Posts Tagged ‘France’

Feature: Griezmann v Ronaldo – duel of the magnificent sevens

Paul Pogba went into the tournament as the heir apparent to Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane, but L’Equipe newspaper dubbed the team the “Griezmann Generation” following the defeat of Germany. Griezmann is the first player to score six goals at a Euro since Platini, who netted nine times when France triumphed as hosts of the 1984 tournament. Ronaldo’s goal against Wales saw him equal Platini’s record of nine goals at Euro finals, but whereas it took the Frenchman one tournament to set his mark, it has taken the Portugal captain four to equal it.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann – the preening superstar and baby-faced poster boy – come face-to-face in Sunday’s Euro 2016 final, with both players capable of deciding the match. You can read my piece on their showdown here.

Analysis: Striding Sissoko stakes claim for France role

Aligned alongside Yohan Cabaye and Paul Pogba in a three-man midfield, Sissoko impressed as France recorded a 0-0 draw against the Swiss in Lille on Sunday that took them into the last 16 as Group A winners. As well as catching the eye with his driving runs, his inclusion allowed Pogba to excel in his preferred left-sided role and with Blaise Matuidi struggling for form, the 26-year-old Newcastle United midfielder has given coach Didier Deschamps food for thought. “Didier has a difficult choice to make,” former France midfielder Alain Boghossian told Monday’s edition of French sports daily L’Equipe. “With Pogba having rediscovered his place, Blaise Matuidi could pay the price, even though he’s shone brilliantly for the past two years.”

Could Moussa Sissoko play his way into France’s starting XI? Some thoughts on his performance against Switzerland here.

Betway Insider podcast: England, France and Euro 2016

I made my first appearance on the Betway Insider podcast this week to talk about Roy Hodgson’s tactical conundrums with England, France’s troubled preparations for Euro 2016 and my favourite memories from reporting on major tournaments. You can listen to it here.

Profile: West Ham recitals earn Payet new France chance

Hailing from the French island of La Réunion in the Indian Ocean, Payet was released by mainland club Le Havre at 16 and had to be persuaded not to abandon his dream of becoming a professional by his father, Alain. Offered a path back to Ligue 1 by Nantes, he acquired a reputation as a flamboyant but errant talent. At Nantes he clashed in training with former France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez. At Saint-Étienne he headbutted team-mate Blaise Matuidi in the middle of a match. At Marseille he fell out with Florian Thauvin. It partly explains why Matuidi — now of Paris Saint-Germain — has 41 France caps to Payet’s 15, despite the two being born less than two weeks apart.

A piece on Dimitri Payet, once one of French football’s enfants terribles, now the last darling of the Boleyn Ground.

Report: Wembley unites to honour Paris victims

A moving rendition of the French national anthem reverberated around London’s Wembley Stadium on Tuesday as fans of England and France paid tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks. In a crowd of 71,223 that included British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William, many stood to sing ‘La Marseillaise’ four days on from the attacks, which left 129 people dead and over 350 injured. England won a subdued match 2-0 courtesy of goals from Dele Alli and captain Wayne Rooney, but the outcome of the contest was a mere anecdote on a night thick with poignancy. “Emotionally, it was a very, very strong moment,” France manager Didier Deschamps told his post-match press conference.

Having spent four years living in Paris, and two years living just around the corner from where some of last week’s attacks took place, I found it very moving to be at Wembley on Tuesday for the friendly match between England and France. You can read my report on the night here.

Related link: Fans calm, defiant ahead of England-France game

Report: Pogba opens door as France reach last eight

“Brasília (Brazil) (AFP) – A Paul Pogba header and a Joseph Yobo own goal saw France edge a hard-fought contest with Nigeria 2-0 in Brasilia on Monday to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.”

My AFP match report from the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha can be read here.

Reaction: Keshi blasts referee after Nigeria fall to France
Analysis: Pogba ready to shoulder French expectations

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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Analysis: France firing blanks as Spain loom into view

“Karim Benzema is still to score in the [Didier] Deschamps era, but he and Franck Ribéry often appear the only players capable of making things happen in the final third. The Real Madrid striker could have scored three or four goals against Japan before being withdrawn at half-time, while Ribéry tested [Eiji] Kawashima twice within minutes of entering the fray as a 68th-minute substitute. As L’Equipe drily noted on Saturday, “without Benzema and Ribery, nothing much happens”.”

I’ve written a piece for AFP on France’s misfiring forwards, ahead of Tuesday’s pivotal World Cup qualifier with Spain in Madrid. You can read it here.

Heft and harmony at the heart of Deschamps’ France blueprint

Didier Deschamps may have been overlooked for the France job in both 2008 and 2010, but upon finally taking up the role in July this year, he found the problems facing the national coach had barely changed.

As in 2010 and, to a lesser extent, 2008, France emerged from this year’s major tournament chastened by sporting underachievement and embarrassed by reports of off-pitch turmoil. The fall-out from Euro 2012 was nowhere near as painful as it was after the rank humiliation of the 2010 World Cup, nor were the performances as poor as they were either in South Africa or at Euro 2008, but Deschamps knows that there is nonetheless, if not a full rebuilding process, then a period of recalibration to be undertaken.

For all the criticism of France’s conservative approach against Spain in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals, and all the tales of changing-room unrest that abounded, Laurent Blanc clearly left the team in a far healthier state than he had found it. Three months after taking up the reins from his former international team-mate, Deschamps is already making his mark by attempting to create a side that packs more of a punch on the pitch, but generates fewer headlines off it.

In his first press conference after taking over, Deschamps said he wanted to build a side that “imposes itself on its opponents”, and the most striking thing about the teams that he has fielded in his three games so far has been their physicality.

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Report: France exorcise Belarus ghost to claim second win

“PARIS — France took control of their 2014 World Cup qualifying group by overcoming a second-half wobble to beat former bêtes noires Belarus 3-1 at Stade de France on Tuesday.”

My AFP match report on France’s victory over Belarus, which featured first international goals for Étienne Capoue and Christophe Jallet, as well as a man-of-the-match performance from Franck Ribéry, can be read here.

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