Posts Tagged ‘Loïc Rémy’

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.

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Report: Marseille ride luck to beat Le Havre in Coupe de France

“PARIS — Extra-time goals from Morgan Amalfitano and Loïc Rémy brought Marseille a hard-earned 3-1 victory over Le Havre on Sunday, sending them into the Coupe de France last 16 and extending their winning run to six straight games.”

My round-up of the weekend’s Coupe de France action for AFP, including narrow wins over lower-league opposition for Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux, can be read here.

Report: Rémy brace weakens Lille’s grip on title

“PARIS — Lille’s French title defence received a significant setback on Sunday as their 17-game unbeaten run came to an end in a 2-0 defeat at resurgent Marseille in which Loïc Rémy claimed both goals.”

Read my AFP match report on Marseille’s victory over Lille, as well as a round-up of all the weekend’s Ligue 1 action, here.

Report: Resurgent Marseille inflict painful defeat on PSG

“PARIS — Marseille put a trying week behind them in the best possible fashion on Sunday night, with a 3-0 victory at home to Paris Saint-Germain that put a sizeable dent in their arch rivals’ title hopes.”

To read my AFP match report on the first ‘clasico‘ of the Ligue 1 season, click here.

Report: Blanc looks on bright side after narrow France win

“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.

Tactics: Champions League lights up Marseille’s escape route

In the popular imagination, tactical innovations are often the product of deep rumination by battle-worn coaches desperate to reverse the fortunes of an ailing team. We are invited to imagine them pacing around their training ground offices late at night, a half-drained bottle of brandy within easy reach, or perhaps wide-eyed and manic, furiously rearranging salt and pepper mills to the bewilderment of their companions at a swanky dinner. Suddenly, the eureka moment arrives. The centre-forward needs to be withdrawn to a deeper role! The sweeper should play behind the defence! Wing-backs!

The reality, of course, is usually rather more prosaic – tactical shifts evolve by training ground experimentation, or are imposed upon a coach by injuries, suspensions or losses of form – but sometimes, a new strategy will present itself quite by accident.

With one sweep of Aaron Ramsey’s right boot, Marseille’s season lurched from desperate to tragi-comic on Wednesday night. Almost literally incapable of winning in Ligue 1 (where they have registered one victory in their opening 10 games), OM had found respite in the Champions League and were seconds from taking a valuable point from a dismal game with Arsenal when Johan Djourou’s cross drew in Marseille’s defenders like moths to a flame and left the Welsh midfielder with time and space to beat Steve Mandanda with an unflappable finish at the back post.

Defeat was cruel on Marseille, who had limited the visitors to just two clear second-half chances up to that point, although Borussia Dortmund’s unscheduled 3-1 defeat at Olympiakos means their chances of reaching the knockout phase remain in good shape. It would be unfortunate indeed for Didier Deschamps’ slide to slip from the competition at the group stage, for it is in the Champions League that their tactical escape route has been illuminated.

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Reaction: Blanc concerned by new France injuries

France are a point from a place at Euro 2012 after beating Albania 3-0 on Friday, but fresh injuries have stretched Laurent Blanc’s resources even more thinly ahead of Tuesday’s game with Bosnia-Herzegovina. You can read my AFP reaction piece from Stade de France here.

La semaine en France: Week 38

This season’s final 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
After 34 years in France’s top flight, during which they won five league titles, three Coupes de France, one Coupe de la Ligue and finished runners-up in the 2003-04 Champions League, Monaco were relegated to Ligue 2 following a 2-0 defeat by Lyon last Sunday.

For once Stade Louis II was packed to the rafters, but the home side looked no more cohesive than they have all season and eventually succumbed to second-half goals from Pape Diakhaté and Lisandro López. The legacy of a muddled transfer policy, Monaco’s descent already seems certain to cost them the services of goalkeeper Stéphane Ruffier and South Korea striker Park Chu-Young, and they are unlikely to be the only ones to jump ship.

Victory secured a Champions League place for OL, meaning Paris Saint-Germain had to content themselves with the Europa League. There was better news to come for PSG, however, after Colony Capital announced that they had agreed to sell a controlling 70 percent stake in the club to a group of Qatari investors widely believed to be the Qatar Investment Authority. Cue outlandish transfer rumours.

Rennes’ 3-2 defeat at champions Lille saw them lose out on fifth place to Sochaux, who won 3-1 at Arles-Avignon. Sochaux will therefore avoid the inconvenience of a July start in the Europa League, but they will do so without Francis Gillot, after the coach revealed he was in talks to join Bordeaux. Jean Fernandez, meanwhile, has stepped down as coach of Auxerre.

A Loïc Rémy double rescued a 2-2 draw for Marseille at Caen, but the outgoing champions face an uncertain summer. Gabriel Heinze and Lucho González are already heading for the exit, while Didier Deschamps has until June 15 to decide whether or not to trigger a contractual clause that allows him to buy himself out of his contract for €3 million.

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

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La semaine en France: Week 31

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
Another misstep from Lille allowed Marseille to close to within a point of the leaders in Week 31, while Paris Saint-Germain confirmed their return to form by beating Lyon 1-0 and relauching their bid for a Champions League place.

Lille were held to a 1-1 draw by Bordeaux last Saturday – Vujadin Savić cancelling out Moussa Sow’s 21st goal of the season with a near-post header from a corner – but Rudi Garcia refused to sound the alarm and said he had been much more encouraged by his team’s performance than in the 1-0 loss at Monaco the week before.

Marseille capitalised by winning 2-1 at Montpellier, but as so often this season, they elected to do things the hard way. Olivier Giroud broke the deadlock for the hosts but OM replied immediately through a fine André-Pierre Gignac strike (see below) before Taye Taiwo completed the comeback from the spot. Loïc Rémy won the penalty after being held back by Abdelhamid El Kaoutari but both men were then sent off for a needless spot of argy-bargy, meaning they will both be in the stands for Saturday’s Coupe de la Ligue final.

PSG recorded their second win on the spin with a superb victory over Lyon at Parc des Princes. Antoine Kombouaré’s side completely bossed the first half but had to weather a Lyon flurry early in the second before an untidy goal by Zoumana Camara secured the points. It left Lyon six points off Lille’s pace and just a point above fourth-placed PSG.

Auxerre leapt clear of the relegation zone after a stunning injury-time free-kick by Dariusz Dudka snatched a 1-0 win at Toulouse, with Caen slipping into the bottom three thanks to a 3-2 reverse at Sochaux. Arles-Avignon were finally put out of their misery by Valenciennes and Lens are now six points from safety following a 1-1 draw with Brest.

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

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La semaine en France: Week 10

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
Setbacks for all of their major rivals allowed Marseille to move into second place last weekend and victory at home to leaders Rennes on Saturday night is guaranteed to take the defending champions back to the top of the pile for the first time since the end of 2009-10.

OM have yet to set anyone’s pulse racing this season, but in their 3-1 win at Lille they showed some of the pragmatism and composure that took them to their first league title in 18 years last term. On the back foot throughout the first half, they fell behind to a Yohan Cabaye effort in the 26th minute and would have been out of contention by half-time had it not been for a string of excellent stops from Steve Mandanda. Loïc Rémy scored twice in the second half, either side of a deflected strike by Lucho González, to extend Marseille’s run without defeat to eight games.

Rennes misfired once again in the continued absence through injury of striker Victor Hugo Montaño, losing 1-0 at home to Montpellier to cede the league’s last unbeaten record. Saint-Etienne slipped a place to third after Dimitri Payet ballooned a last-minute penalty over the crossbar in a 1-1 draw at home to Caen. Promoted Brest are now level on points with Marseille and Les Verts in fourth, having registered their fourth straight away win with a 2-0 victory at Bordeaux.

Paris Saint-Germain’s defensive frailties unexpectedly returned as they lost 3-2 at home to Auxerre, despite Nenê’s sweet curler having put them ahead after just 50 seconds, while Lyon’s recent momentum petered out in mystifyingly meek fashion in a 1-1 draw at Arles-Avignon.

Marseille’s fans were celebrating, meanwhile, after a court in the city suspended the Professional Football League’s (LFP) decision to ban away fans from this season’s two games between OM and PSG.

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