Posts Tagged ‘Bordeaux’
“PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain inched a point clear in Ligue 1 on Sunday following a 0-0 draw at Nice, after Ludovic Obraniak had netted a 93rd-minute winner for Bordeaux in an extraordinary 5-4 win at his former club Lille.”
My AFP round-up of the weekend’s matches in Ligue 1, including an astonishing nine-goal game at Lille and another match-changing performance by Olivier Giroud, can be read here.
In the build-up to France’s final two Euro 2012 qualifiers, the French press have been quick to draw comparisons with the situation that faced Les Bleus at the end of their ill-fated qualification campaign for the 1994 World Cup.
Needing just a single point from their last two matches at home to Israel and Bulgaria, Gérard Houllier’s side somehow conspired to lose both to gut-wrenching last-minute goals. The stunning failure confirmed France’s unwelcome reputation for producing gifted but psychologically fragile sportsmen and the trauma of the event was only partially alleviated by the outcome of the next World Cup on home soil five years later.
Laurent Blanc was in the France team on that fateful November night at the Parc des Princes in 1993 but despite a despairing lunge he could not prevent Emil Kostadinov from slamming home the goal that brought the sky down on the hosts in the very last second of normal time, after David Ginola’s infamous overhit cross at the other end moments earlier.
The France coach has fielded plenty of questions this week about the similarities between the events of 18 years ago and the permutations confronting the present French side, who will take on Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the space of five days at Stade de France with only four points separating them from a place at Euro 2012.
In quieter moments, however, he may reflect that the current situation bears more of a resemblance to the time that preceded the darkest days of his managerial career to date, when he could only look on powerlessly as his Bordeaux side surrendered their Ligue 1 crown in one of the most astonishing collapses in the championship’s history.
A version of this piece was written for Agence France-Presse and published on the AFP newswire on Tuesday, May 17.
Lille will be practically assured of a first French league title since 1954 with victory over Sochaux on Wednesday evening, but in Francis Gillot’s side they must overcome the form team in the division.
A day after beating Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the Coupe de France final, Lille looked on gleefully as defending champions Marseille drew 2-2 at Lorient on Sunday to effectively concede defeat in the title race. Going into Wednesday’s home game, Rudi Garcia’s men require four points from their remaining three matches to complete the second league and cup double in the club’s history, after a previous such success in 1946. However, their +30 goal difference is seven goals superior to Marseille’s, meaning that OM would require something of a miracle to retain the trophy if Lille prevail in their next outing.
A third league title in the club’s history may be beckoning, but sporting director Frédéric Paquet says Lille cannot afford to look beyond the game against Sochaux. “We’ve expended a lot of energy in our recent series of matches and we’ll be up against a team who play well and who are on a positive dynamic,” he said. “The Marseille result changes almost nothing for us, because in any case, we absolutely have to win.”
If Marseille are seeking grounds for optimism, they will find them in the superb recent form of Sochaux’s young, ultra-attacking side. Unbeaten since a 2-0 defeat at Auxerre on March 19, Sochaux have picked up 17 points from a possible 21 in their last seven games. Having scored seven goals in their last two matches – a sensational 4-0 win at Bordeaux, followed by a 3-0 defeat of Monaco – they are now in pole position to secure sixth place and a berth in next season’s Europa League.
“PARIS — A late Anthony Modeste header earned Bordeaux a 1-1 draw at home to Marseille on Sunday and ensured the 2009 French champions avoided defeat in their first game since the sale of Yoann Gourcuff.”
My Ligue 1 round-up for AFP can be read here.
One of the most winsome things about Bordeaux’s rise to the crest of French football last year was the fact they did so with a proper, old-fashioned playmaker in Yoann Gourcuff, who rediscovered his touch after a frustrating spell at Milan to fire Les Girondins to the Ligue 1 title and the Coupe de la Ligue and into the knockout phase of this season’s Champions League.
Bordeaux’s subsequent collapse in 2010 – elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Lyon and a dismal run of domestic defeats that has put paid to any hope of a successful title defence – owes much to the thinness of Laurent Blanc’s squad and the inevitable fatigue induced by challenging for trophies on multiple fronts, but Gourcuff’s powerlessness to prevent their abrupt breakdown is also symptomatic of the demise of the classic number 10.
Gourcuff was the irresistible driving force behind Bordeaux’s title charge last spring and it was hoped by many observers that his efficacy in an advanced, central role might prefigure a renaissance in the kind of traditional playmaker whose decline in recent years has been a keen source of regret to anyone who enjoys seeing the game played with patience, wit and flair.
“I think we’re losing that position, that number 10. It feels like there are none left and that’s a great pity,” said Lionel Messi in an interview with FourFourTwo magazine in August last year. “Football is harder now; it’s more physical, there is more contact. It’s a shame. Number 10s were players who participated more in the game, got a lot of the ball and who made the game beautiful.”
Irrespective of what Bordeaux go on to achieve this season, it is impossible to overstate what their coach Laurent Blanc has done for the club.
In just under two years and nine months he has transformed the south-west side from occasionally successful also-rans into the emerging force in French football, having led them to a league and Coupe de la Ligue double last season, the top of the table this term and the last eight of the Champions League for the first time since 1988. Even more impressively, he has done so while making only minor adjustments to his playing staff in each close-season, taking Bordeaux to the top table of European football with a team containing only four regular internationals and featuring a notoriously stingy defence that cost just £3.8 million to assemble.
The key ingredients to Bordeaux’s success have been solidity and stability. Les Girondins are one of the toughest nuts to crack in the major European leagues, boasting a ratio of 0.82 goals conceded per game that is bettered only by Barcelona (0.62), Manchester United (0.78) and Schalke (0.81)*, while they let in just two goals in this season’s Champions League group phase despite being drawn alongside both Bayern Munich and Juventus.
Notoriously dangerous from Yoann Gourcuff’s wicked set-pieces – nine of their 13 goals in the Champions League this term have come from dead-ball situations – they pose a persistent aerial threat and demonstrated a ruthless will to win in the record-breaking 11-game winning streak that took them to last season’s Ligue 1 crown.
The news that Robin van Persie is likely to be out for between four and five months due to the ankle injury he sustained in the Netherlands’ friendly in Italy earlier this month is a massive body blow for Arsenal. Not only is he their top scorer and set-piece specialist, he is also pivotal to the way they play.
Arsène Wenger has traditionally been loath to dip his toes into the uncertain waters of the January transfer window, but the mid-season signing of Andrey Arshavin last term was the catalyst for a superb burst of form that saw Arsenal assemble a 21-game unbeaten streak in the league.
Furthermore, van Persie’s absence leaves Wenger with a gaping hole in his forward line that none of his other attacking players can adequately fill. Eduardo is too much of a poacher, Nicklas Bendtner not enough of a direct goal threat, Theo Walcott more of a winger and Carlos Vela too raw.