Tag Archives: France

World Cup Brainstorming – the largely incoherent thoughts of a sleep deprived man

If you thought we’d been lazing around, doing nothing and watching football – then ahh, you’d be right! Despite the distraction of university exams for the majority of our correspondents, the World Cup has reigned supreme with daily FFTD conferences in front of the fireplace and SBS HD. And after all our late nights and maccas runs we’ve got a little to say:

Blast Off - The World Cup kicks off!

Blast Off - The World Cup kicks off!

Goalkeeping – The Tale of 2 Extremes

Shot stoppers in South Africa have been making the headlines far too often for most football fan’s fancy. First it was the ongoing whining about the Jubalani (shut up! We get it! It does funny thing and you can’t play the long balls so well! Cool!). Now it’s the remarkable keeping blunders that have towered over many a contest so far. Indeed it seemed that the “goalkeeping error” was the highest scorer throughout the first week. Amongst many other predictions, I suppose if you predict every possible outcome you’re bound to get something right, a lack of quality goal keepers was a more blatantly obvious theme than the theme of romance in Romeo & Juliet. More than half of our previews featured concerns over the goalkeeper including England, who produced the most significant blunder to date. Don’t think they can blame it all on the ball either – if you’re playing with an inflatable pool toy you still have to make the right decisions to come out and meet a cross or punch away.

Enyeama has been a veritable standout. Simply mesmerising against Los Pumas with his often beyond comprehension elasticity, I’m currently watching the poor boy shake his head after yet another keeping howler. Heartbreaking camera work, as the keeper looked like tears weren’t far away. In truth, Enyeama had kept his side in the contest, with remarkable save after remarkable save, but in the end, it seemed even he wasn’t immune from the goalkeeping curse that seems to be sweeping the Cup by storm. (As I finish the sentence – live reporting at its best – Enyeama pulls another cracker to hold the marauding Greeks at bay.) Another honourable mention goes to Tim Howard who showed his full array of shot stopping expertise against the English. His smothering save from a Heskey drive will stay in the memory for a while.

All in all, we had the good, bad and ugly.

“Our 10-0-0 just didn’t work today… maybe we’ll reconsider” Every manager so far

Defence has been the overwhelming centre piece of South Africa so far. Almost half the managers have opted for negative formations, and in many cases, formations counter to their standard practice. The Swiss were arguably the most dogged, although the Japanese, Uruguayans and Paraguayans all deserve mentions. Focusing on the Swiss, Grichting and Senderos (while he was on) were dogged and tireless. Employing a 4-4-1-1, they played a man-marking system rather than the regulation zonal system. Defenders would push up to 15 metres to latch onto their opposition’s shirts, ensuring he has no space to turn and little time on the ball. They’d obviously done their research, because the vast spaces in behind the central defenders at these moments were never exploited by a toothless Spain. No one was prepared to make the run in behind the Swiss into the space once Villa had dropped deep to have a touch on the ball. Further, the Spanish offered almost no width. At times you could throw the proverbial blanket over the midfield and striker. Ramos was the only man who looked to move forward into the space, but he lacked technical ability in the touch and in truth should have scored on at least one occasion. Although I’m not personally a fan of Jesus Navas – that kid just can’t cross the ball – he changed the game after his arrival, consistently popping up in dangerous wide positions.

Man-marking could be having a renaissance amongst tacticians. Chile have opted for such a defensive system and employ a deep lying sweeper who looks to trap any balls played through their back 3. Their 1-3-3-3 is highly unusual and unique, but hasn’t been tested as yet. But in theory, the formation is the ideal for what we’v been considering so far. Apparently, they’ll swap to a 3-1-3-3 when they face the better sides, not that that’s particularly defensive. The Asian teams so far (besides Australia) haven’t surprised with their prodigal defences. Their idea of football is to swarm the opposition akin to bees to a honey pot. Japan particularly, looked to be playing with 15 men at stages against the Cameroonians, who didn’t have enough time to shout Eto’o before the whole Japanese squad was standing on their feet.

Strikers with an eye for the wrong goal

The other feature so far has been defensive minded strikers. What? Hold on, let me explain. While the notion of defending from the front has become somewhat of a bedrock within the modern footballing rhetoric, 2010 South Africa has possibly thrown up its first major tactical addition to the collective brain trust. A pattern has emerged in which teams pass the ball along the ground, eventually finding a lone front man, who drops back towards midfield, opening space in behind the defender who has hopefully pressed up the pitch with his man. Attacking wingers or midfields such as Oezil, Gerrard, Muller, Robinho, Sneijder and Honda are prepared to run into the space left in behind the defence, posing their own direct goal threat. It seems that these creative midfielders are more about scoring themselves than assisting others. The Gerrard and Oezil goals were the clearest demonstrations of the feature. Maybe the Jubalani has had something to do with the pattern, as the long ball into a target man has so far been ruled out by players who can’t seem to get a grip on a ball nicknamed “the snitch” by at least one colleague.

So all in all, we’ve seen a disappointing opening to Africa’s 1st World Cup. But already, the standard has lifted. Last night was probably the best football I’ve seen in 2010, with a pulsating Greece/Nigeria clash displaying the type of urgency we’ve come to expect. The Mexicans continued on their impressive way over a dismal and dispassionate France and Argentina leapt to favouritism and qualification on the back of a Lionel Messi extravaganza. But more on all that to follow…

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Group Matches (P)review

Round-up Groups A-D

So the 2010 World Cup is well under way, and with a paltry average of 1.56 goals a game after the first round of group games compared to 2.43 at this stage in 2006, I think it’s fair to say that this has not been quite what global audiences hoped or expected. A closer look, however, would suggest that perhaps this lack of goals is not so surprising; the defensively minded 4-2-3-1 formation du jour has certainly made itself known at the competition. Let’s hope for some more goals second time round!

So, a quick round up and summary of what can we expect from the rest of the group matches:

Group A

Ok, well South Africa have already lost 3-0 to a far more attack minded Uruguay outfit than we experienced against France back in the second match of the tournament, quite understandably. Whilst the scoreline is slightly flattering in favour of the South Americans, they certainly deserved the win, and South Africa’s discipline was poor. South Africa didn’t show the energy and creativity they did against Mexico, and talismanic midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala was wasteful. Diego Forlan proved his worth to Uruguay, scoring the first two goals and playing a part in the third and they now look well-placed to go through the group.

Coming up tonight is France v Mexico, a must-win game for both teams. France will surely drop the awful Govou for Florent Malouda, in the form of his career, and perhaps Franck Ribery will pass the ball to a player? It’s anyone’s guess! It would be nice to see ‘Handball-Henry’ for more than 20 minutes but seems unlikely given Raymond Domenech’s tendency to be a stubborn imbecile. Mexico will look to speedy youngster Giovanni dos Santos again to provide the flair for the team, as well as the basis for everything good they create – another example of a player who hasn’t had much club game time in recent years experiencing a resurgence in his fortunes at the World Cup. And perhaps ManU new boy Javi Hernandez will get a decent run?

Prediction: France 2-2 Mexico

Group B

Argentina escaped the brick wall of Nigeria with a less than convincing 1-0 win, but we were still lucky enough to witness some of the gold that makes Lionel Messi the best player in the world. Some strange decisions by mad-man Maradona, but that’s not really a surprise at all, is it? He came out and said that the only three players guaranteed starting positions were Messi, Mascherano, and Gutierrez – a fairly startling claim considering the wealth of talent in the squad. Then we witnessed the latter playing at right back, quite different from his left-wing berth at Newcastle – another instance of players too good to be left out, perhaps.  A tough game tonight against South Korea will likely prove a greater challenge than Nigeria. The Super Eagles looked strong at the back but were undone by Heinze’s rocket-header into the top-corner early on. They didn’t look so good up front, but with attacking players like Obafemi Martins, John Utaka, and Kanu supporting the Yak, they will always pose a threat, especially in the air.  Vincent Enyeama put in a great display between the sticks to keep them in the match, and they’ll fancy their chances of picking up 3 points tonight against Greece.

South Korea showed that they’ve got what it takes with a solid 2-0 win over a poor and frankly negative Greece. South Korea meet Argentina tonight in what will hopefully prove to be the most exciting game the group, and could well decide first place. Park Ji-Sung looked good, and their stylish play is in stark contrast to most teams in the tournament thus far. They will have to hold back a bit against Messi’s men, but should put up a good fight. Dark horse for the quarters?

Greece have a reputation for being a strong and organised defensive side, but here they were undone by some slick passing, much more of which is to come when they face Argentina. Up front they looked lacking in ideas. Points for them in the rest of the group will be hard to come by. They have a chance to sneak a draw tonight against Nigeria, but my guess says they will finish as group B whipping boys.

Predictions: Argentina 2-1 South Korea

Greece 0-1 Nigeria

Maradona quotes this week:

“I am not afraid of anyone or anything – unless they are wearing a mask…”

On Pele: “He should go back to the museum and stay there.”

On Michel Platini: “He’s French and we all know how French people are. If they say ‘hi’ and ‘goodbye’ that’s something.”

More insightful than I could ever hope to be. Wonderful stuff, let’s hope they keep coming!

Group C

England opened their campaign with a hard-fought 1-1 draw with the USA – a decent result for them, despite what most people seem to think. St. Stevie’s early goal – a real skipper’s goal – was cancelled out by Rob Green’s decision to let Clint Dempsey’s pass trickle over the line. What? Surely that wasn’t an accident? Whatever. England should still win the group, and they’d better hope they do, otherwise they can expect to face a rampant Germany in the second round, who on first showing will tear them a collective new asshole.  Despite what most critics seem to think I still reckon Heskey was rubbish and should make way for Crouch, or alternatively, Gerrard move forward and Barry take over in the centre. Cole should replace the lacklustre Milner on the left.

The US, on the other hand, looked lively and much hungrier than England, but still failed to trouble the England defenders too much. Altidore was probably the pick of the bunch, strolling past the creaking bones of Jamie Carragher. Some increased invention from his team-mates in their next match against Slovenia could see a fair few goals scored, and if they’re lucky they might edge England out at the top of the group.

The Slovenia v Algeria match was one of the poorest matches yet. No one on the field could come to grips with the diabolical Jabulani ball, with passes being floated almost out of the stadium. The highlight (lowlight?) of the match came when Algerian keeper Faouzi Chouachi threw West Brom alumni Robert Koren’s tame strike into the side of the net. Both teams looked defensive, with chances on goal coming at a premium. Nadir Belhadj looked lively for Algeria, getting forward regularly from his left-back role, but failed to inspire a goal. Interesting statistic: Abdelkader Ghezzal picked up two yellows in just 14 minutes and 19 seconds, making him the fastest substitute to pick up two yellow cards in World Cup history. There’s really not much else to be said about this game. Both teams will struggle again on Friday night and one would expect England and USA to push on from Group C.

Predictions: England 2-0 Algeria

USA 1-0 Slovenia

Group D

Aussie Aussie Aussie! Nein!

No cheering from the Aussies after their 4-0 demolition at the hands of a clinical German outfit that could have scored even more goals. Lucas Podolski played a big part just as the webmaster predicted, and his fine finish in the 8th minute started the rout. Mesut Ozil also had a strong showing, playing in the roaming role behind Klose. Ballack’s absence was hardly noticed with Bastian Schweinsteiger effortlessly slotting into a deeper role. That said, Pim Verbeek’s tactics were extremely negative, choosing not to field a recognized striker in a compact but ill-disciplined and ill-prepared 4-2-1-2-1 formation. Lucas Neill and Craig Moore looked out of their depth and far too slow at the back. Tim Cahill clearly forgot to eat the Weetbix he so heartily endorses. The only positive comments can come from the performance of Brett Emerton, Wilkshire to a lesser extent, and Brett Holman who injected some much needed energy at half-time. Verbeek’s questionable tactics have come under much criticism, and the Aussies will need to bounce back with gusto against Ghana on Saturday night if they are to have any chance of going through.

Ghana and Serbia produced the first victory for an African nation at the tournament, and it was quite an entertaining game to boot. Serbia looked surprisingly frail at the back, and human giant Nikola Zigic was wasteful up front. They failed to produce sustained pressure on the Ghanaian goal and suffered for it. Ghana were slightly better, pressuring the Serbian defence whenever they were in possession. Asamoah Gyan netted a penalty to take the lead after Serbia had gone down to 10 men, and this win gives them a good chance of going through to the next round. Serbia will struggle with the speed and efficiency of the German attack, and a loss will probably knock them out of the running for second round qualification. Ghana face Australia who will be desperate for a victory, and perhaps in this case, desperation will prevail over superiority.

Predictions: Australia 1-0 Ghana

Germany 3-1 Serbia

Acknowledgements: Thanks to editor and minor contributor, Fishface Shakur.

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World Cup Preview – Group A – France

Viva le France – the French are always contenders even if they resemble a bit more of a circus this time round.

Check out the other Group A contenders – Uruguay South Africa Mexico

The Basics

• Nickname: Les Bleus
• Colors: Blue, white and red
• FIFA Ranking: 10
• How They Got Here: Finished second in European qualification group; threw the ball into the net to see of Ireland
• World Cup pedigree: 12 World Cups, 1 title (’98, when they hosted), second place (’06) and third place (’58, ’86).

The Plot

The French seem to have a never ending production line of talent and this time round it’s no different. They’ll be in the mix once again and face immense pressure from the French public to perform consistently. Les Blues have a youthful and attack minded squad – full of players smattered across the biggest clubs in Europe. They have a clown of a manager, Raymond Domenech, who is stifling conservative and old fashioned, not to mention his stubborn persona. Rest assure, when the French lose to South Africa 7-0, we’ll have to watch Domenech put on another one of those disbelief-type performances for the press. The French will have lofty ambitions and will expect nothing less than final 4 football.

The Director

Raymond Domenech

It is unbelievable that this bloke remains in charge. It’s almost as though the media has given up leaking rumours of him being sacked. I suppose he’s shown stickability. But he hasn’t shown much else. And it’s not just the press and public that is calling for his head, with players (there are countless quotes) often remarkably condemning the gaffer. He is known to leave his starting 11 up to the astrological signs of the day and they only just scraped into the Cup. It really is remarkable to even consider them missing out with their talent. This guy truly is the mickey mouse of this year’s tournament (despite one Maradona!)

Leading Man

Franck Ribery (midfielder, Bayern Munich)

Ribery is one of the hottest properties in world football and the majority of the French attack will flow through his feet. Ribery started the trend of inside out wingers, who offer a direct goal threat more than a passing/crossing one. He has been prolific for Bayern and will replace the figure of Zizuo who was so pivotal in their previous outings. Recently, however, Ribery’s shady character has come to the fore and his underage prostitution case in France, which is only one of about a billion controversies swirling around the French camp, could affect him in South Africa. If the French go far, he could be a roughie for player of the tournament.

Supporting Cast

Thierry Henry (forward, Barcelona) and the French national side conjure up all those images of his infamous hand ball that led to emergency political meetings between the respective nations. He’ll be an important cog, whether he features predominantly or not, as he adds some much needed experience to the youthful pot. Karim Benzema (forward, Real Madrid) has been linked to every club in the world in a typically media driven chase for his wares. He’s in and out of the starting side at Madrid and has not been a regular in Domenech’s setup to say the least. If he makes the pitch then he is a dangerous quantity who shouldn’t leave the Froggies short for goals. William Gallas (defender, Arsenal) hasn’t had the most spectacular season for the Gunners, but is one of those tough and experienced defenders that every side needs. He’ll be right at the heart of their defence which is certainly not the side’s strong suit.

Unknown Talent

Yoann Gourcuff (attacking midfielder, Bordeaux) has remained an unknown quantity purely because of the relatively low coverage and interest in the French league. Rest assured he is a rare talent. More than Ribery, he is a direct replacement for Zidane and plays the creative role for the side. Gourcuff was the irresistible driving force behind Bordeaux’s rise to the crest of French football. Many pundits looked at the Frenchman to bring back the traditional number 10 to world football, however, recently the experts have regarded him as a holding midfielder who’ll line up next to the solid if not spectacular Diarra. Yoann is one of those players with big expectations and is primed to break through to the elite group at the top of world football. Watch for him to become a household name in June.

The Likely Villian


This picture just about sums it all up…


Despite their prolific attacking side, Domenech refuses to get rid of his beloved two holding midfielders and favours leaving just the one striker on the paddock. This is the most obvious example of the manager relying on his tactics in Germany and a failure to evolve with the world game. Almost every side in Germany played the 4-2-3-1 and the French will line up like this once again – sigh.

The Strip


“She’s Out of My League”

Domench is the nerdy guy and the French team are the really hot blonde. No one thinks it should work (and, more often than not, it doesn’t) but somehow they are holding the relationship together.

The Advertisement

Useless Trivia

The French drink more bottled water per capita than any other nation in the world. (Useless)

The Fairytale Script

The French dispatch all those pre-cup doubts with three emphatic wins in the group and proceed to the final four where Ribery scores a trademark thunderbolt from well outside the box to send them to the final. Screw that – the real fairytale here could come for Ireland. It’s the 22nd of June and it’s late on in the final group match. The French are being held by a stubborn home side who are still harbouring hopes of a remarkable qualification. The Mexicans are sitting pretty on top of the group and with their two wins and one loss, so the French are staring down the barrel of a first round exit. Gourcuff passes to Ribery who switches to the forward run of Malouda. The Chelsea star whips in a fizzing ball towards the substitute Henry who rises above the Afrikaaners and punches the ball into the top left net. The referee (and karma) blow the whistle ruling the goal out and giving Thierry a straight red. South Africa hold on and the French are sent packing.

The Final Verdict

Despite the circus that the side has become, the French still possess one of the most potent attacking forces in the comp and are really only the laughing stock of the top 6 sides, rather than the laughing stock of the tournament. In Germany, similar doubts were harboured and they proved everyone wrong. Ribery, undeniably, is capable of that wonder goal that could send them into the second week of July. However, being the combustible commodity that they have become, a similar scenario to 2002 (where Senegal became everyone’s second favourite side) could ensue, despite their easy group. If they don’t win the group, then a mouth-watering match up with Argentina will result.

Outstanding attacking weapons + Strong reputation and history – Domenech – Domenech – not a title winning defence – Domenech = top of the group and a quarter final farewell, as the Poms finally win a penalty shootout.

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