Posts Tagged ‘ France National Team ’

Football Without Frontiers

Euro 2000 was one of the highlights of my soccer supporter experience, hitting heights of excitement and engagement, not matched until recently with the 2014 World Cup, while producing moments of style and quality over several weeks.

france

Part 1

Part 2

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Check out more posts on my trips, research and memories on the MatchDay Memories page.

MatchDay Memory–Football Without Frontiers (Part 1)

Euro 2000 was one of the highlights of my soccer supporter experience, hitting heights of excitement and engagement, not matched until recently with the 2014 World Cup, while producing moments of style and quality over several weeks.

france

I have not always been a soccer guy.  Although I have been playing the game since I was eight, I knew more about the intricacies of the Big Three American sports (American football, baseball and basketball) than the beautiful game.

However, during a window in the late 90’s to early 2000’s, I turned from casual fan into full-on Soccer Nerd, as I was reading (shameless plug for Recommended Reading page), watching, coaching, buying kits (shameless plug for Strip Club page) and playing to a level that raised the game to an obsession (an unhealthy one my wife might add) in my life.

In those days, the tournament was only accessible via Pay Per View.  Remember those days?  No ESPN or Fox Sports1 or beIN Sports or Gol TV.  Hell this was still the days of Fox Sports World.  Anyway, the PPV package for Euro 2000 was something like $150, so I gathered some investors, hit PURCHASE and off we went.

I watched almost every game live.  With kickoffs at 12pm and 2:45pm Eastern Time, I could fit them in before heading off to the Pizza Slut.  And on top of that I taped them. As part of paying a portion of the PPV costs, people could borrow the tapes to stay up with the tournament.

VCR-1200

Remember VCR’s??  For a while crates of video cassettes followed me around until I realized that I was never going to watch them and most everything was on the internet anyway.  Speaking of the internet the internet was coming to the fore at that time, so I scoured the web every morning for news and updates to get greater context on the competition.

zinedinezidane

What I remember about this tournament was Zidane, the Dutch and the dramatic Spain versus Yugoslavia game.  Two years on from winning the World Cup, the French were even better.  Gone was Guivarc’h up top with Lemarre able to choose from Henry, Anelka and Trezeguet, plus Wiltord and Pires were added to the attack. But the indisputable star was Zidane.  If you watch any extended highlights of this tournament, you will inevitably see Zidane in amazing form and his performances are some of the finest examples ever of touch, vision and footwork.

holland

Their expected opponents in the Final were the Dutch, one of the co-hosts of the tournament.  Building on a strong performance in the 1998 World Cup, the Netherlands marched through the group and then absolutely annihilated Yugoslavia in the Quarter Finals 6-1.  Overmars, Zenden, Bergkamp and Kluivert attacking with Davids and Cocu cleaning up in front of strong defense.  Everything was going so well until the Semi Final against Italy.  The Dutch missed five penalties (two in regulation and three during the shootout) to be eliminated by the Azzurri, which meant that wonderful cycle of players never won anything at international level.

Special mention to Yugoslavia who produced the most drama and excitement and insanity of the tournament.  They were down 3-0 and down a man in their opening game to Slovenia. They drew 3-3.  The Yugoslavs looked to be winning the group and somehow threw it away.  If the ending of the 1999 Champions League Final was the greatest ending in soccer (dare I say sports) history, then the final minutes of Spain and Yugoslavia was a close second.

spain

Spain, needing a win to progress, fell behind three times to the Yugoslavs.  La Roja were down 3-2 in injury time and then a damn near miracle happened.  Spain converted a penalty and with seconds remaining in the match, the ball was launched into the penalty area.  No tiki taki here.  The loose ball fell to Pedro Munitis who drilled his shot into the ground and up and over the keeper to win the match and the group. Absolute pandemonium ensued as Yugoslavia thought they were out while Norway had their celebrations cut short.

In the Quarters the Netherlands tore them apart.  Yet this was a squad with Mihajlović, Stojković, Jugović, Mijatović and tournament top scorer Savo Milošević. Couldn’t take your eyes off them for second.

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Check out more posts on my trips, research and memories on the MatchDay Memories page.

Strip Club–Personal Kit Collection

Ever since I started following the Beautiful Game, I have loved kits. Different than American jerseys, they seemed so exotic with different designs and shirt sponsors. I started buying ones I could find in the mid-90s and haven’t stopped. However, I have had to create some rules now that I am a family man. Of course, they say rules are meant to be broken, but a couple of years ago, as a means of managing my kit habit, I made the following self-imposed guidelines:

  • I would only buy a club or international kit every three years.
  • I would only buy international kits of the United States Men’s National Team.  Why?  Because I’m American, if only by an accident of birthplace.
  • I would not buy “hero jerseys”.  If they were personalized, then it would be with me—JUNIOR 7.
  • I would not buy kits at full price.  Instead I would buy them on sale (promotional or otherwise) or wait until the release of the following set of kits.

With that mind, inspired by twitter, I took pictures of my kits.  I believe they are in chronological order by category.  Feel free to share your comments.

Manchester United

manchester united

FC Barcelona

fc barcelona

Juventus FC

juventus

National Teams

national teams

Miscellaneous

misc

 

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Please visit my Strip Club page as I review each of the kits plus jerseys I would love to own.  Please feel free to share your comments about the kits I have reviewed or your favorites.  Also, you can follow me on twitter @AustinLong1974.

 

 

Strip Club—Feature Dancer Edition

France 98 was the first World Cup that I watched extensively, even more than USA 94, which was in my home country. that summer I was living with my parents, had no job, and basically woke up and watched double and triple headers during the Group Stage. It was heaven.  I particularly followed France because a) they were the hosts and got tons of coverage; b) the US was having a nightmare (thanks Steve Sampson); and c) Juventus had several stars on the team, which gave me a natural connection.

zinedinezidane

Deschamps and Zidane were part of a fantastic cycle of Bianconeri teams which went to the Champions League Final three years in a row and reached the semis the year after before being rebuilt in 2001. Zidane was in imperious form at the time, dazzling for both club and country. Deschamps controlled the midfield, generating service for Guivarch, Henry and Trezeguet, and protecting a back line that was already quite strong. The Final was spectacular for the hosts, with Zidane famously knocking in two headers and Petit adding a third.

trezeguet

Two years on, the World Cup winners travelled to Euro 2000 in Holland and Belguim. I bought the entire tournament on PPV (those were the days) and watched nearly every game live. What a tournament. Spain’s comeback against Yugoslavia; England collapsing against Portugal; impressive performances from Slovenia; Holland’s demolition of Yugoslavia in the quarters; a fantastic game between France and Spain with goals of great quality and a tragic PK miss from Raul; and a gripping final, in which Italy had one hand on the trophy but couldn’t finish the job. A goal from Wiltord forced extra time, during which Trezeguet scored a Golden Goal to win.

france-2000

(image courtesy of Historical Kits)

On the fashion front, French jerseys have been hit and miss over the years. The mid-90’s kits were cool, if a bit shiny, and I hated the 1998 jersey, but immediately bought the Euro 2000 home kit, which has become one of my favorites. I love this jersey because it is simple and clean in design. The royal blue is a perfect shade and has an understated red stripe across the chest.  The above image shows the traditional tricolor layout, and I would prefer blue shorts and white socks to complete the strip but the red socks aren’t too bad. While the jersey is a little heavy (you sweat like a dog if it’s 70+ degrees but Under Armor takes care of that), the best part is that you pop the collar, channel your inner Zidane, and you are good to go.

The jerseys of the first decade of the 21st century have had some winners and losers, with the highlights being Euro 2004 (a hazy version of 2000) and World Cup 2006 (a pretty sweet adidas template). The kit for the 2010 World Cup wasn’t too bad but was worn by a disaster of a team. Here is a sampling of jerseys from 1980 to 2010.

While France have been disappointing since Zidane led them to the World Cup 2006 Final, I’m hoping this latest generation can recapture the spirit of the 1998/2000 team. Blanc has led the team to the European Championships, drawn in a group with Ukraine, Sweden and England, and now they must find the right mix of players and the right mentality to make the knockout stages. Allez les Bleus.

Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King

Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King, Philippe Auclair

Philippe Auclair’s book is simply stunning.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  Part football history, part social commentary, part psychology—all amazing.  Philippe’s narrative examines Cantona’s life in total, looking forwards and backwards, while moving through his achievements and failures.  I learned so much about French Football history and the rise of United at the dawn of the Premiership and about the player’s motives and actions.  Couldn’t put it down and can’t wait to read it again.