Posts Tagged ‘ Les Bleus ’

Summer of Soccer–Euro 2016 Final

Read part 1 of Euro 2016 journal here

Read my Copa Centenario journal here

——

France vs Portugal live

The 2016 European Championship Final saw France take on Portugal. The hosts versus Cristiano Ronaldo’s legacy quest. The match up recalled previous match ups, including the Euro 2000 Semi Final and the dramatic 1984 Semi Final. The latter event was something I learned about the days leading up to the tournament (Video and Howler Radio podcast)

For the match I headed down to Fado Buckhead. The plan was to record a Terminus Legion podcast and get a seat for the game. Due to a scheduling mix up the podcast didn’t happen but thank god I was there early. I settled in at a table on the mezzanine and by 1:30 tables downstairs were at a premium, by kickoff people were four and five deep at the bar, and by halftime, you couldn’t get in. I did some get stinkeye as people walked through the bar in search of somewhere to watch the game. Sorry guys. This wasn’t my first rodeo.

Portugal-v-France-Final-UEFA-Euro-2016-1-700x548

Les Bleus were the preferred team at Fado with Portugal and Ronaldo being booed during the walk out. Cheers of Allez Les Bleus rang out from time to time and not much sympathy was given to Ronaldo when he went down injured and eventually had to be subbed out. Sissoko brought out gasps of excitement and anticipation as he drove forward in search of the opener. He seemed to be the only player who was willing to create opportunities and most of the other players fluffed their lines or skewed their shots into the crowd.

Portugal took the cliché “survive and advance” and executed it to the utmost during this tournament. Ronaldo’s two goals saved them against Hungary and allowed them to advance out of the group as a third placed team. From there, a putrid performance against Croatia was salvaged by a late goal in extra time and then they held their nerve against Poland, while the victory against Wales was their first in regulation of the tournament. For the Final, they hustled and bustled without doing too much, although they did trouble Lloris from time to time. I thought for sure Portugal were going to win the match when a handball was incorrectly called against Koscielny but the free kick thundered off the crossbar. There was no let off when Eder created space and hit a low hard shot to secure Portugal’s first major title.

Euro-2016-Final-Portugal-v-France

In the end, Cristiano Ronaldo delivered what Eusebio and Figo could not. He now has almost every major title and surely will be named Ballon D’Or later this year. Say what you want about him, but he delivers. His key goals got them to the Final and even though he only played a small part of the Final, you can’t ignore his efforts on the sideline.

As for France, I am surprised they lost. Les Bleus seemed to be peaking and were ready to join their predecessors by winning on home soil. Maybe it was nerves, maybe something else, but they never really hit top gear. Maybe Kante should have played. Maybe Martial should have come in earlier. Maybe Griezmann just ran out of magic. However their performance sets the stage for possible run to the World Cup in Russia.

A couple of odds and ends.

touchline

Surely Real Madrid is going to be pissed at the Portugal training staff for letting CR7 run about on a torn ACL.

quaresma-hair-portugal-500x370

What can you say about Quarsema’s hair? Wish some of these players would put as much time into their finishing as their follicles.

France's midfielder Moussa Sissoko (L) vies for the ball against Portugal's defender Raphael Guerreiro during the Euro 2016 final football match between France and Portugal at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on July 10, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFEFRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

As for the kits, the Final was not marred by some weird clash or alternate alternate kit. Both teams wore the home strip. Would have preferred contrasting shorts but Nike clearly has an idea of what they want their kits to look like.

7535458-3x2-940x627

In the end I enjoyed the tournament. Watching the BBC’s post Final montage and quickly skimming the Guardian’s highs and lows I was reminded of some the wonderful moments as well as the quickly forgotten episodes. Several outlets lamented the lack of excitement and quality. I thought there some poor games but some amazing goals and wonderful atmosphere. To be fair, I was a little more distant from the tournament than normal due to other commitments but still relished the event.

——

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

Advertisements

Personal Kit Collection 2016

Inspired by a series of tweets late 2012, I took stock of my kit inventory and put together a post documenting my personal kit collection at the time. As you can see my collection was all over the place in terms of teams, manufacturer and style. Since then, I have had a couple of realizations (read: interventions) and talks with myself. Combine that with a big move and my collection is now under 30 jerseys. I have probably owned over 50 shirts through the years but things happen. My collection pales in comparison with others, especially JR Francis, as we discussed on one of his appearances on the SoccerNomad podcast, but I love collecting and talking about kits.

Manchester United

Home

IMAG0524

Away

IMAG0528 IMAG0530

US National Team

IMAG0504

National Teams

 IMAG0503

FC Barcelona

 IMAG0490

Juventus

IMAG0493

Atlanta Silverbacks

IMAG0491

My current plan is to follow my self-created rules.

  • Since I’ve narrowed my focus to just following Manchester United at club level (and Atlanta United when they take the field in 2017), only buying a shirt every three years or ones that match my tastes. I’m currently back filling my Manchester United collection.
  • In terms of national team kits, only buying ones of the United States Men’s National Team. Why? Because I’m American, if only by an accident of birthplace. (Of course, thanks to Nike, this policy has been a real problem as they keep designing crap shirts.)
  • Only buying personalized jerseys (printed with JUNIOR 7) and not buying “hero jerseys”.
  • Only buying shirts on sale (promotional or otherwise) or wait until the release of the following set of kits.

Since I put these into effect a couple of years ago, I have done quite well, only breaking the rules once, and that was to get an authentic Holland Away jersey from Euro 2012. It was 50% off at Classic Football Shirts and I couldn’t pass it up. However I’m close to breaking several of the above rules for the new Croatia Euro 2016 away shirt.

croatia-euro-2016-away-kit-3

For all the posts on kits that I have owned, own currently or want to own, please visit the Strip Club page of the SoccerNomad blog.

Here are some good resources, especially if you’re looking for vintage or retro shirts:

Feel free to share your faves/collections or great sites for shirts in the comments below.

Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King

cantona book pic

Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King, Philippe Auclair

Eric Cantona is one of my favorite Manchester United players and over the years I have come to enjoy Philippe Auclair’s perspective on soccer.  The combination of these two created a stunning book that I cannot recommend highly enough. Auclair’s offering is part football history, part social commentary, part psychology and it’s all amazing.

The narrative examines Cantona’s life in total, from his days as a talented youth, to his mixed time in France to the culmination of his reign at Manchester United. The precociously talented youth was formed by several coaches, namely Guy LeRoux and blossomed at Auxerre. Controversy was never far from the Frenchman and Auclair mentions these incidents to set the stage for future events.

I learned so much about French Football history, in particular the politics and success of Marseille in the early 90’s. The failings of the French National Team before the emergence of Zidane and others are also discussed. Although Cantona never found success at international level, he did contribute to the rise of the team that eventually won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championships.

Moving on from there Auclair contextualizes the early days of the Premiership and how Cantona rose to fame on foreign shores. Eventually shown the door at Leeds United, he arrived at Old Trafford, the perfect platform for the player, and ushered in a period of dominance harkening back to the days of Sir Matt Busby and the Holy Trinity.

Reading about the club’s success after years of failure always brings a smile to my face. These were the days when I first found the club and Auclair allowed me relive those moments of the first Premier League title and Domestic Double. Cantona was a key part of those early titles as he was the catalyst for this group of players and also helped develop Fergie’s Fledglings.

Cantona’s rush of blood at Selhurst Park is discussed at length and it is here that the author shines. Throughout the book, Auclair explores how Eric responded to both success and failure. His reactions varied from rich veins of form to tension filled conflict with his clubs to moments of madness. His actions against Matthew Simmons put the wonderful player on the sideline for several months, but Auclair also recaps how Le Roi would rise triumphant in the 95/96 season.

Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was how Auclair fleshed out the player as artist. Eric had a unique personality and philosophy and these are what contributed to his actions, both good and bad, and his greatest moments on the field. In the end, he chose to walk away, still with more to give with his body but not with his heart.

The prose of the book moves the story along and the main character contributes to wonderful tale. I had a hard time putting it down, have read it twice, and can’t wait to read it again. Auclair presents a well- rounded philosophy of the player and his contribution to the history of Manchester United.

——

For a full list of my book reviews, please visit the Recommended Reading page. And reach out to me with your suggestions as well.

Old Futbol Buffet–#SurvivalSunday

Survival Sunday was all that Fox could have asked for.  Goals, tension, flashpoints, a constantly updating table and a title that was literally won with the last kick of the last game.  Hours after the final whistle, I am still emotionally spent.

We set up a Watch Party at the local Buffalo Wild Wings so that we could watch all of the games at the same time on several TV’s.  Keeping track of five matches was much more difficult that I had imagined, especially as one game affected another.  Spurs scored early, Arsenal immediately responded.  Then the Gunners went behind as did Newcastle.  United took the lead at Sunderland, and then minutes later City were gifted a goal by poor goalkeeping.  And so on.  Next year, if we get this lucky, I need to do a minute by minute to show how circumstances changed throughout the two hours.

I had conceded the title after the Everton draw but when QPR scored to go up 2-1 with ten men, I actually started to believe.  I was screaming for United to get a second to give fans (namely me) some breathing space, and as the minutes ticked away, I told a fellow United fan, we’re almost there.  And then the most unbelievable two minutes since the United Treble happened.  I knew that City would score a second so when Dzeko scored I was concerned that time was still on the clock.  Time for the shift, the shift from the red half of Manchester to the blue.  When the ball was hoofed into the box, everything slowed down.  Super Mario couldn’t quite control the ball so he just prodded it along.  Aguero started dribbling, slowly fooling defenders and creating just enough space to agonizingly wind up and send a laser that found its way, frame by frame, into the back of the net.

Having just finished Fever Pitch (again), the thrill of a last minute goal to win the title was fresh in my mind.  As I told my friend moments after the game, in between disappointed sobs, this is as close as we will get to the 1989 Championship moment.  James Tyler at soccernet tweeted it perfectly: Aguero is the new Michael Thomas.  And then it was over.  City were champions and the disappointment and the pain and the taunting and the second guessing and the what ifs could begin in earnest, fueled by beer and whiskey.

My best friend, who is a United fan, called moments after the final whistle and we commiserated.  Fergie was so close to his greatest coaching job ever.  He lost Vidic and Fletcher yet patched a team together, dusting off Paul Scholes in midseason, to get United within goal difference of the title, finishing with the most points by a second placed team in the history of the Premier League.  What now for the Reds?  For the first time in five years, the Red Devils finished the year without a trophy.  I don’t have a coherent plan right now.  Maybe in time it will come to me, and hopefully this is just a blip and not the end of an era.

Man City

38

28

5

5

64

89

Man Utd

38

28

5

5

56

89

——

After all that, the Philadelphia Union hosted the New York Red Bulls, the first MLS game I had watched this season.  I had planned to do two things during the match: one, watch Thierry Henry because I had heard he was off to a great start, and two, take a nap, so that I was well rested for the La Liga games.  Well came to find out that Henry was hurt and may be out for the season.  As for the nap, I had to park further away than I had planned so I couldn’t sneak out to the car and I couldn’t really take a nap in a sports bar.

New York scored early but the Union was able to equalize pretty quickly with a nice header.  Then came the game changer.  Adu received the ball in the box, tried to split two defenders, was tripped and went down.  Whistle goes.  Penalty to Philly right?  Wrong.  Yellow to Adu, which was his second and he was sent off.  The card was harsh.  There was contact and the ref may not have given a penalty but you can’t give a card.  When Adu emerged from the locker room to watch the second half, he was given a standing ovation by the fans.

The Union came out firing to begin the second half, scoring a fantastic goal through Pajoy.  The ten men from Philly were able to hold out for another twenty minutes before the Red Bulls equalized.  Then a defensive mix up ten minutes later allowed the visitors to score their third.  Philly had a chance to win it at the end but couldn’t quite put it in.

Next up was the remainder of La Liga games, which I will get into later this week.

——

Adam Digby examined a couple of stats in Juventus’ run to the championship for Who Scored.  How did they win?  Here’s a couple of reasons: tops in Italy in possession percentage, passing accuracy, and shots, combined with an ironclad defense—least amount of goals conceded and shots allowed.  Adam also noted that Pirlo was integral to the team, proving that he still had gas in the tank.  Forza Juve.

Football Italia posted comments from Antonio Conte in the aftermath of Juventus’ scudetto clinching win, and he expressed his belief in himself and the squad, noting that getting buy-in from Buffon, Del Piero and Pirlo was key at the beginning.

Last Wednesday, Off the Ball talked to Xavier Rivoire about the French squad preparing to train for the Euros, and the curious process of calling up players in phases.  As for the squad itself, core players from the disastrous 2010 campaign are out—Henry, Anelka, and Toulalan.  Xavier also mentioned that Trezeguet may be back in the frame.

Jonathon Wilson looked at the prospects for Athletic and Atletico the Europa League Final for Fox Soccer.  Economics are likely to heavily influence the futures of both clubs, as fantastic performances from players such as Falcao, Diego, Muniain, and Llorente mean that bigger clubs will come calling.  He also talked about the impact of both managers—Simeone’s fierce intensity and Bielsa’s attacking verve.

Grant Wahl wrote a piece on Giuseppe Rossi’s change in fortune from the 2009 Confederations Cup to this season, which was devastated by 2 ACL injuries.  He also addressed some of the vitriol expressed by US fans toward the player. The next chapter for this player should be very interesting.

Doron Salomon examined Manchester United’s season for Stretford-End.com.  Among the issues he looked at: Fergie slipping regarding tactics and mind games; finances (it’s worth pointing out that United have had £500m drained out of the club by their American owners (who’ve not put a penny in)); United seemed not ruthless enough and their fans are not giving them the fervent support that is needed; the squad will need improvement, perhaps a marquee signing, as City will upgrade.

Paolo Bandini looked back at Alessandro Del Piero’s emotional farewell at Juventus Stadium, commenting that Del Piero’s career is not to be expressed in statistics as much as memories.  His departure, added to those of Nesta, Inzaghi, Gattuso and Seedorf, will leave a big hole in Serie A next year.

The Guardian crew put together a review of the Premier League season, including comments on great goals, great matches and the frantic last moments of the season.  Worth a watch.

In the same vein, Off the Ball’s podcast on Monday recapped the last day, cutting together audio commentary from half a dozen sources to give the reactions of broadcasters, fans and players.  The first half hour of the pod is epic.

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.

Advertisements