Posts Tagged ‘England’

Report: Mertesacker gives England sinking feeling

“London — Germany procured a smash-and-grab 1-0 victory over England in a friendly at Wembley on Tuesday, consigning their old rivals to successive home defeats for the first time since 1977.”

My AFP match report on England’s final game of 2013 can be found here.

Reaction: Hodgson values England gains above losses

Report: England caught cold by Sánchez and Chile

“London — England’s World Cup preparations began with a whimper on Friday as Alexis Sánchez scored twice to give Chile a 2-0 victory in a low-key friendly game at Wembley Stadium.”

My AFP report on a chastening night for Roy Hodgson’s experimental England side can be read here.

Reaction: Hodgson primes big guns after Chile setback

Report: Rooney, Gerrard send England to Brazil

“London (AFP) – England survived a night of tension to qualify for the World Cup after Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard secured a 2-0 win over Poland at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday.”

My AFP match report on the night England booked their ticket to Brazil can be read here.

Reaction: Hodgson frets over England World Cup picks

Report: Townsend strike tips England towards Brazil

“London — Tottenham Hotspur’s Andros Townsend crowned his international debut with a fine goal as England beat Montenegro 4-1 on Friday to close on a place at next year’s World Cup.”

My AFP match report on a night of English breakthroughs at Wembley can be read here.

Report: England stay on track despite Ukraine ordeal

“KIEV — England inched closer to qualifying for next year’s World Cup after surviving a number of scares to record a potentially crucial 0-0 draw against Ukraine in Kiev on Tuesday.”

My AFP match report on England’s laborious goalless draw in Ukraine can be read here.

Reaction: Hodgson defends lacklustre England
Related link: Joy, pain for Welbeck as England top group

Report: Latecomer Lambert quells Scottish uprising

“LONDON — Rickie Lambert scored with his first touch as an England player to earn a 3-2 win over old enemies Scotland in a gripping friendly game at Wembley on Wednesday.”

My AFP match report on an unexpectedly thrilling evening at Wembley can be read here.

Reaction: Lambert must build on dream debut – Hodgson

England lose perspective in pursuit of teenage kicks

The French may not have a direct equivalent to the word ‘teenager’ (there being no numerical suffix akin to ‘-teen’ in the language of Molière), but that doesn’t stop them remarking on the novelty when a player under the age of 20 is called up by the national team.

It happened twice earlier this month, when 19-year-olds Raphaël Varane and Paul Pogba were both included in Didier Deschamps’ squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Spain. Pogba rather spoilt the symmetry by turning 20 the following day, but it was such a rarity that L’Équipe marked the occasion with a photographic slideshow of the players to have graced the blue jersey while still awaiting the end of their second decade.

Varane and Pogba are exceptions. The expectation, in France, is that players will earn their spurs in the junior versions of the national team before eventually graduating to the senior side. France’s under-21 squad – known as les Espoirs (literally, ‘the hopes’) – brims with exciting players such as Milan striker M’Baye Niang and the Lyon pair of Clément Grenier and Alexandre Lacazette, but although they play for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, there is no clamour for them to be promoted to the senior squad before they are ready. That is partly down to the depth of talent already at Deschamps’ disposal, but it is also, partly, cultural.

Exceptional indeed is the player who is excused an apprenticeship in France’s representative youth teams. Despite Pogba’s widely acclaimed performances for Juventus this season, Deschamps has admitted to reluctance about allowing him to stroll straight into the first-team set-up. As recently as January, the former Marseille manager said the midfielder still needed “some carrot and stick” before he could be considered for selection. Both Pogba and Varane impressed on their debuts against Georgia on Friday, but afterwards the word on Deschamps’ lips was “potential”.

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Profile: Michael Owen, the boy wonder who ran out of gas

“LONDON: When Michael Owen comes to reflect on his career, he may have cause to remember New Year’s Eve 2005 with particular regret. After an underwhelming season at Real Madrid, Owen was back in England with Newcastle United. He had missed the start of the season with a thigh injury, but since making his debut in September, he had scored seven goals in nine league games, including a hat-trick at West Ham United a week before Christmas. Aged 26, he still looked like the lean, livewire striker who had scored 158 goals in 297 games for Liverpool, but in first-half injury time of a league game at White Hart Lane, disaster struck.”

My AFP profile of Michael Owen, who announced his retirement from football on Tuesday, can be read here.

Report: Slick England spoil Scolari’s Brazil return

“LONDON — England beat Brazil 2-1 on Wednesday to end a 23-year wait for victory over the five-time world champions and consign Luiz Felipe Scolari to defeat in the first game of his second spell as Brazil coach.”

My match report on England’s unexpectedly assured victory over Brazil at Wembley can be read here. There’s also a reaction piece here: Hodgson encouraged by England’s young lions.

Profile: Joe Cole – English football’s lost soul

“LONDON – Joe Cole’s return to his roots at West Ham United is his latest bid to revive a career that has been flat-lining ever since he left Chelsea for Liverpool in 2010. One of his generation’s stand-out players, Cole has been a household name in England for the best part of a decade but as he returns to Upton Park after a 10-year absence, there is a feeling that his talent remains unfulfilled.”

My profile of Joe Cole for AFP can be read here.

Reports: Mancini’s rage, Moses’ winner, Ibra’s goal from the gods

I’ve been fortunate to report on some fantastic games of football since starting my new role at AFP in London four weeks ago. Here are some of the match reports from my first month in the job:

Report: Man City on brink of exit after draw with Ajax
Report: Last-gasp Moses gives Chelsea new life
Report: Imperial Ibra slays England as Sweden celebrate

Analysis: Rooney scores but fails to sparkle on England return

“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.

Reaction: France reflect on what might have been

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.

Joe Cole enhanced by life beyond the Premier League

Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne. The Englishman receives the ball inside the opposition half and embarks on a purposeful run towards the goal in front of the Tribune Charles Paret. He is with new company in unfamiliar surroundings but, with the ball at his feet, he is reassured to find that the sensations are the same. Defenders disappear in his slipstream before a body-swerve takes him past another opponent and into the penalty area. With one sweep of his right foot, a new chapter in his life begins.

Michael Owen, 1998. Joe Cole, 2011. Two English players have experienced life-changing moments at Le Chaudron, home of Saint-Etienne. For Owen it was that goal against Argentina; for Cole, a dazzling dribble culminating in an assist for Ludovic Obraniak on his Lille debut in September.

If the comparison is apt, the context is very different. Owen was 18 when he left the Argentine defence for dead, but he was on the threshold of a career that, though sprinkled with trophies, never quite hit the giddy heights to which it aspired. Cole’s career appeared to be stagnating too but at 29, his move to France has revitalised him. If Owen’s goal represented the beginning of his professional life, Cole’s Geoffroy-Guichard moment was a re-birth.

While Owen is content to sit on the bench at Manchester United, insistent that last year’s Premier League title represented the “pinnacle” of his career, Cole – two years Owen’s junior – has put his reputation on the line by turning his back on the comfort of the domestic scene. Lille president Michel Seydoux confessed his surprise at his club’s success in luring a star from the Premier League, admitting that “seen from England, French football is a bit like the Third World”. Cole, though, had long been intrigued by the challenge of pitching himself into a foreign championship. “Sometimes I feel if I’d been born in a Latin country I may have been coached better to play as a number 10,” he once told Champions magazine.

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Pitchside Europe: The strangeness of international football

“Imagine, if you will, that every few weeks, you and a select group of people from rival companies were summoned to work together on a special project for which none of you were paid but which was considered more important than anything you could ever achieve in your day-to-day job. Sound absurd? Welcome to the world of the international footballer.”

This week’s Pitchside Europe column for Eurosport, on the dislocating experience of international football, can be found here.

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