
Guardian – World Cup draw: group-by-group analysis for Qatar 2022 – Jonathan Wilson
NY Times: World Cup Draw Brings Certainty. Now Comes the Hard Part.
The Athletic: With a marquee World Cup meeting vs. England, USMNT has a chance to change its perception writ large
BBC – Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022: What are the draw highlights? (Video)

The World Cup Draw Is Friday. Here’s How It Works.


“The World Cup field is almost complete. On Friday, soccer teams will learn the answer to the critical question they and their fans want to know: Who will they play when the tournament opens in November in Qatar? The World Cup draw — part gala, part pep rally, part math seminar — will deliver intriguing clashes of styles, testy political collisions and, if past events are any guide, a few uncomfortable moments. But given the stakes of the draw, it is also one of the biggest events on the global sports calendar. Here is a look at how it works. …”
NY Times
NY Times: Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup? (Video)
NY Times: Your World Cup Questions, Answered
The Athletic – 2022 World Cup odds: France, Brazil are co-favorites ahead of the draw; England, Spain right behind

2022 World Cup: List of Qualified Teams for Qatar, Updated Standings, Playoff Brackets


“Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is reaching its conclusion, as countries compete to fill the remaining spots in this year’s showcase on the sport’s greatest stage. … It was determined on Nov. 26 which regions will be paired for the playoffs, whose format has changed. Another wrinkle to qualifying is the expulsion of Russia due to its nation’s invasion of Ukraine. .. Nevertheless, the draw for the 2022 World Cup will occur on April 1, with the March 31 FIFA ranking being used to determine the pots. …”
SI
FIFA World Cup: Which teams have qualified to Qatar 2022? Full list of all 32 nations

At P.S.G., Kylian Mbappé Has to Go


“Only one player escaped the ire of the Parc des Princes. Paris St.-Germain’s fans whistled and jeered every time Lionel Messi touched the ball. They howled and crowed at the sight of a wayward shot from Neymar. There was no allowance in their anger for reputation, no discrimination by status. It encompassed mortal and immortal alike. The lone exception, during last weekend’s routine win against Bordeaux, was Kylian Mbappé. There was no romance behind his pardon. He was not excused because he is a boy from the French capital’s banlieues, an identifiably Parisian superstar, a local kid made good. …”
NY Times

Paris Saint-Germain and the wreckage of another Champions League calamity


“On Wednesday evening, moments after the final whistle in Real Madrid’s Bernabeu, the Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and the club’s sporting director Leonardo descended into the bowels of the stadium. It is now almost 11 years since Al-Khelaifi’s state-backed Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) acquired PSG and, despite spending in excess of £1 billion on incoming transfers, the Champions League trophy remains elusive. This season, a devastating final half-hour from Real’s French striker Karim Benzema turned the round-of-16 tie in favour of the Spanish team, enabling a side led by former PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti to recover from a 2-0 aggregate deficit and eliminate them from the competition. …”
The Athletic (Audio/Video)

New Year, New Me: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings


“The return of European knockout football has us once again watching teams from across the continent go up against one another. But tournament football, clearly, doesn’t see every team play each other, and the beauty of it is that the best team doesn’t always win. And that’s absolutely fine. But what if there was a global league system, rather than one-off knockout ties, that could help us gauge the comparative strength of teams across the world? Well, that’s exactly what Stats Perform’s Power Rankings seek to do. …”
The Analyst

Lyon beat Nice and set sights on returning to the Champions League


Lucas Paquetá enjoys the moment as Lyon beat Nice.
“Lyon looked vulnerable before their massive game against in-form Nice this weekend. A renewed focus on defence in 2022 had helped them creep up the table, picking up a draw against PSG and wins over Troyes, St Étienne and (most crucially) Marseille, but that unbeaten run came to a grinding, creaking halt in Monaco last weekend. Injuries played their part in their 2-0 defeat to Monaco. Karl Toko Ekambi, Houssem Aouar, Jason Denayer and Damien Da Silva were among the absentees, with new arrivals Romain Faivre and Tanguy Ndombele only on the bench. …”
Guardian

‘What they think is what we think, to go through’ – Ancelotti ready for PSG test


Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint Germain
“‘What Mbappé thinks is what Benzema thinks, which is what Vinícius thinks, which is what Messi thinks,’ Carlo Ancelotti said, pretty much saying it all, or at least trying to. And he hadn’t named half of them yet, the list lengthening a few minutes later even without citing Neymar when he added Marco Verratti, Ángel Di María and Mauro Icardi. … ”
Guardian

Le Havre: the second-tier French club producing world class footballers


“Le Havre’s list of alumni makes for impressive reading. World Cup winners, European champions and some of the most expensive players in history have passed through the French club’s academy over the years. Paul Pogba, Riyad Mahrez, Dimitri Payet, Lassana Diarra, Édouard Mendy, Ferland Mendy and Steve Mandanda all called the club home in their formative years. Despite spending most of their existence in Ligue 2, Le Havre have one of the most prestigious academies in France. They do not have the riches of PSG, or titles of Marseille or Lyon, but their methods have worked in youth development for more than four decades. …”
Guardian

How can we make Europe’s big leagues more competitive?


“There are still four months remaining in most European domestic leagues, but the big titles are largely already decided. It’s a situation we’ve become accustomed to: the rich clubs wrapping up the league by the turn of the year, allowing them to concentrate on what really matters to them, the Champions League. Winning the title, the fundamental point of holding a national league system, is barely a story, and tense run-ins are largely a thing of the past. …”
The Athletic

Milan draw with Juventus as De Jong scores late winner for Barcelona


Frenkie de Jong
“La Liga leaders Real Madrid fought back from two goals down at home to rescue a 2-2 draw against lowly Elche thanks to a last-gasp Éder Militão goal in stoppage time. Real wasted a golden opportunity to widen the gap at the top of the table after second-placed Sevilla stumbled at home with a draw against Celta Vigo on Saturday. …”
Guardian

Football and cryptocurrency sponsorship: is the free-for-all over?


“Up until now, football’s relationship with cryptocurrency sponsorship has felt like a complete and utter free-for-all, with no rules whatsoever. Slowly but surely that is starting to change. This week the UK government announced plans to crackdown on misleading ads for cryptocurrency companies, which would treat them like ads for other financial products, a move that could have far-reaching implications in the world of football which is increasingly dependent on the booming sector. Meanwhile Spain is leading a similar charge in the EU. …”
The Athletic

Players to Watch in 2021-22: The Analyst 50 (Part I)


“After a summer of frantic international football tournaments across the globe, the new domestic league season is now on the horizon. Ninety-eight teams will battle it out across the top five European leagues, with titles to be won, European football to be secured and relegation to be avoided and we wanted to give you a guide on some of the players to watch in 2021-22. We recruited the very best of Stats Perform’s data editors to give us a list of 50 players. These players aren’t who they think are the greatest – you’ve all read that. This is a selection of 50 players that we think will make an impact in 2021-22. Some are obvious, some less so. Let’s dive in to The Analyst 50, with the first 25 players. …”
The Analyst (July 2021) Part I (Video), Part II (Video)

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


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

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


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

UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics


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

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


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

The Premier League Chose Festive Fixtures Over Safe Fixtures


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

Plagued by Fan Violence, French Soccer Asks: Why?


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

WTF is Group G?


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

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


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

What Do We Mean by Good Soccer?



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

The Data Day No 15: Our Rolling Football Blog


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

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


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

Marseille turn


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

16 football clubs sitting outside the elite


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

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


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

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



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

Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup?


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

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


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

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


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

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


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