From AVB to Zlatan, Newcastle to Donetsk, Football Further is proud to present its third annual compilation of the year’s best French football quotes.
“Yesterday, I make one tackle and all everybody speak about is this tackle. Nobody speaks about the 50-yard pass that kills [Florent] Balmont and causes a red card for ‘im.”
– Replete with some elaborate eyebrow-waggling and a healthy dose of Gallic shrugging, Joey Barton‘s attempts to ingratiate himself with the Marseille media become an instant YouTube classic
“Eden Hazard’s English is catastrophic. I asked him: ‘Are you happy with your transfer?’ He said: ‘I don’t understand!'”
– Romelu Lukaku on his new Chelsea team-mate
“It was the feeling I had with the coach. He said he trusted me, but he didn’t let me play. He said I was too young. He said: ‘Your time will come.’ It didn’t come. Even though he’s had a 25-year career and despite the fact he’s the boss, my objective was to play … I’m impatient. When I want something, I’ll do anything to get it.”
– Paul Pogba crosses Sir Alex Ferguson, and lives to tell the tale
“The only thing I miss is in the changing room. I can’t understand all the jokes and it’s frustrating. French is more difficult than I thought. I’m trying to take my lessons very seriously. I listen to them for at least half an hour each day. The other day I watched a film in French, with English subtitles. It was Ne le dis à personne [‘Tell No One’], which was a great film. I’m going to do it again.”
– Joe Cole may have left Lille with a sub-GCSE level of French, but he is now a leading authority on the films of Guillaume Canet
“I could become a doctor!”
– Abou Diaby tries to put a positive spin on all the medical vocabulary he has acquired during his time in and out of the Arsenal treatment room
“I accept that you can ask questions about his sporting performances … But when I hear that he could be dangerous for the concept of the group, I feel like we’re trying to bring a wolf into the sheep pen. He’s been a part of the group since the start. He dropped out due to injury and then loss of form. Don’t make him out to be a wolf, because he isn’t one.”
– Laurent Blanc tells the media not to cry wolf after handing Yoann Gourcuff a place in his preliminary squad
“Shut your face! Shut your face!”
– Samir Nasri celebrates his goal in the opening game with England by thanking the gentlemen of the French press for their support
“There was a bit of a slanging match in the changing room.”
– Olivier Giroud lets the cat out of the bag about the row that erupted after France’s shock 2-0 loss to Sweden
“Go fuck yourself! Go fuck your mother, you son of a bitch! There, now you can write that I’m badly brought up.”
– Such a nice boy, that Samir Nasri – lashing out at a journalist following Les Bleus‘ quarter-final elimination by Spain
“We’ve told them to be vigilant and not to say anything that could hurt the group.”
– French Football Federation press officer Philippe Tournon, prior to the tournament, on the instructions given to France’s players about how to handle the media
“KIEV — Spain confirmed their status as one of the greatest national teams in football history by overwhelming Italy 4-0 in Sunday’s Euro 2012 final in Kiev to retain their European crown.”
“DONETSK, Ukraine — Spain reached their third consecutive major tournament final after overcoming neighbours Portugal 4-2 on penalties in the first Euro 2012 semi-final in Donetsk on Wednesday.”
Read my AFP match report here. I’ve also written a piece on Spain’s problems in attack (Fàbregas penalty brings Spain full circle), and an article on how Portugal can be proud of their achievements at Euro 2012 (Pride and positivity as Portugal bow out).
“The Manchester City midfielder began the tournament with a man-of-the-match performance in the 1-1 draw with England, but went home in disgrace after a foul-mouthed rant at a journalist from AFP. A talented but confrontational member of the squad, Nasri’s dwindling influence mirrored France’s fading performances and his off-pitch indiscretions mean his place in the national set-up is now in jeopardy.”
My piece on why Samir Nasri’s behaviour during Euro 2012 has put his international career at risk, including details of his mixed-zone outburst at one of my colleagues from AFP, can be read here. There’s also a more general analysis of France’s performance at the tournament here.
“DONETSK, Ukraine — Spain moved a step closer to an unprecedented treble of consecutive major international honours by beating France 2-0 in Donetsk on Saturday to reach the Euro 2012 semi-finals.”
“DONETSK, Ukraine — In 2010, it started with a headline in L’Équipe. Two years on, France’s leading sports newspaper has lifted the lid on fresh tension in the French squad at Euro 2012.”
I wrote a piece for AFP on the old demons threatening to re-emerge in the France camp. You can read it here.
“DONETSK, Ukraine — Wayne Rooney scored his first goal at an international tournament for eight years as England beat Ukraine 1-0 on Tuesday, but his performance, like his team’s, was laboured.”
My take for AFP on Wayne Rooney’s England comeback can be read here.
“KHARKIV, Ukraine — The Netherlands’ players hinted that their Euro 2012 campaign had been undermined by changing-room disunity after their participation in the tournament ended with a 2-1 loss to Portugal.”
“DONETSK, Ukraine – France’s players admitted to frustration after failing to turn their dominance into victory against England in their Euro 2012 opener but took heart from their reaction to falling behind.”
My reaction piece on France’s 1-1 draw with England on Monday can be read here.
From the outside, the striking thing was the fact that it was headline news at all. Gourcuff named in France squad. Yoann Gourcuff, heir apparent to Zinedine Zidane, darling of Bordeaux’s 2009 title-winning side, was this week selected in Laurent Blanc’s preliminary squad for Euro 2012. And it was the biggest story in town.
Anticipation of the squad announcement had centred on whether or not Gourcuff would get the call, at the end of a season in which injuries and poor form have restricted him to just 13 league appearances for Lyon, culminating in a sending-off for violent conduct against Ajaccio on Sunday. “It’s not anecdotal,” said Blanc of the red card, which Gourcuff received for an off-the-ball altercation with Ajaccio’s Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi. “It proves that the boy isn’t in top form, both physically and mentally.”
Gourcuff’s inclusion in the 26-man squad therefore came as something of a surprise, but how has a player for whom such a bright future was predicted fallen so far?
In recent weeks, Hatem Ben Arfa has started to look like the player he had always threatened to become.
With two goals and three assists in his last four appearances, the 25-year-old is the form attacking midfielder in the Premier League. There have been flurries of eye-catching form in the past, but he has rarely played such daring, decisive football on such a consistent basis and against such strong opposition.
The catalyst for his spring renaissance was the January arrival of Papiss Demba Cissé, who was signed to link up with his Senegal team-mate, Demba Ba. With two prolific strikers at his disposal, Newcastle United coach Alan Pardew was forced to abandon his long-held ambition to deploy Ben Arfa as a number 10 behind a lone striker. He has re-emerged on the right.
Ben Arfa started on the right flank for the first time in the league this season in Newcastle’s 5-2 defeat at Fulham on January 21 (a game in which he scored), but it was not until March 18, and a 1-0 win at home to Norwich City, that he was included in the same starting line-up as Cissé and Ba. The trio subsequently started in the slick 3-1 win at West Bromwich Albion and last weekend’s 2-0 defeat of Liverpool at St James’ Park. After opening the scoring in the 2-1 defeat at Arsenal, Ben Arfa scored once and created the two other goals at West Brom and was then instrumental in both goals against Liverpool.
Over the course of those recent games, Newcastle’s shape has slowly morphed from a lopsided 4-4-2 into something resembling an orthodox 4-3-3, as Ben Arfa has become the focal point for his side’s attacking play on the right flank and Pardew has responded by adding more ballast to the centre of midfield.
I caught up with my friend Dan Levy last week, to talk about France’s chances at Euro 2012 on the France 24 podcast. We discussed France’s friendly victory over Germany, the likely composition of Les Bleus‘ starting line-up at the tournament, and Laurent Blanc’s stand-off with the French Football Federation over their unwillingness to offer him a new contract. You can listen to our conversation here.
NB: The podcast was recorded before news broke that Éric Abidal requires a liver transplant operation, which is likely to compromise his chances of playing at Euro 2012.
For a team protecting an unbeaten record that now stretches to 543 days, France will approach Wednesday night’s friendly against Germany in Bremen with a surprising degree of uncertainty.
Since going down 1-0 at home to Belarus in Laurent Blanc’s first competitive game in charge in September 2010, France have qualified for Euro 2012 – without recourse to the play-offs – and enjoyed friendly wins over England, Brazil and the United States (as well as some forgettable draws against Croatia, Chile and Belgium).
Viewed from the outside, and against a backdrop of the self-inflicted humiliation of the 2010 World Cup, Les Bleus are turning things around. Bubbling beneath the statistics, however, are a multitude of concerns about the team’s style of play and a lack of both experience and leadership within the squad, while an ongoing contract dispute between Blanc and French Football Federation president Noël Le Graët suggests Blanc’s employers remain to be convinced by the direction the team is taking.
Blanc pledged to introduced panache and risk-taking to France’s football following his appointment in the aftermath of the infamous Knysna training ground mutiny, but although France have become solid and difficult to beat, their play has not captured the imagination since the first game of their current 17-match unbeaten run – a 2-0 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo that came four days after the setback against Belarus.
Then, a team anchored by a midfield pairing of Yann M’Vila and Alou Diarra, driven forward by the lolloping raids of Abou Diaby and centred around the new-found efficacy of Karim Benzema had hinted at a glorious future for Blanc’s France. Now, although Benzema has gone from strength to strength at Real Madrid, the team has lost its way.
“PARIS — Laurent Blanc tried to emphasise the positives after watching France begin their preparations for Euro 2012 with a lacklustre 1-0 friendly win over the United States at Stade de France on Friday.”
Read my AFP match report here.