Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Technology to improve the game! Welcome to the 21st Century Sepp...

Shocking but true, the head of the FIFA finally admitted errors in officiating and the fact could be leveraged to assist the officials!!!! Wow...shocking to say the least. Of course, short of saying he would, Sepp agreed to reopen the research into using technology to help with such situations as the one we saw in the England v Germany game where a Lampard shot was seen by everyone in the stadium, on television and in the international space station that the shot had crossed the line yet the goal was not given. By no fault of the assistant referee who was standing where they are suppose to - watching for the offside. The on the field official was where he should be, behind Lampard and the play so could have a clear sight line to how the ball ricocheted off the cross bar. Of course if the 4th official had, like 4 years ago in the finals and the Zidane head butt, looked at the monitor and seen the ball fall clearly behind the line could have easily indicated to the on the field official - Goal. But of course because the FIFA remains stuck in the 1800s the goal was not granted and England went on to get corrected 4-1. Those who say, well Germany won by 3 goals so that one would not have mattered are not correct. Had the game been tied 2-2 at half, as it should have been, I think the second half would have been much different. Not sure the three lions would have been pushing so far up the pitch and exposing themselves to the German counters.

So now Blatter has to at least allow the debate continue with regards to video. Should it be used for everything, no. But goal line technology is a no brainer - the situation does not arise every game, but when it does it clearly has a huge impact on the game. Also whether or not a ball has crossed the goal line is black and white, there is no judgment something technology and video could render close to fool proof. FIFA already allows it for youth tournaments so now allow the biggest tournament of them all come into the 21st century. It is a first step in making the beautiful game that much better.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Au revoir Escalettes! Long live Les Bleus

So after a week of continued revelations about the fiasco Les Bleus suffered in South Africa and after many, including this blog, had called for his scalp, Escalettes finally did what he needed to and stepped down. Clearly his roles as head of the French Football Federation could no longer be allowed after it was his decision to maintain the man at the heart of all this - Domenech. After hitting rock bottom in South Africa, this latest move is an indication that Les Bleus are starting to come out of that darkness. The question remains who will step into the role? There are plenty of apt candidates - it will be interesting if the federation goes with someone who was so vocal against Domenech - Christian Teinturier - or with someone seen more as a moderate like Le Graet or Desumer. Or could the Federation reach to an outsider? What about a Guy Roux or an Aime Jacquet? The former is one of the masters when it comes to running a development system and putting in place the necessary infrastructure and the latter has the cache of being the manager of the World Cup championships and has demonstrated an ability to put a strategy together and preserver during the good and bad. He also has a good relationship with Blanc. 

The good news is France has jettisoned 2 problems - Domenech and Escalettes. Come August 11th it will be interesting to see if Blanc has cleaned house when it comes to the players - Evra, Abidal, Henry, Gallas and Ribery to name a few who were thought of as the problem children in South Africa will have to be dealt with. The question remains how will Blanc handle that situation...stay tuned.

World Cup round of 16 - first half is set

A great weekend of football - good goals, heartbreaking games and controversy - what else would one want? So we are set for the first half of the 1/4 finals

Uruguay v Ghana
Argentina v Germany

How did these teams get there:

Uruguay: In the first game of the round of 16, the South Americans played the surprise Asian side South Korea. What was one of the least hyped game turned out to be a good match between two well disciplined and well organized sides. The combo between Suarez and Forlan looks like it is starting to click, which is dangerous for the other nations. Both sides had chances, an early South Korean free kick, from Chu Young Park, smashed into the post having successfully found its way around the wall. But poor defense and inexplicable goalkeeping from South Korea allowed a cross from Forlan bypass at least 3 defenders and the keeper (who mush have thought the ball was destined to go wide) only to see Suarez come in and smash home the shot.

The South Koreans fought back to level but were done in by a wonder strike from Suarez. The Uruguay defense (only 1 goal conceded all tournament) and combination of Suarez - Forlan - Cavani is proving lethal.

Ghana: For the second time in 4 years the Black Stars knock out the Stars and Stripes...yes I stole that from some TV talking head. After the World Cup is over and when the US players get a chance to reflect I think they will rue this missed opportunity. While I think the talk of a semi final run were a but premature, there is no doubt that the way the opponents were being set up, there was a legitimate chance for the Americans. Let us face it, had they finished second in the group does anyone really believe they could have taken out the German team we saw today? Or an Argentina team in the 1/4 finals? However Ghana took their chances and deserve to go through. The first 20 -30 minutes it appeared that Ghana could score another goal or 2 after opening up the score through Boateng after a terrible turn over in the midfield by Clark. However at the half the US brought in Feilhaber and changed the complexion of the match. The US controlled the midfield and put some real pressure on the Ghana back 4 earning a deserved PK that Landycakes banked in.

But the problem that haunted the United States bit again in extra time when a harmless and blind clearance from their own half feel to Gyan who cut between Demerit and Bocanegra and lashed on to a pile driver of a left foot sending Ghana to a 2-1 victory. This encapsulated the problems with the United States team - shoddy central defense. Demerit, Onyewu and Bocanegra all struggled at different stages of this World Cup, the wide players did not cover themselves in glory either. This lack of strong defending forced the United States to chase 3 out 4 games this World Cup, not a formula for success. A second big issue were the strikers. Altidore's touch let him down all tournament. He had some good situations when he was holding up the ball or knocking it on as he did on the second goal against Slovenia. However he had a chance in the second half against Ghana but his heavy touch allowed the keeper to cut him down. He did almost score a spectacular goal with 10 minutes to go, but too often lost possession trying to do his best Messi impersonation. Add to this Findley's first half attempt from 18 yards out when he could have taken another touch or tried to dribble the keeper - not a shot an international level striker needs to settle on. If the US had a striker like Gyan they might still be playing...

Germany: In a much anticipated match up against hated rival England the game turned into a rout exposing England for what it has become - old, slow and without creativity. Of course we had another controversial refereeing decision when a Lampard shot clearly rebounded behind the goal line, at the time it would have made the game 2-2. Instead the Germans headed into the half time with a 2-1 lead. As England pushed in the second half to equalize they were badly caught out gifting Mueller a brace. In the end the better team did win, Germany demonstrated as usual, a great organization and discipline. With World Cup veterans like Klose, Podolozki and Schweinsteiger supported by the youth of Ozil and Mueller it became academic after Germany maintained their 2-1 lead to start the second half.

What was disappointing were the Three Lions. Entering the competition, as it happens every World Cup, the calls for winning the ultimate crown for the first time since 1966 was thought withing reach. With an "EASY" group, many in the notoriously overzealous British press had the English making a serious run, granted I think Sports Illustrated had the English in a semi final as well. Even thought the English had a very positive qualifying campaign and apparently the right man in Capello, they never convinced during their 4 games. They clearly had problems in central defense - Terry looked like a beaten man and they could never figure out who to replace Ferdinand. The Klose goal resembled the Gyan goal a big boot down the park, striker splits the central defenders and slots home... Rooney was completely lost. Even the French scored more goals than Rooney - 1 vs 0! Not sure if the Manchester United striker was still battling the effects of his ankle injury, but he clearly had a tournament to forget. Of course the necessity to have Lampard and Gerrard on the pitch together still does not work...sad part is the world has known this for years yet manager after manager feels the need to shoe horn both into the starting XI. It seems that this side could have used a Theo Walcott at some point during their 4 games. Otherwise there was no apparent width or pace, Joe Cole having been used sparingly...Finally still not sure how a football nation such as England cannot develop any quality holding midfielders. It is shocking. Germany had their way through the midfield, no on wearing a red shirt could even feign being able to check the German attack. England will have to rebuild, the nice thing for the Three Lions is this should mark the end of Terry, Lampard and Gerrard as internationals. All strong players individually, but especially in the case of the two midfielders - cannot coexist on the same pitch.

Argentina: The Albiceleste looked very strong once again. Granted the first goal should have been ruled off side, but it was not...however the Tevez - Messi - Higuain front line is deadly. The fact that Di Maria has not really done much and Messi has not scored a goal should give Germany and any other team that might face Argentina food for thought. Mexico fought hard all match but were over-matched.The goal from Hernandez was a piece of beauty...what I thought was comic was the comment on ABC from John Harkes who criticized Romero, the Argentine keeper, for not "protecting his near post." Um hey John, the shot from Hernandez was unstoppable, even had the keeper anticipated that spot he could never have reached it....just because you could not hit that shot in your best days, give the striker credit for a fantastic first touch and finish. Speaking of goals, the 3rd Argentine goal was also a thing of beauty an absolute pile driver from distance.

The one area of concern for Argentina is the back 4...Maradona keeps playing central defenders as all back 4. And the goalkeeping is very wobbly right now. The key for Argentina moving forward will be how Mascherano holds up the defensive responsibilities in the midfield. However their is no doubting the offensive fire power and creative flair from this team, do not forget that Aguero and Milito are available off the bench. Frightening. Finally, it is clear this team wants to play for the sky blue and white kit as well as for their manager (unlike Les Bleus). This is a very good combination heading into the 1/4 finals.

 Finally this weekend was also mired by some terrible refereeing decisions or lack thereof. The least egregious was the Tevez non offside call on the first goal.  However the one that will really created debate for least until FIFA wakes up and does something to improve officiating.

I am sure Blatter is breathing somewhat after Germany won 4-1...but had the goal be allowed, which it should have, it could have and most likely would have changed the game. Why? Not sure England is pushing up the pitch so get the equalizer.They probably do not get caught on a break if the game is 2-2. Of course FIFA released some nonsensical statement about video not being usable to determine goals because it would open up the call to use video for other aspects of the game and that there would need to be training for how to use video which is really complicated and television is still to new....blah blah blah. Here is an idea Sepp, you ignorant moron, you already have all the referees wired with headsets. The 4th official is already sitting by a monitor - how else did the Zizou head butt get caught! For plays dealing with a goal, allow the 4th official to give the referee on the field a hand. In this situation it would have taken all of 3 seconds for the 4th official to get on his little telemarketer headset and say "ball crossed line, goal." But instead we have the bureaucratic, useless, profiteer, Sepp Blatter, making some idiotic statement about technology and the beauty if human error and why "technology" cannot be used to call goal or no goal. Grow a brain Sepp wake up to the 21st century!

Of course Sepp has a Twitter I would encourage EVERYONE to tweet @SeppBlatter for as long as it takes to get him to wake up to this need.

Anyways, 4 more games to come. Brazil v Chile will be very interesting, I think Chile can give the Samba Boyz a scare and of course we have the Iberian derby - Portugal v Spain. Hopefully we do not also have more refereeing issues.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Capello - someone needs a hug

Wonder what he was like after Green's blunder! Wow...funny stuff. Too bad Domenech could not demonstrate 1/5th of this energy.

World Cup the final 16...without the two finalists from 4 years back!

I realize that is no longer a news bulletin - that France and Italy both ended bottom of their group and are already home. However there are 8 games coming up over the next 4 days to determine who reach the 1/4 finals. So let us look at the match ups:

Uruguay v South Korea: South Korea surprised me by emerging as the runner up from Group B, they did get throttled by Argentina but still took care of business against Greece. South Korea, as they have in the past, play very disciplined and take their chances when given to them. They are facing a slightly surprising Group A leader - Uruguay. The South American squad looked like their typical plodding self against France, but the last two games with Cavani slotted up front shouldering Suarez, permits Forlan to slot back as a true #10 which has completely changed their dynamic. They remain strong defensively, have yet to concede a goal, but with the 3 head monster on attack are very dangerous. Forlan has been given the freedom to roam and set up the top two strikers. I do not see the South Korean's stopping Suarez and Forlan for 90 minutes. Uruguay 2 - South Korea 0

United States v Ghana: Ah how things change and how quickly...watching the US v Algeria game I was texting with some friends, staunch supporters of the US, clearly as the misses were piling up it was clear that the frustration was growing and not much was expected. Of course Landycakes, who I must say was completely invisible until injury time, scored a famous goal propelling the US into the last 16. This game is difficult for me to call. Ghana is the lone representative from the African continent, same as 4 years ago. They have looked good at times but the fact they have not scored from open play is a concern. On the flip side, the United States have been prone to the dramatic - coming from 2 goals down against Slovenia and the 90+ minute goal against Algeria. However let us not forget that Ghana is not Slovenia or Algeria....Throw in the fact that the United States had more disallowed goals than France had goals...I was listening to a footy podcast from France and they made a great point, is the US midfield playing the best of all the remaining nations? Could make the case for Bradley, Dempsey, et al.  The key will be how Bradley will command the midfield, can he get involved in the offense without being burned by Ghanaian counters? If he is forced to hold defensively it will take away an important element to the US attack. I think this will be a very tight match, the US is prone to some defensive lapses but also ready for the dramatic. I think the latter will continue for one more game.United States 1 - Ghana 1, US through on PKs 4-3.

Germany v England: No need to set up this rivalry. Just waiting to see a British tabloid show Germany players with "pointy" helmets from 1914, or having some of the British players in the soup bowl helmets from 1939!! England probably never thought it would be in this position, but a poor showing against Algeria sees them through as the second place team, and the road to the finals include Germany and could include - Argentina and Spain...ouch. Of course now the "Capello is a genius" is back....sort of. Germany might be without Boateng and Schweinsteiger which could prove costly for the German midfield. Of course England have their own concerns with Rooney's ankle injury. Also, who on the English side will check Ozil? Barry? Not sure the Manchester City midfielder has the speed necessary to check the German creative player. I think the issues with England have really not been resolved - how to play Lamps and Gerrard, can Rooney turn it on, what about the defense and when will their goalkeeping cost them? I just see the German football machine overwhelming a English team still in turmoil and doing so in typical German fashion - penalty shoot out! Germany 2 - England 2, Germany win in PKs 5-3.

Argentina v Mexico: El Tri believe they are on the same level as their South American rivals - Brazil and Argentina - not sure I agree with that, but anyways. 4 years ago it took a Maxi Rodriguez lightening bolt to beat Mexico at the same stage.

Unfortunately for Mexico, I am not sure the game will be as close. Mexico did not look great in the second half against South Africa and not sure they ever really threatened Uruguay. Did they peek in their second game against France? Dos Santos will be the X-factor, not sure the Argentine back 4 has the right fullbacks to stop the young winger. However I am not sure Mexico can stop the offensive juggernaut that is Argentina. Messi - Higuain - Tevez will be hard to check. Argentina 2 - Mexico 0

Holland v Slovakia: The former other 1/2 of Czechoslovakia played an incredible match against Italy to knock out the 2006 World Cup champions and showed they are not afraid of playing the big nations of footballing...however Holland is not the Azzurri. The Dutch have won their 3 group games, but have not hit their peek...what you always need to do in a tournament like this - win and move on, build momentum. With Robben and Van Persie, getting Elia off the bench and Sneijder pulling some strings, the offense is something that Slovakia will not be able to match or check. Slovakia played their "finals" against Italy. Holland 3 - Slovakia 0

Brazil v Chile: This game might be tighter than it would appear. Brazil did defeat Chile twice in qualifiers on a combined 7-2 score line. However the Samba Boys might be facing some injury concerns - Melo came off today with what appeared to be a slight knock. Chile has played without fear during the group matches and have some offensive fire power, especially on the wings that might give the Brazilian full backs trouble. Maicon and Bastos are so prone to push high up the pitch, will that open up the space for the like of Sanchez who could punish the Brazilians. The question is can Chile contain - Elano, Kaka, Robinho and Fabiano...I do not think the Chile defense can. Brazil 4 - Chile 1

Paraguay v Japan: Um okay. I wonder what the odds were on this match up when the World Cup started. The South Americans topped their group with the defending champions, Italy,in last place. Not sure that reflects the ability of danger posed by Paraguay. On the flip side the Japanese have surprised many, especially myself. Scoring 2 great free kicks against a very lack luster danish side. Not sure what to make of this match, I think that Paraguay do not have the creative ability on the offensive side to break down the Japanese, while the Japanese have some great ability through the likes of Honda to break you down from set pieces. Japan 1 - Paraguay 0

Spain v Portugal: The Iberian derby! Spain has come into this tournament with the weight of a favorite clearly on its shoulders when it dropped its first game 1-0 to the Swiss. However they have since then put together 2 very solid performances. David Villa is completely unstoppable, Iniesta and Xavi looked like they did for Barcelona in their last match. If Torres ever wakes up, look out. On the other side, Portugal still have the same problems as to prior World Cup - who is their striker? Don't tell me that they scored 7 goals against North Korea so one should not worry about their scoring issues. They are playing Spain not North Korea next round. If the Brazil game is any indication, I think the Portuguese will play tough defense and look to counter through Ronaldo. While Spain will just keep the ball and bide their time to spring Villa or Torres. In the end I think Torres - Villa - Xavi - Iniesta are stronger than Ronaldo. Spain 1- Portugal 0

Should be a great round of 16, many teams we did not expect, but that makes an exciting World Cup. I think we should also have a World Cup 2006 replay between Italy and France, they both could use the practice!

The World Cup starts in earnest this weekend!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Les Bleus are dead long live Les Bleus! Turning the page...

We will now be subject to all the spin control from the players of the French National Team. Starting tonight with Henry on the Grand Journal and Abidal on TF1, it will be interesting to see if they are asked tough questions, doubtful and what spin they put on this entire fiasco. Patrice Evra is also rumored to be planning a public interview as well. A good blog post for Sport24 argues that if, the perpetrators of the mutiny are going to speak, then the players that tried to do the right thing - Lloris, Gourcuff, Sagna to name three - need to also speaking their mind.

However I would argue, allow the guilty parties to make their cases in public. I think the French supporters know who is to blame in this situation from the players point of view. Those that were not active participants should stay above the fray, do not get embroiled in a who said what did what airing in public. Allow Laurent Blanc to come in on July 1st and take care of the situation.

Laurent Blanc, needs to sit down with his players individually and figure out what really happened, at least try to piece enough of the puzzle to get a good sense of what transpired. Then he needs to tell his team. "That was the past, it was unacceptable but it was not under my watch so I will not punish you for it. However, if I get a sense that any of that has carried over, you will be dealt with swiftly and severely. There is a new sheriff in town so behave." He should confront some of the main perpetrators individual and tell them - what you did was reprehensible if I call you up for the team you will follow my rules and if you do not, I will find a replacement for you. No one is bigger than the team."

It will be interesting to hear what is said over the air waves. If it is true that Henry was one of the ring leaders, then is is a truly sad day. The all time leading scorer and one of France's greatest players would go out in shame - hand ball against Ireland and then this, not a good way to end one's international career.

Les Bleus arrive back home...let the blame game begin

The South African "adventure" has finally come to an end for Les Bleus. With the team landing in Paris earlier today, the players can now go back to their clubs, some will never be back in Blue some we might see in 6 weeks against Norway for Laurent Blanc's first official what to make of this fiasco, or is there anything more that needs to be said? Let me recap, I have been writing about this through out the entire there is some new information that has come out - such as the fact that Evra's lawyer supposedly wrote the letter they had Domenech read, the tension in the bus and so on.

So let me put a period on all the on goings. Who is to blame in all this?

  1. The one that shoulders the most blame - the Federation and in particular Escalettes. As I have stated in the past, it is inexcusable that the direction of the Federation stuck with Domenech for this long. Many of the radio podcasts I have been listening to have all made similar points, after 2008 we were told that things would "change." That the federation was sticking with Domenech, even though France crashed out in the first round of the Euros. They added new staff and support structure. Brought in Boghossian, one of the members of the 1998 side, to help manage with Domenech - clearly a move to try and appease the voices from the 1998ers that were disgruntled with the way the team was going. None of this changed anything. The team still had no direction, no strategy and apparently no desire to win. Sometimes you cannot blame the coach, because he is clueless and cannot get out of his own way. That is when the federation is suppose to step in and make the necessary changes. Shame on you Escalettes, I place 45% of the blame on  your shoulders. You should step down or I hope you will be told to step down, the federation needs some new leadership.
  2. Blaming Domenech is easy, but he deserves it. What has he done in 4 years, since his team made an improbable run to the World Cup finals? According to Houllier, who is the technical director for France, stated that for a long time Domenech has worked in isolation from the remainder of the federation, not taking any input not communicating...just being Domenech Clearly Domenech had lost complete control of his team and it is also clear that 6 years of a grating style with his players and the media came back to haunt the astrologically guided manager. His actions in South Africa further demonstrated his ineptitude - not shaking hands with Parriera, blasting his players in a press conference prior to the South Africa game, reading the statement during the player strike and really just showing a complete lack of ability when it came to tactics and strategy. How can you not use one of your substitutes at the end of the Mexico game when just scoring a goal and cutting the deficit to 2-1 gave you a better chance to advance...the manager deserves much of the blame let us say he gets 35% of the blame.
  3. The players have nothing to be proud of either. The way they have handled themselves is nothing short of juvenile. However I will say that sometimes you are subjected to terrible and inept leadership for 6 years and you reach a breaking point. I was listening to Wenger, who has managed Anelka, and the Arsenal gaffer basically stated that for Anelka to snap like that, he must have been pushed to the limit. The player strike was ridiculous and unacceptable....but understandable. The rift between some players and others is not unusually in a team, again these players all have massive egos are the stars sometimes at the club level and do not always want to play nice in the sandbox...but guess what...that is the manager's responsibility to take care of that behind closed doors. Clearly Domenech either was unaware, incapable or did not care enough to rectify this situation. Are the supposed actions of Gallas, Evra, Abidal, Henry and Ribery tolerable, no. Laurent Blanc will have to make some difficult decisions on some of these players. However unlike Domenech, I think the former Bordeaux manager will take control of his dressing room.
This problem started at the top. Without strong leadership there is no respect. Without any respect, players let their massive egos take over and you get what we had in South Africa. Blanc will have a difficult task ahead of him, but he has the cache, ability and honeymoon period to really mold and shape this team.

Good riddance Domenech please take Escalettes with you.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Cup finalists from 4 years ago...out in the group stages

There will be a new World Champion of Football. Italy crashes out of the World Cup finishing last in their own group...

New Zealand

Wow...couple this with France finishing last in their group and you will have neither finalist from 4 years ago in the knock out stages. Italy dropped a shocking 3-2 game to Slovakia. Couple this with 2 poor draws, one of which against New Zealand and you have to say that the Italian voyage at this World Cup has been almost as pathetic as the one from Les Bleus. Of course the Italy ship did not have the soap opera that swept over the French camp. So what to make of this squad? First the Italian federation brought back the winning coach - Lippi to steer this side. Might not have been a great idea, look at last year's Confederations Cup, the Italians looked very old and slow. They barely defeated the USA and were thoroughly spanked by Brazil. One of the few shining spots was the New Jersey born Rossi...who did not even make the World Cup roster! Second, the Italians kept many of the "pillars" from the German World Cup - Buffon, Cannavaro, De Rossi, Pirlo and Gattuso. Some of these players were still up to the challenge, but to rely on a player heading to the middle east next season - Cannavaro - to hold up your defense is slightly frightening. Finally the Italians did not seem to offer any real solutions and strategic direction to take the attack to their opponents. The fact that Lippi had been wooing Totti to come to South Africa shows a lack of strategy or forward thinking from Lippi. Sound familiar?

So for the first time in the World Cup, both finalists from the prior World Cup will be out before the knock out stage. What is frightening is I think that France have a better future than Italy in terms of players and manager, assuming France takes care of its issues at the federation level.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Parreira calls Domenech "lame"...I would have chosen harsher terms

Ah the saga continues even after France have crashed out of the World Cup, actually I am getting somewhat excited about hearing all the dirty laundry being aired over the next few days as well as who writes the first book! The South African manager, Parreira, called the Domenech lame for not having the sportsmanship to shake hands after the match. I could think of some more appropriate albeit harsher terms! As suspected, Domenech's school boy protest stems from what Parreira said about the way France qualified. He called out Henry saying he cheated...well that isn't exactly a news bulletin. And for Domenech to not shake the man's hand because of a statement made months earlier that was echoed throughout the sporting world is completely idiotic. Domenech should have shaken the man's hand and spoken his peace then and there something such as:

"Good job coach, but I don't appreciate your public statements about my player, stick to you own business. However congratulations on a well deserved win." 

Instead Domenech is caught by the cameras looking like a 5 year old that is going home with his ball so no one else can play. A great image to encapsulate who Domenech is and has been for France over the past 6 years. Someone who just doesn't get it.

France v South Africa...the end of an Era....thankfully

I found myself, as I am sure the majority of the watching audience, rooting for South Africa once they went up 1-0.  Clearly the circus that has revolved around Les Bleus caught up to them...well maybe it caught up to them 2 years ago when Dumbenech as not sacked after crashing out of the Euros. The final group standings:

South Africa

Thankfully North Korea is in this World Cup other wise France might have ended dead last of all the teams. Looks much like 2002, other than this time we scored a goal, but little joy in that!

Not sure how much there is to say about this game or the World Cup, I will need a few days to digest this wasted few weeks! So let us give this game a try:

The Good:
  • South African victory, they deserved a win they played positive football and had a real chance once they were up 2-0. Very unfortunate, on a fantastic link up not to be up 3-0 when Mphela cut behind Gallas and saw his point blank shot miss the upper 90 of the French goal. Lloris also made some great saves during the second half to keep his team within striking distance...of what I have no idea..but still. With the win they ensure they will not finish last in the group, gave themselves a chance to go through but it was too little too late.
  • THE END OF THE DOMENECH ERA!!!!! Sad that this is a "good" but it really is the silver lining for long suffering France fans who have watched this bumbling idiot run this team into the ground and waste 4 years of our lives (I give him a "pass" on his first 2 years because they did have a great run at the World Cup 2006). Now if we can also get rid of Escalettes it will make all this pain worth it...
  • Lloris...funny to see him as good after his mistake cost Les Bleus the first goal. However he could have easily mailed this game home, but made save after save and demonstrated brave goalkeeping on more than one situation where he had to make plays diving into on coming strikers' feet. He is a pillar on which Les Bleus will be built moving forward.
  • Uruguay - Mexico. Why good? I am glad that game did not end in a 0-0 draw from the few minutes I watched it was clear that neither team was looking for a simple draw. I think both sides wanted to avoid Argentina at all costs.
The Bad:
  • The red card on Gourcuff, not really sure how that warranted a straight red card other than it was committed on a player from the host nation. The Bordeaux player was jumping for a head ball and while his elbow was high he did not swing it with any malicious intent. Watch any game and you see much worse elbows on the same ball a dozen of times that never get called. A poor call that changed the game. Another questionable call by the official.
The Ugly:

  • The French adventure in South Africa how can it not be considered anything but bad? Starting with questionable roster selections - no Benzema nor Nasri? Through what appeared to be an interesting move - going to a 4-3-3 only to see that jettisoned at the first game with no explanation and reverting back to a 4-2-3-1 that had not been used in any practice session! Couple this with a nonsensical shuffling of line ups - Govou on the right really? Anelka as lone striker when that is clearly not his best place. Ribery in the really. Let us not forget the mutiny over the past 48 hours, Anelka sent home, players not practicing and Domenech reading statements.  Then there was Domenech coming out prior to the South Africa game and blasting his players, hey you might be mad at them, but reserve that for after the game! Show some leadership. Oh then there was the game - France showed some signs of life but lost 2-1 and it could have been worse. I will say Les Bleus showed more fight than they had during the Mexico game. Thankfully the adventure for Les Bleus is over, France will head home on Wednesday turn the keys over to Laurent Blanc, who has a difficult task ahead but in some ways made much easier after this result, more on that later.
  • Domenech...yes he gets his own bullet point. I am sure I will have a longer post in a few days outlining how terrible the past 6 years under this idiot has been for France, the players and the fans. However it ended in a very ugly manner for him - not shaking hands with his counterpart! There is no reason not to shake hands with your opponent. South Africa played well, played hard and deserved the victory. I am sure that Domenech was bitter about some comments Parreira made after France knocked off Ireland to get to the World Cup...but seriously Domenech shake the man's hand, whisper what you want to him but that act puts a final exclamation point on what a complete buffoon you have been and are -

  • And by extension Escalettes. How could you have allowed such a buffoon run this team for SIX years!!!! I understand allowing him to go tot he Euros in 2008, he did have a World Cup finals on his resume. But after that disgraceful adventure to allow him to continue is criminal! He was the only one that kept the faith in Domenech and he, as Inspector Clouseau, also needs to go away. Escalettes stated he would not be stepping down, however in July the Federation's committee will have their meeting, where hope he is "convinced" to depart his post. There is no other way to look at this than to blame Escalettes for wasting 2 years of this team's time and energy let alone the fans.

So the end of the French run at this World Cup comes to an sputtering and embarrassing end. But there is a silver lining in this otherwise pitch black cloud. Laurent Blanc will come in this week or next and has carte blanche to do what he thinks is right to rebuild this side. This is not always the case, new manager sometimes have to live in the shadow of the previous managers decisions that "seemed" to work or have to put up with established expectations in the dressing room. This is different. This team has reached such a rock bottom point, no one in the Federation, the press, the dressing room or in France will have any Domenech legacy to defend, other than one of ineptitude. Blanc's honeymoon should prove much longer than most. Now what he does with this honeymoon is up to the man. However, unlike Domenech, I think Blanc has the insight, intelligence, respect and vision to put this train back on the right tracks.

It all starts again in 6 weeks with a friendly against Norway and the real fun begins Sept 3rd when Les Bleus kick off their Euro qualifying campaign.


France v South Africa - half time....only 45 minutes of the Dumbenech era

Again, I keep saying this, but just when you thought it could not get any France started out well, looking motivated and as if they would be the team to score. Once again the set piece kills Les Bleus, this time Lloris making a terrible play on a corner allowing for a header into the vacate space. Granted Khumalo climbed all over Diaby to get to the ball. But not going to make that call against the host nation! Of course things completely fell apart with a straight red card for Gourcuff on a questionable elbow. There did not seem anything intentionally malicious in the play...Dempsey had a similar play in the last US game and did not even get a yellow. Smells like the fix for the host nation! South Africa added a second goal in the 37th minute to give the host a real chance of potentially sneaking into the knock out round....especially since Uruguay took a 1-0 lead versus El Tri. Should make an interesting last 45 minutes of the Domenech era.

If I were the French team I would keep pushing up, please try to score at least one goal this World Cup and if you give up another few goals, so what! Laurent Blanc has never looked so good....

Domenech's final starting line up...what the???

Um okay...I guess the mutineers have been somewhat punished - Abidal, Evra and Henry kept on the bench. Gallas and Ribery still in the line up. And thankfully no Govou...although you know he will be substituted in at some point. The line up is back to a 4-3-3.

France : Lloris - Sagna, Gallas, Squillaci, Clichy - Gourcuff, A. Diarra (cap.), Diaby - Gignac, Cissé, Ribéry

ADiarra as the captain? I really do not understand that move. He is captain of his club, but has not even seen the pitch...Gignac as a right winger? Um Cisse is much more apt of controlling the wing and using his pace to exploit on the wing and Gignac is a pure CENTER FORWARD!!!! Does Domenech not realize this??? Ugh. Clearly this is one more inexplicable act from Inspector Clouseau. Hopefully Dumbenech also realizes that he will need goals and makes the appropriate moves along the match if he has a chance to increase his score line! A move like taking Diarra out for an offensive midfielder or maybe taking out a center back at some point....of course I am sure if France is up 2-0 at some point and let's say Mexico is winning 1-0 in their game, I am sure Clouseau will take out all of his strikers and put in all his defenders to "hold the lead" not realizing the match behind the goal difference!

After a night of tossing and turning, I think this team has no desire to play for this manager or the ends South Africa 1 - France 0.....

France v South Africa friendly...errr I mean last group game

So we are about 10 hours away from what should be the last game Domenech will ever manage for Les Bleus and quite possibly ever - not sure even a team of 8 year olds would want him to oversee their team! We all know what has transpired in the dysfunctional French camp since last Thursday's Mexico game. The latest is that Dumbenech was the only one at the team's press conference and of course spouted off against the player strike, good idea heading into the last match. Maybe Domenech should have said "no comment" moved on, come Wednesday he will have plenty of time to spout off on what has transpired. Rather than dwell on that let us look forward to this match and what we can expect from Les Bleus.

First the only way they have the slightest of chances of remaining in South Africa beyond Tuesday, in a non tourist capacity, is to win by a large margin and hope that the Mexico v Uruguay game has a winner (preferably by more than a 1 goal margin which would bring the goal difference down as well) and do a lot of praying and hoping. Second, France cannot play Toulalan, he is suspended and unless Anelka really is not back in Europe, we will not be seeing the "incredible sulk" on the pitch. So what should happen? Go back to the only used this for the past 3 weeks prior to the World Cup!

Lloris in goal, not really any questions there.

My back 4 would consist of: Sagna, Squillaci, Planus, Evra. That's right let us change the central pairing! Abidal looks completely out of sorts as a center back...and he should be....he is a LEFT BACK. Gallas does not look fully fit, and let us face it, isn't exactly acting like a vice-captain or captain or good teammate. Sit him down and put in two players who are defensively sound.

The 3 midfield players - Malouda, Diaby, Gourcuff. Yup! Get Gourcuff the choir boy back in the line up. Why? Without Anelka out there maybe the Bordeaux man will have some space to work and will be willing to pass to the front 3...Diaby is your holding midfielder, I prefer him to ADiarra since Diaby has much more of an offensive side to his game. Malouda is the only player that showed effort against Mexico and deserves to be in there.

The top 3 of the formation - Ribery, Henry, Valbuena. I debated slotting Henry on the left and sitting Ribery, but watching and listening to the Bayern Munich man's impromptu press conference I believe that he is truly embarrassed, hurt and recognizes how this is impacting the fans. I think he will be highly charged and motivated to make ammends on the field. Henry should be a stabilizing force for the team the last hold over from 1998 and should be highly motivated to go out head held high. Finally, Valbuena needs to be given more than 15 minutes to show what he can do...if I see Govou on the starting sheet or anywhere near the pitch today I cannot be held accountable for my actions.

I would tell Titi to give it 100% and figure he will be taken out after 60 minutes, slot in Gignac. I would tell the same to some of the full backs. Assuming you will be chasing goals throughout, I would envision bringing in a Cisse around 60 - 70 minutes to try and get another goal, maybe go with the old Brazil formation 4-2-4, slot Diaby back into central defense (really have him sit in front of the back line), have Ribery wide left, Gignac and Cisse as center forwards and Valbuena wide right, supported by Malouda and Gourcuff. Hey you need to score goals!!! No reason to go home with any saved bullets!

Of course having said that, Inspector Clouseau will stick with the 4-2-3-1...stick with his two holding players, Diaby and ADiarra most likely. Probably have Malouda on the left, Gourcuff in the middle and Govou on the right. With Gignac as the lone striker. Domenech will come up with some nonsensical banter about the stars lined up and never playing a Toro to the left of a Virgo when the Summer Solstice has passed within 48 hours....

Oh well, in 24 hours we will no longer have Domenech impersonating a professional manager we will turn our eyes to Laurent Blanc. He of the seemingly Moses type figure leading us to a brighter future....let us face it....Blanc would have to try very hard to do worse than Domenech. There is only one way to go and that is up!

Allez les Bleus. Pour l'honneur, pour la patrie, pour le respect! Pour le Maillot!

Prediction - Les Bleus 4 South Africa 0, brace from Henry, 1 from Malouda and the last one from a Gourcuff 25 yard laser. Mexico v Uruguay ends in a 1-1 draw when inexplicably the Mexican goalie stumbles on a back pass from his defender to suffer an OG allowing both nations to advance and France to go home.....

A better memory of a last World Cup game!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mexico v Uruguay - looks like a draw, smells like a draw but will it be a draw?

So tomorrow Group A will wrap up their first round matches and more importantly the soap opera that is the French national team will come to an end - Raymond Domenech's 6 year tenure as the manager of the national side will come to an end....finally. With France sitting tied with South Africa with 1pt, while Uruguay and Mexico have 4 pts.

Group A
South AfricaSouth Africa2011141

It appears all but academic since a draw will ensure both Mexico and Uruguay will head on to the final 16. Not so fast..okay I realize this is grasping at straws however...looking towards the last 16 and beyond. The winner of this group goes into, arguably, the easier side of the bracket.

Clearly the winner of Group A will head to knockout side including the runner up of Group B, D and winner of Group C. Whoever ends first, they would face either South Korea or Greece if they win that match most likely face the United States/Slovenia or Ghana/Serbia. No world beating nations. However the team that ends in second will have to face Argentina in the first round of knock out. And if they get past that, may have to face England/Germany...quite a difference in terms of coming in first or second in the group. While all signs point to a lackluster draw between Mexico and Uruguay...there might be some motivation for both sides to seek a victory to ensure they miss Messi and co in the first stage of knock out. Also, both sides know that it will most likely take a 3 to 4 goal victory from Les Bleus to overcome the goal differential, meaning a 1-0 loss will not be fatal to the losing team, but could prove monumental for the winner.

While it smells, walks, talks and looks like a draw, something tells me that both sides might be more motivated than many expect to try and get the full 3 points...unless of course France are up 3-0 at half time....then again France need to score ONE goal before they can score 3 or more! Hey one can always dream. And based on the drama that has clouded the French camp the past few days we could see a team that comes out and completely implodes losing 2-0 to South Africa, or somehow finds motivation as a unit to show the world and management that they have been held back by Dumbenech.  Somehow I fear the former but would love to see the latter.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Clean house!!!

The wise sage that is Guy Roux has it right when he says everything needs to be reset...the French Federation must look internally and do some house cleaning. How can Laurent Blanc be expected to properly manage this team if those from the federation continue to masquerade in positions of power. Let us start with Escalettes!

The circus is in town for a few more days!

One thing the French National team does well, like all my compatriots is strike! So why not protest the on goings with Anelka with a nice little strike! Love it! The players decided to take a practice session off in protest of the manner in which the Anelka affair was handled. Domenech had to read a statement as to why the players were absent from the practice field as well as intervene in a heated confrontation between Evra and a member of the French staff.

After the altercation the entire team sequestered themselves in the team bus for half an hour. Domenech then read a prepared statement by the team about no practicing to protest the situation, but did emphasis the gratitude the team had towards their fans and would ensure they did something to make up for the missed practice. The drama continued when the bus returned to the hotel...without Domenech. The players refused to give their manager a lift back home!

Clearly the coaching staff and the federation have lost complete control of the situation. You could argue that a team needs to be quiet and listen to their manager, unfortunately when a team or an organization continual feels continually frustrated and poorly led, if at all, it comes to a breaking point. Which is what we are witnessing today. We all know that Domenech's last game will be on Tuesday, but based on what has happened the past 48 hours I think it is crystal clear that the entire Federation needs to rethink its leadership structure - starting with Escalettes. There are capable options that could run the Federation - Guy Roux, Aime Jacquet, Gerard Houllier, or Arsene Wenger (long shot but he would bring instant stability and credibility) to name a few. Knowing that Laurent Blanc will be the next man in charge is reassuring from a team management stand point, but the federation has demonstrated a poor ability to manage the situation and must also change and earn back the trust of fans and players.

We have reached a point of no return...mutiny on the bounty cannot hold a candle to this drama! Who knows what will transpire on Tuesday. Will the players decide who they want on the pitch? Will they even listen to what Domenech has to say? Might they also use their own substitution rotation? All joking aside, the only real solution would be to have Domenech sit in the stands, allow Boghossian to run the team for the one match. This will at least allow the team to stand a chance and have some semblance of normalcy. What will be interesting to see is whether or not this situation has actually united the team - give them a focus to show Domenech and the Federation and the critics that they are better than what they have shown.  We will see in 48 hours!

Escalettes please step down

So we are finally on the brink of the end of the Domenech era....and what an era it was. 3 straight major tournaments qualified for - 2 complete disasters one surprising and inspirational run to a World Cup final. But overall the reign of Domenech the Idiot will be marred by missed opportunities, head scratching decision making, poor tactics and a complete lack of strategic acumen. Otherwise it was a "good" 6 years. However, now the keys to the castle are with Laurent Blanc. The first manager from the 98ers - the generation that brought us so much happiness and for a while had France sitting clearly atop the world of footy. Winning the World Cup in 1998 and then adding a European title in 2000. Some might argue that had we had a better manager and a healthy Zidane might have added another piece of silverware in 2002. Your peers have been some of the harshest critics of the former manager - Zidane, Dugarry, Lizarazu to name a few - have been very vocal at how inept Inspector Clouseau has been at running this team.

The sad part is they have captured much of what the public thought about Domenech. Unfortunately the head of the federation refused to listen to what was being said or trust what their eyes were seeing - a manager that commands no respect and has few ideas....

A good interchange between Dugarry and Inspector Clouseau -

For those of you that do not speak french, basically Dugarry questions Domenech saying that during the Euros 2008, France played with 3 different formations in 3 games, yet Domenech had been preaching to have a "system" ready to go for the tournament. Dugarry points out, quite correctly, that Domenech rarely answers questions about football with answers about the game but instead gives some crazy response that means nothing...true. Of course there is great tension on the set, which is not surprising. Of course there is the famous exchange between Liza and Domenech right after France drew with Ireland to go to the World Cup:

Liza, never a fan of Domenechs nor someone that will back down, makes it his business to go after Domenech and with just cause. The way France had scored the goal was nothing to be proud of and it was a greater reflection of how poorly the team had been playing for the past 2 years...the irony is that Domenech states that France have 9 months to prepare in peace for the World Cup, that he is going to celebrate and be happy because France qualified for the World did that work out?

Listening to these sound bites again, infuriates me and makes me chuckle all at the same time. Clearly Domenech had lost the support of the public, of former players, of the media and really of his team for a very long time. Unfortunately it rests on the shoulder of one Escalettes who is the only person that counts in this affair, since it was up to him to correct this wrong. Listening to his recent press conference discussing the Anelka situation only reinforces the believe that he too is at fault. He attempts to explain what happened, attempts to reason that Domenech remains in control of the squad...alas Mr Escalettes, had you listened and more importantly trusted what your eyes were telling you, you would had sacked Domenech the moment France walked off the pitch after losing to Italy in the last game of the Euros.  We all know that Domenech will be unemployed come this Wednesday, I think that you too should chose the unemployment line Mr Escalettes.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ribery and Gallas get detention?

With Anelka on his way back to Europe, it appears that Gallas and Ribery might be put in detention for the South Africa game. Squillaci might be slotted in place of Gallas while Ribery might start on the bench, most like Malouda taking over the left and Gourcuff back in the center? It would appear that the sulking from Gallas, not being named captain coupled with what appears to be Ribery the egomaniac has become too much for the team.

Happily in a few days some of these headaches will go away - Anelka's career for Les Bleus is over, it was most likely done prior to this situation. Gallas will most likely not be called upon, not sure he was in the plans for France for the Euros. Ribery is another story, Laurent Blanc's first challenge!

Let us see what the next episode is with this soap opera.

Something smells rotten in South Africa

A traitor amongst us....those are the words spoken from the current French captain - Evra. According to Manchester United man there is no anger towards Anelka, no ill will from the players. The Chelsea striker has been sent home, without any dinner. However according to the "incredible sulk" the words attributed to him are not those he used. While he admits having a discussion at half time, he claims it was not as heated as L'Equipe would have  you believe. The damage is done, and he is heading back to France.

Yet the soap opera continues - according to Evra there is someone within the organization that is looking to bring down the team and must be "eliminated." Can we please end this circus? Soon?

What I find ironic is Inspector Clouseau left Nasri and Benzema off the squad because they had "attitude problems." How is this anywhere as bad as it was in 2008? Doubtful. What is surprising is that Evra did not come to the aide of his manager, clearly made it visible to everyone that while Anelka heads home alone, no one seems to want to come defend their lame duck Inspector Clouseau. Maybe, as many are thinking, the mole is actual the inspector himself. Wouldn't surprise me. Of course I am sure that Domenech will find a way to blame someone like...say...Gourcuff, since we are all piling on the young Bordeaux playmaker.

Can we invite Ireland to play the last game against South Africa?

The French ship keeps taking water - Anelka you SOB

Waking up this morning I was looking forward to reading the English tabloids to read about how poorly the Three Lions were playing and how the "savior" Capello was not living up to his reputation. Instead I have been spending my time reading about how the French camp has been thrown even deeper into malaise, hard to believe. All revolving around Anelka losing his mind...

According to L'Equipe there was a bust up between Anelka and Domenech at the half time of the Mexico match. To recap - Domenech apparently told Anelka that he was drifting too deep and was not holding the position he was play as the center forward. Anelka then treated Domenech to some verbal abuse telling the gaffer to "F*** off, you SOB" after which Domenech told the Chelsea man he was going to be substituted in favor of Gignac.

Just when you thought the French soap opera could not get any does. Of course this is completely unacceptable and Anelka needs to leave the squad. While Anelka has changed his ways and had apparently matured the past few years, the old "sulk" can still rear its ugly head. The sad truth is that what Anelka said to Domenech is what 65 million French fans have wanted to tell the manager...I know I have wanted to say this on more than 1 occasion. Clearly the camel has had a broken back for at least 6 months if not 2 years, this was not the final straw just the latest public affirmation of what we all knew - Domenech has completely lost the team. The cracks really started months ago when they were rumors that Henry confronted Domenech during a training session.  After the manager criticized his team, Henry turned around and said that he and his teammates had grown frustrated by the fact they were lost, unclear of their strategy, had no style and basically had no idea what was expected by the manager. Of course the federation, Domenech and Henry started a crash PR campaign after this showing unity only to see Henry banished to the bench! Based on some reports, this latest incident comes after Anelka has constantly communicated with Domenech that he is not a true center forward, but more a supporting forward like he is at Chelsea. Apparently this fell on deaf ears. Apparently Anelka had had enough at half time of the Mexico game. We cannot forget that Anelka was one of the few players that supported Domenech...the fact the incredible sulk has become so frustrated and angry at the manager is telling.

So with one game to go in the Domenech era, it is clear that the team no longer listens to him, that he has completely lost the plot and that once again Escalettes needs to face the music as to why he has stayed with such an incompetent manager for this long. Add to this the story from Houllier that Domenech has completely gone rogue and it paints an ugly picture for France - the fact Domenech did not even tell the youth manager about who he was selecting for the World Cup is criminal.

France head into the last game which such a cloud over its head I would not be surprised if Les Bleus give the hosts a victory. Les Bleus have been shamefully bad. I blame Domenech I blame Escalettes I blame the players. The players needed to show some pride and professionalism - but sometimes after being led wandering in the desert for the past 6 years by an incompetent manager it takes its toll. Escalettes and Domenech, on the other hand, have zero excuses. Both have been given chance after chance...and have done nothing but waste supporters' time, money and passion.

Anelka needs to apologize to his teammates, the federation and the fans. He then need to return home. Domenech needs to apologize to everyone for wasting the past 2+ years of this team. Shameful.

Friday, June 18, 2010

US bitter sweet draw versus Slovenia

As my friend and fellow pod-caster Sam told me, "the US always has a good game, a mediocre game and terrible game during the group stages of the World Cup." Clearly this latest match was a little bit of everything! One paper this seemed like a  mismatch, in the favor of the United States not something you always see in the world of real football (aka soccer). Especially when it is the US paired with an European opponent.  After a much anticipated match against their former mother country - England - the United States had a point in the pocket and had equaled the nation that was clearly their biggest rival in this group, so facing Slovenia a nation with the population about equal to the greater Boston area, you would think the US would fancy their chances for the full 3 points. Oh and Alexi Lalas confidently predicted a 2-0 United States victory, we should have all known that was the kiss of death!

The United States seemed to come out partially believing this, and seemed a little lackadaisical and somewhat surprised when Slovenia took it to the United States. Many might have expected the Europeans to sit back and try to defend for a draw and hope for a counter to get a goal. Instead they came out and looked to play for the win from the first minute. Slovenia found themselves up 2-0 at the half on two goals that clearly seemed to come out Onyewu and the American defense being too passive. The first the American central defender did not close down Birsa allowing him to strike a beautiful left footed shot into Howard's upper 90 (the ball certainly did not take off on that shot). The second goal saw Onyewu stuck like a statue allowing Ljubijankic to stroll in for a clinical finish. On both scores the American defenders looked flat footed and hesitated, both of which are cardinal sins at this level. So that was the "ugly" half. Which lead to the "good" half.

The Americans came out after the break with a renewed lease on life due to...gulp...Landycakes who took his chance and put in a Ronaldoesc goal -

I have to admit it was a big goal for the US....and it came from yes Landycakes...I cannot imagine that I am singing his praises again. But I am...ugh. He also went on to play very well the remainder of the half it was his well weighed pass into the box that Altidore was able to head down for Bradley to complete the come back. Finally Landycakes put in a fantastic set piece to get what should have been the winner, watching the replay it is difficult to see where a foul was committed unless you give a PK to the United States since at least 2 of their players suffered assault and battery...ok I need to take a breath because this much praise from me for Landycakes means I am not well!

The Slovenias did continue to push up the pitch themselves and had a good chance late only to see the header from Novakovic that was well placed but lacked the pace to really trouble Howard. The US must feel bitter sweet about this game, they dug themselves a huge hole but were able to rally and get the draw (and almost win). However they cannot be satisfied with the first half, they let in 2 goals where their lack of action allowed Slovenia to take their chances and made the US pay. If the United States think they will just stroll out onto the pitch and defeat Algeria all they need to do is watch today's first half to learn that they cannot afford to take any team for granted, unless they were playing France next in which case it would be a guaranteed 3 points.

So if I take an audit of the United States based on Sam's statement I would say they had a mediocre game versus England and had 1 terrible half against Slovenia and 1 great half. Meaning our balance sheet still has 1 of each...I will hope for my US friends that the better half against Algeria out weighs the poor one! The US gets the point, although they really fancied the full 3.

France - better days - Zidane and Platini

Had to watch this, remind myself of the better times with Les Bleus -

Zizou looking more Brazilian than Brazil!

A young Zizou always speaks fondly of being at Stade Velodrome to witness this epic semi final. I also remember vividly watching in front of the the TV in my grandmother's house outside of Paris in the Marne region. Those were the days!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

DISGRACEFUL - France v Mexico - the better team won

What can you say...France looked completely flat, had no heart, no desire and no idea what they were doing on the pitch. From the start it was clear that Mexico came to play and knew what they had to do to get the result. This result encapsulates what has proven to be a wasted 2+ years with this team and manager.

The Good:
  • Only one more game with Dumbenech at the helm. The friendly that will be played on Tuesday between the host and France will be the final game of Domenech's tenure and based on what I am seeing today I would not be surprised if the hosts got a victory. Laurent Blanc you have a monumental task ahead of you, but there is only one way and that is up!
  • Mexico. Kudos to El Tri, they came out firing on all cylinders took it to the French defense and were not
    afraid to take their chances when offered to them. Unlike their first game when they escaped the tie fortunate to have not lost to South Africa they were clearly the better team this match and earned their rightful 3 points. Dos Santos was completely unstoppable, he was eating Gallas' lunch and dinner at will. Salcido was making dangerous runs from his fullback spot and kept catching France out of position - forcing Sagna to make emergency covering runs.   
The Bad:
  • Complete lack of game by France. There was nothing on the pitch today. Ribery as the "creative" player nothing, Anelka as the lone striker nothing, Govou on the right less than nothing, Gallas terrible, Sagna looked out of sorts....France played incredibly poorly. There was clearly no strategy or system of game that the French players were aware of or were attempting to execute on.
  • We know there is no leadership on the side line, there was clearly none on the pitch. Domenech looked like a defeated man from the start. No energy. No passion. He just stood there like a befuddled statue watching after France went down by a goal. And he leaves a sub on the bench! Hey dummy you are down 2-0 just getting a goal back could be huge but instead you leave - Henry and Cisse on the bench - TAKE OUT TOULALAN or a DEFENDER!!! Again I really should not blame Domenech anymore he cannot help himself and his ineptitude - Escalettes this is all on you!
  • No pride from the French players. None of the players appeared to care that they were completely dominated by Mexico and that they will be on a plane back to France in less than a week. Back to the leadership issue, this is what happens when you have a team run by a complete idiotic moron. 4 years ago you had players such as Thuram, Vieira, Makelele and Zidane who could at least lead from the pitch. This time there is neither.
The Ugly:
  • The ugly ugly part of all this is the wasted 2+ years France has had to suffer with Domenech at the helm. It is borderline criminal what the FFF and Escalettes have forced France to suffer by sticking with Inspector Clouseau. Let's face it, had France not shocked the footballing world 4 years ago Domenech's job was already on the line! After 2008 and a disastrous Euro he should have been sacked immediately upon leaving the pitch against Italy, go propose to your're fired. It is not as if France did not have some options to be the national team manager. So what we have had to suffer was a wasted 2+ years. Players such as Vieira, Henry, Trezeguet and Coupet to name a few have been mishandled and will most likely have ended their career for France under a dark cloud - created by Domenech. It is also disgraceful how poorly the next generation has been handled - Mexes, Benzema, Nasri, Menez, Ben Arfa to name a few - have been constantly shuttled into the squad and then out without any real reason. Malouda was banished for a while only to be brought back as a starter. The fact that Dumbenech asked Makelele to come back for the World Cup is SHOCKING. With the likes of Toulalan, LDiarra, ADiarra, Diaby, Flamini, Mavuba just to name a few it is not as if France had a shortage of players at the holding spot. Just inexplicable. Add to this the inexcusable selecting of players such as Govou and Boumsong and it is baffling how Domenech has lasted this long. He has shown no ability to manage his team from a player perspective, on the field tactics, long term strategy or basic PR. Clearly his players have no respect for him and are not buying what he his selling. At least the Argentine players want to try and give efforts for Maradona! As my friend Sam stated, Domenech has been TRYING TO GET FIRED yet no one upstairs realized this. Alas my fellow supporters of Les Bleus, we have had to suffer with this idiot at the helm of our team, we cannot blame him too much since he cannot get out of his own way...we need to blame Escalettes for sticking by him for this long. Probably the only man on the planet who wanted to keep Inspector Clouseau this long.


So I sit here and turn my eyes and thoughts to Wednesday when Laurent Blanc will start his tenure as manager of Les Bleus. He has a mountain of task ahead of him, but the cupboard is clearly not bare, by any stretch of the imagination. Let us face it, there is only one way to go, that is up.  The Euro qualifiers will be difficult, they always are, but France have a manageable group.

We have wasted over 2 years with this bumbling idiot running the team. It is a shame. It is painful. But things can only go up from here. Sometimes ineptitude gets rewarded this is a perfect case of that happening. I will not be surprised if South Africa beat Les Bleus on Tuesday and that France will challenge for the worst team in this tournament. It seems clear that being a supporter of Les Bleus the past few seasons is a combination of incredible highs - 1998 victory, 2006 finals and incredible lows - 2002 World Cup exit and the current iteration of the team. I guess we are due for a better outcome next can hope.