Tag Archives: France

2014 World Cup Draw Set

6 Dec

Yeah, I know, it’s been forever and a day since I actually posted anything, but the World Cup makes a person want to blog again, if only to complain about how rough the US has it.  Anyway, the ridiculously drawn out official draw was today and while yeah, the US has it rough, spare a thought for the Aussies, who have an even tougher go.  And while almost everyone can complain about the groups right now, in the end it’s all about what happens on the field.  Anything can happen on any given day and that’s one of the things that makes the World Cup (and sports in general) so awesome.

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon

Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia

Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea

I’ll admit that my initial thoughts were that the USA was on the receiving end of a brutal draw (In fact I think my exact words were ‘holy shit’).  But after thinking about it a little bit, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as it could’ve been.  I think it’s great that the US will open against Ghana.  It’s going to be huge for the Yanks to start the tournament well and if they can do so against a team that’s knocked them out of the last two World Cups, so much the better.  There’s no doubt they’ll have the motivation to take down Ghana.  Portugal is tough, even if they only qualified through the strength of one Mr. Ronaldo, but I do think they are beatable if the US can play an entire 90 minutes.  I believe that Germany is the top team in the group and probably one of the favorites for the tournament.  That will be interesting if only for the storyline of Klinsmann taking on his home country.  I’ll chalk that one up for a German victory.

As I’ve said in the past, the key to US success on the big stage is putting together a solid 90 minutes. They can’t afford to have lapses and give up early goals like they did against England, Slovenia, Ghana x2 last time around.  Coming from behind to win/draw is not a sustainable model for success. The US has been playing well in the past year and I think Klinsmann’s system is finally starting to click.  It’s just a matter of whether they can show up when it really counts and play consistent football.

Now for the extremely premature predictions.  Of course a team’s chances could go to hell in a handbasket pretty quick with a couple key injuries and we all know that there is a lot of football to be played before we get to Brazil.  But based on how things stand currently, this is what my gut says:

Advance to second round (1st, 2nd)

Group A: Brazil, Croatia

Group B: Spain, Chile

Group C: Colombia, Japan

Group D: Italy, England

Group E: France, Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, USA

Group H: Belgium, South Korea

Knockout

A1 vs. B2: Brazil vs. Chile – Brazil

A2 vs. B1: Spain vs. Croatia – Spain

C1 vs. D2: Colombia vs. England – Colombia

C2 vs. D1: Japan vs. Italy – Italy

E1 vs. F2: France vs. Nigeria – France

E2 vs. F1: Honduras vs. Argentina – Argentina

G1 vs. H2: Germany vs. South Korea – Germany

G2 vs. H1: USA vs. Belgium – Belgium

Round of 8

Brazil vs. Colombia – Brazil

France vs. Germany – Germany

Spain vs. Italy – Spain

Argentina vs. Belgium – Argentina

Semifinals

Brazil vs. Germany – Brazil

Spain vs. Argentina – Spain

Final

Brazil vs. Spain – Brazil

Going with the home country in this one.  France was the last team to lift the World Cup in their home country, but I think Brazil has the talent to get it done.  Spain’s got the experience though and Brazil will be under mountains of pressure, so I anticipate this final going down to the last minutes.

U.S. Women into World Cup final

14 Jul

I haven’t written about the Women’s World Cup at all and frankly, that’s pathetic because the tournament deserves coverage.  Anyways, the U.S. will play Japan in the final on Sunday.  The U.S. defeated France, 3-1, in the first semi and Japan picked apart Sweden by the same scoreline.  It should be quite the interesting final as Japan dominated host and two-time champ Germany in the quarterfinals and also controlled the semi against Sweden.  The Japanese have clearly shown they belong in the final and the U.S. will have a tough time defending their possession game.

Here are some keys to a U.S. win on Sunday:

1. Continue to take advantage of chances – The U.S. was outshot by France, 25-11, in the semifinal on Wednesday.  The French also tallied eight shots on goal to the USA’s five.  The main difference?  The U.S. put the ball in the back of the net on three of the five attempts at goal.  The French had one.  The U.S. also had five shots on goal against Brazil and converted two of them.  With the way Japan plays, I would think the Red, White and Blue will have limited chances in the final as well.  They just need to take advantage of them and having players like Abby Wambach up front definitely help their cause.

2. Improved ball control – The U.S. needs to do a better job of controlling the ball through the midfield.  There were too many chances for France after a poorly placed pass out of the back.  The U.S. struggled to string passes together and they will face a similar battle against Japan.  The Japanese like to play possession soccer, but the U.S. is capable of doing it too as long as they can hold onto the ball for more than three seconds and make smarter decisions.

3. Smart defense – It will be vital for the U.S. to play tough defense on Sunday.  The majority of the shots the French took on Wednesday came from outside the box and while those can be tough for a keeper, you know she’d rather face shots from outside the 18 than the six-yard box.  It will also be important for the defense to be able to clear the ball out of danger immediately.  Japan will pounce on misplayed balls (like the long lob into the goal after Sweden’s goalie came too far out OR Sawa’s header after the ball was bouncing around in the box) and the U.S. will not be able to afford costly turnovers.

Both teams are coming in full of confidence after gutsy performances in the quarters and semis.  It should be a fantastic game as the U.S. team tries win its first title since the famous 1999 shootout and Japan looks to win its first-ever title and inspire a nation still dealing with the effects of the tsunami earlier this year.  There will be a lot of pressure on both sides and the team that can handle it the best will walk away with the trophy.

My prediction: USA 3, Japan 2 in extra time

European drama

12 Oct

Euro 2012 qualifiers continued today and I finally got to watch some of the action. (Yay for ESPN3 at work!) 

  • Germany absolutely dominated Kazakhstan and had Mesut Ozil been able to find the back of the net, the Germans could have won 7-0 instead of 3-0.   I love watching Germany play. They spread the field so well and move the ball up the field quickly on counterattacks. They currently sit top of their group with four wins out of four games.
  • In the same group, Azerbaijan upset Turkey, 1-0.  Turkey looked lackluster against Germany last week and obviously did not improve much today. Turkey can still qualify, but they have a lot less margin for error now.
  • Seriously, can Liverpool catch a break?  Both Dirk Kuyt and Daniel Agger picked up injuries playing for their respective countries and first reports say that Kuyt could be out until February.  However, I’m skeptical of that as he was able to walk off the field under his own power and did not look like he was in too much pain.  Guess we will just have to wait and see.
  • England was zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh, sorry, I fell asleep there. Yeah, that bad. Way to go Montenegro.
  • Spain was able to hold off a plucky Scotland, thanks to a late goal from Fernando Llorente. I have to give props to Scotland though for not sitting back against the defending champions of everything. They kept their calm after going down 2-0 and were close to pulling off a huge draw.
  • Robbie Keane missed a couple big chances to give Ireland a win over Slovakia.  He had a penalty saved and also skied a clear look at goal. Keane and Ireland had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
  • Of course all the teams I said that needed to win this week did. France, Portugal and the Czech Republic all got their campaigns back on track.
  • The Faroe Islands, yeah that team with a -13 goal difference and not a point to its name, frustrated Northern Ireland in a 1-1 draw. Way to go, little guys.
  • Oh yeah, I almost forgot about the chaos in Italy.  The match between Italy and Serbia had to be called off completely due to “crowd disturbances”. In other words, Serbian hooligans were throwing flares on the field towards their own team (I don’t get it either) and were generally causing massive amounts of trouble.  The game was originally delayed just over half an hour, but had to be abandoned only six minutes after starting. If you want a startling first-hand account, check out http://twitter.com/marcotti.

Euro qualifiers continue

8 Oct

Yes people, it’s time for another international break, which means it’s time for Euro qualifiers and a few friendlies scattered around the globe.  In Europe, France, the Czech Republic and Portugal are off to a rough start and would be helped greatly by wins this weekend. However, Denmark is no pushover for Portugal and Scotland can be dangerous for the Czechs. Germany and Turkey also play today in a rematch of the Euro semifinal in 2008 and it should be one of the day’s more intriguing match-ups. The day’s first result was a surprise as Armenia took out Slovakia, 3-1.

Elsewhere around the globe, the U.S. is playing Poland in a friendly on Saturday (since Poland automatically qualified as the host nation of Euro).  The U.S. has 13 players from the World Cup squad and is made up primarily of overseas players.  Brek Shea and Heath Pearce of FC Dallas are the exception.  Saturday’s game will be a chance for U.S. fans to finally see the first appearance of midfielder Jermaine Jones after many delays.

Euro qualifiers
October 8

Armenia 3:1 Slovakia (B)
Kazakhstan vs. Belgium (A)
Hungary vs. San Marino (E)
Andorra vs. Macedonia (B)
Georgia vs. Malta (F)
Cyprus vs. Norway (H)
Luxembourg vs. Belarus (D)
Czech Republic vs. Scotland (I)
Moldova vs. Netherlands (E)
Albania vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina (D)
Austria vs. Azerbaijan (A)
Serbia vs. Estonia (C)
Wales vs. Bulgaria (G)
Montenegro vs. Switzerland (G)
Germany vs. Turkey (A)
Northern Ireland vs. Italy (C)
Slovenia vs. Faroe Islands (C)
Ireland vs. Russia (B)
Greece vs. Latvia (F)
Portugal vs. Denmark (H)
Spain vs. Lithuania (I)

October 9
France vs. Romania (D)
Israel vs. Croatia (F)

Anelka laughs in the face of a ban

18 Aug

Nicolas Anelka was banned 18 international games after his whole getting sent home from the World Cup early and embarassing France to no end debacle. And guess who doesn’t give a rat’s butt about it?  That’s right, Mr. Anelka.  He’s already said that he doesn’t want to play for France again and I’m sure new head coach Laurent Blanc is totally fine with that.  Anelka was quoted as saying that the France Football Federation were “real clowns” and he was “dying with laughter”.  Ouch.

I realize they were trying to make a point, but could it have been any more ineffective?  The man’s not going to play for you again and clearly wouldn’t care one way or another, so why not punish him in a different way?  Say…monetarily.  I’m sure he has a spare couple million euros he’d like to get rid of.  Use that money for youth development so you don’t end up with more players like Anelka.

It really is unfortunate (others might say karmic) that France went down in flames the way they did.  Anelka might be laughing now, but I bet that he’s going to regret his behavior in 10 years.  It’s not every day you get selected to represent your country on the world’s biggest stage.  He might become one of those players that’s more remember for his act of stupidity as opposed to what he actually did on the field.

Final thoughts on the 2010 World Cup

13 Jul

I am still slightly saddened by the fact that the most glorious month of football is over for another four years.  It all went by so fast.  I’m resigned to watching MLS and waiting on transfer rumours until the Premier League starts August 14.  Lame.  Anyways, I got the idea for this post from Sports Illustrated’s 50 observations story and figured it was a good way to do things since I have too many jumbled up thoughts in my head to actually write a coherent post.

My 27 thoughts on South Africa 2010 (in no particular order and which I’m sure to add to)

1. There was no better way to start the tournament than Siphiwe Tshabalala’s rocket shot.  An awesome start for the host nation.

2. I still can’t believe what a disaster the French team was.  Those players are going to be embarassed when they look back on this.

3. I lost track of the number of times I wished that Charlie Davies was healthy and able to play for the U.S. Robbie Findley’s inability to get a decent shot off was so damn frustrating.

4. The more replays I see of Nigel De Jong’s karate kick to Xabi Alonso’s chest, the more I’m amazed that he only ended up with a yellow card.

5. The emotion in this sport is phenomenal.  You can go from tears to cheers to outrage, all over the course of 90 minutes.  What a fantastic sport.

6. How awesome would it have been to be in Spain for the final on Sunday? 

7. Spain’s win emphasized the team over individual.  That team is full of all-stars, but they put their egos aside for their country.  Take note of that, England.

8. While entertaining, Diego Maradona is not fit for coaching.  Like I’ve said before, being a great player does not make you a good coach.

9. Germany was the most fun to watch (well, except against Spain).  The way they could move the ball up the pitch so quickly and finish so well was awesome. 

10. I still think refs needs to be held accountable for their decisions during a game.  There’s no real punishment if they screw up.

11. Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal against Algeria was one of the highlights of my U.S. soccer watching career.  Absolutely amazing.  It made me cry.

12. Who would have thought Uruguay would make it to the semifinals?  Diego Forlan was a complete stud throughout the tournament and rightly won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player.

13. Italy’s failure to advance out of the group stage was all about cockiness. They thought they could cakewalk through the group and that wasn’t the case.

14. I think the vuvuzela will stay a South African tradition.  I’m sure a few will pop up in other places, but there’s no way it’s going to replace a good old-fashioned yell.

15. Tim Howard was disappointing for team USA.  Yeah, he had a couple of good saves against England, but he was otherwise pedestrian.  I expected more from a top-class keeper.

16. Fernando Torres was clearly not 100% fit.  His touch was off and he couldn’t find the back of the net to save his life.  An apparent hamstring? groin? injury was just the crappy end he needed.  Well, at least he ended up with a winner’s medal as consolation.

17. I think there should be retroactive punishments for horrible diving.  Example: Ivory Coast’s Kader Keita’s dramatic “facial injury” after running into Kaka, which earned the Brazilian his second yellow of the game.  The game does not need that shizz.

18. How did Lionel Messi not score a goal?  He had some pretty wicked shots on goal and had some goalies make some terrific saves.

19. I have absolutely no problem with what Luis Suarez did in the Uruguay-Ghana game.  Was it illegal? Yes.  Did he get punished appropriately? Yes. It was such a big deal because Ghana was the last African team left, but I’m glad FIFA wasn’t jaded by that fact.  If things had gone the other way around, I’m sure the Ghana fans would’ve said it was worth it.

20. I would not want to be a national team manager, especially for a team like England.  Too many egos involved.  Props to those managers that put up with that crap on a regular basis.

21. My call for biggest upset: tie between Slovakia 3, Italy 2 and New Zealand 1, Italy 1.  I hate the Italian national team so these results were amazing.

22. The World Cup brought out some really good journalism.  It also brought out some total crap.  After Rick Reilly’s horrible WC column, I refuse to read anything he writes.

23. For the love of all that is holy, Bob Bradley, what the hell were you thinking with the lineup against Ghana?

24. The whole Paul the Octopus phenomenon really amused me.  It was crazy to see how seriously people were taking his predictions.  It’s an octopus, people!

25. Game of the tournament: Uruguay-Ghana, hands down.

26. I don’t think Robert Green will ever live down his howler against the United States.  He’s just lucky that draw didn’t cost England a spot in the knockout round or it could’ve gotten a lot uglier.

27. The supposed “stars” of this World Cup didn’t shine, but I’m ok with that.  It allowed players that are equally as awesome like Diego Forlan, Xavi, Asamoah Gyan and more to get their deserved chance in the spotlight.

France in disarray

20 Jun

I’m going to chalk this all up to karma.  After striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home after unleashing a verbal tirade at coach Raymond Domenech during the loss to Mexico, the French team has now refused to train.  Team director Jean-Louis Valentin has also quit.  

This World Cup is turning into quite the disaster for France as they only have 1 point through two games.  If Mexico and Uruguay draw on Tuesday, France is out regardless of the result against South Africa.  Good thing the team has a new coach waiting in the wings because Domenech’s run has been ugly.

Video of French reporter dropping the F-bomb on ESPN live can be found here.  (Apparently, it’s what Anelka said to Domenech.)

Meanwhile, check out the video of Patrice Evra’s altercation with the team’s fitness coach prior to the non-practice below: