Posts Tagged ‘Karim Benzema’

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 The Real Madrid striker could have scored three or four goals against Japan before being withdrawn at half-time, while Ribéry tested [Eiji] Kawashima twice within minutes of entering the fray as a 68th-minute substitute.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.

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.

Blanc’s France still searching for an identity

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.

Continue reading »

French football quotes of the year 2011

L’Entente Cordiale

“They say it’s because I’m a sexy boy. The English are crazy!”
Yohan Cabaye, on the ‘Dreamboat’ nickname bestowed upon him by Newcastle’s fans

“Behind the ‘big guns’ like Chelsea or Manchester [United], there’s also Sunderland or Wolverhampton. French players who are used to getting on the ball end up watching it fly over their heads for 90 minutes.”
– Marseille sporting director José Anigo has some words of advice for any budding Ligue 1 talents dreaming of plying their trade in the Premier League

“If you want us to just stick it in the box like I’ve seen Stoke City do, you’ll have to change the coach. I forbid it.”
– Rennes coach Frédéric Antonetti shares his thoughts on the football doctrine advocated by Tony Pulis

“Without wanting to be unkind, it’s difficult when there are only four of you defending. Sometimes you feel like you’re on your own. When you watch Barça, everyone defends – even Messi!”
Laurent Koscielny feels a bit exposed in the Arsenal back four

“Sometimes I tell jokes and Joe Cole and I look at each other and we’re the only ones laughing.”
Vincent Enyeama on the language barrier in the Lille changing room

“Bon match pour… my team – mon équipe – et… I’m very happy!”
– Ambushed by Canal+’s touchline reporter Laurent Paganelli, Joe Cole has a stab at his first interview in the language of his new homeland after Lille’s 3-1 win over Lyon

Banter

“Once again I’m attacked by Jean-Michel Larqué. I hope with all my heart I don’t end up like him after my career, but there’s no chance of that because I’m not an idiot.”
– Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Jérémie Janot has a pop at 63-year-old television pundit Jean-Michel Larqué, who had criticised him for letting in two late goals at Lens

“Your mum.”
Aly Cissokho’s considered response to a supporter who told him to “go and join Arles-Avignon” during a Lyon training session in April

“Although the score was already 3-0, he’d been taking the piss out of us with the ball for a few minutes, dribbling past his opponent and then waiting so he could dribble past him again. It’s a lack of respect. Even his Lille team-mates said he was going too far.”
– Nancy captain André Luiz takes a dim view of Eden Hazard’s showboating

“Marseille come up to Paris to fuck PSG!”
– Microphone in hand, match-winner Taye Taiwo gets a bit carried away during the Coupe de la Ligue post-match celebrations by leading the OM fans in a chorus of one of their favourite chants

“It was a good response to people who don’t know football. It’ll make them shut their big mouths.”
Modibo Maiga relishes his brace in a 3-0 defeat of Toulouse after stumbling into the viewfinder of the Sochaux boo boys

“At that moment, I told myself that they’d gone mad and didn’t realise. Today I know that I was wrong: they knew exactly what they were doing. They even closed the curtains on the bus to hide themselves from the cameras… With hindsight, I see them above all as a bunch of thoughtless brats.”
Raymond Domenech is still struggling to let go of the 2010 World Cup

Continue reading »

Pitchside Europe: Does Higuaín cramp Ronaldo’s style?

“The statistics over the last two seasons add weight to the theory that Ronaldo is more inclined to adopt the role of a creator – and suppress his own goalscoring instincts – when Higuaín is in the team. Since the start of the 2009-10 campaign, Ronaldo has started 39 league games alongside Higuaín, scoring 40 goals at a rate of 1.03 per game. Over the same period, Ronaldo’s goals-per-game ratio when he starts alongside Benzema is slightly higher, at 1.125. The assist figures tell a similar story. With Benzema next to him at kick-off, Ronaldo produces an average of 0.25 assists per match. Alongside Higuaín, that figure climbs to 0.41.”

This week’s Pitchside Europe column for Eurosport can be read here.

ESPN Soccernet: Benzema ready to flourish at Real

“The patience from which Benzema has benefited at Real may owe something to the influence of Zinedine Zidane in the corridors of power at the Bernabeu, and it is to Zidane that thoughts most readily turn when Benzema is on his game. There is a thoughtful deliberateness and a sinewy elegance to Benzema that recalls Zidane at his most beguiling, right down to the way the younger man cajoles the ball with the outside of his foot when in possession.”

My latest piece for ESPN Soccernet, on how Karim Benzema has managed to turn things around at Real Madrid, can be read here.

La semaine en France: Week 24

A bite-size round-up of the week’s events in French football, for anyone who wants to keep up with what’s happening in Ligue 1 but hasn’t got the time (or the French) to do so.

Ligue 1
Having managed to avoid defeat since a 3-1 loss at home to Marseille in Week 10, Lille’s resistance finally buckled when they fell to a 1-0 loss in a scrappy and otherwise unremarkable game at Montpellier last Sunday.

Moroccan starlet Younes Belhanda scored the game’s only goal in the 84th minute, charging at the retreating Lille defence from the right flank, circumventing Adil Rami’s impromptu war dance on the edge of the box and drilling a deflected shot into the bottom-left corner. To make matters worse for Lille, all their title rivals won.

Rennes are now just two points off the pace in second place following a 2-1 win at Toulouse, while Marseille, Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain are all within four points of the leaders. Marseille moved up to third place by beating Saint-Etienne 2-1 in a fractious affair at the Vélodrome, but the night ended on a sour note for the champions after André-Pierre Gignac had to go off with a groin injury that ruled him out of the Champions League match with Manchester United.

Lyon and PSG remain level on points in fourth and fifth place respectively after both enjoyed one-sided victories. Lyon ran out 4-0 victors at home to Nancy on Friday night, while PSG outclassed Nice 3-0 on Sunday.

The week’s most eye-catching result was Bordeaux’s 5-1 capitulation at Lorient (after a tidy hat-trick from Kévin Gameiro), which prompted Bordeaux coach Jean Tigana to admit that the 2009 champions are now officially in crisis. There were red cards for Lorient full-back Franco Sosa and Bordeaux goalkeeper Cédric Carrasso – who was sent off for twice handling the ball outside his area – while Sochaux’s 3-2 win at Lens also finished with 10 men on each side after Toifilou Maoulida and Kévin Anin both saw red following a first-half tête-à-tête.

Ligue 1 results
Friday: Lyon 4-0 Nancy; Saturday: Auxerre 1-1 Arles-Avignon, Brest 2-0 Monaco, Caen 2-2 Valenciennes, Lens 2-3 Sochaux, Marseille 2-1 Saint-Etienne, Lorient 5-1 Bordeaux; Sunday: Montpellier 1-0 Lille, Nice 0-3 PSG, Toulouse 1-2 Rennes

Continue reading »

Report: Lyon old boy Benzema gives Real Madrid edge

“LYON, France — Karim Benzema scored against his former club Lyon to earn Real Madrid a 1-1 draw here on Tuesday that puts them in a strong position to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.”

My AFP match report can be read here.

La semaine en France: Week 22

A bite-size round-up of the week’s events in French football, for anyone who wants to keep up with what’s happening in Ligue 1 but hasn’t got the time (or the French) to do so.

Ligue 1
Dariusz Dudka’s 86th-minute equaliser in Auxerre’s 1-1 draw at home to Lille last Sunday may ultimately prove to be nothing more than a footnote to the Ligue 1 season, but Lille will know that it could very well become one of the goals that defines the title race.

Had Lille held onto the lead earned by Moussa Sow’s sublime overhead bicycle kick early in the first half, they would have finished the weekend seven points clear at the top of the table. Sow’s inattention at a late free-kick allowed Dudka to spring the offside trap, however, and give the chasing pack fresh hope that Lille may yet stumble in the home straight.

It was a weekend of false starts for the title pretenders. Paris Saint-Germain remain second, but a 1-0 loss at Rennes prevented them from capitalising on Dudka’s helping hand. Yacine Brahimi scored the only goal, leaving Claude Makelele for dust and firing into the bottom-right corner, as Rennes put the 5-1 drubbing at Sochaux and their Coupe de France upset against Reims squarely behind them.

Marseille are a point behind PSG and Rennes in fourth, but their 1-0 win at home to rock bottom Arles-Avignon was a wretched affair that will have inspired little confidence as Manchester United loom on the horizon in the Champions League. The fare was better at Lyon-Bordeaux on Sunday night but there were no goals, as OL dropped three places to sixth and Les Girondins fell to ninth.

With Dimitri Payet cast out to the reserves, an Emmanuel Rivière brace gave Saint-Etienne a 2-1 win at Montpellier that lifted the 10-time champions above Lyon into fifth place on goals scored ahead of Saturday’s second Derby du Rhône of the season. Moussa Sissoko was also on target twice as Toulouse sank Monaco 2-0.

Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Brest 2-1 Nancy, Caen 0-2 Lorient, Lens 1-1 Valenciennes, Marseille 1-0 Arles-Avignon, Montpellier 1-2 Saint-Etienne, Nice 1-0 Sochaux, Rennes 1-0 PSG; Sunday: Auxerre 1-1 Lille, Toulouse 2-0 Monaco, Lyon 0-0 Bordeaux.

Continue reading »

Report: Benzema on the mark as France beat 10-man Brazil

“PARIS — Laurent Blanc’s regeneration of the French national team continued apace on Wednesday as his side defeated 10-man Brazil 1-0 in a friendly match at the Stade de France.”

Read my AFP match report here.

Latest Tweets
Archives