Tagged: France

France great expectations weigh heavy on Karim Benzema – ESPN FC

France great expectations weigh heavy on Karim Benzema – ESPN FC.

You know the scary thing about Benzema? He’s still only 26. The expectations on him for France are understandable, and will increase without Franck Ribery, but Julien Lauren’s makes a great point about the difference in his roles for club and country.

France has been very good in 2014 without a standout player in the attacking sense, which is why Benzema is looked to as the star. He does, after all, play on the most high-profile team out of all of his compatriots and he’s performed pretty consistently for them as well.

Minus his first season, Benzema’s been in double digits and added a decent amount of assists as well. Still, he just flies under the radar.

It’s been nice to see the French resurgence but they won’t progress unless goals come from elsewhere. Benzema’s the most experienced(77 caps) and highest-scoring(25 goals) player in the national setup so he should still be leading the way but he can’t be entirely to blame if things go wrong either.

Guess we can only watch and see what happens in that regard.

Why Yoann Gourcuff hasn’t lived up to the hype of being the next Zidane – ESPN FC

Why Yoann Gourcuff hasn’t lived up to the hype of being the next Zidane – ESPN FC.

ESPNFC’s Julien Laurens looks at the struggles of one of France’s most talented players in recent years.

Yoan Gourcuff has become almost a forgotten figure in World Football in recent seasons and, judging by some of the paragraphs in the article, he likes that. As the two goal clips and a title win with Bordeaux show, Gourcuff is an extremely talented player who was just not made it to that next level of stardom. Or didn’t want to make it.

This piece from FourFourTwo takes an interesting look at how football’s most talented introverts may be viewed and you get the sense that some of it rings true for Gourcuff. That, and the weight of being expected to emulate arguably France’s best player ever, Zidane. The title of the article itself brings up another constant part of football that affects talented youngsters.

The “Next” title.

I, for one, have never really been interesting with that kind of labeling. If you think of other players like Roma’s Juan Iturbe, who was labeled the “next Lionel Messi” early in his career they always fail to live up to the mark. Sure, there are going to be similarities between players with similar backgrounds and traits on the pitch. There’s also players who like to model their game after others.

Another example is Romelu Lukaku and the “next Didier Drogba” title. They certainly have their similarities but I’ve never thought Lukaku could replicate Drogba exactly and, if you want to be critical, his failure to break through at Chelsea says just that. Most of that is down to transfer hype and so on and it’s unlikely players or coaches themselves think like that, but the fans are the ones who almost live and die by that title, and thus affect the player.

There is only one Didier Drogba, only one Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo and, for sure, there’s only on Zlatan Ibrahimovic.(We’ll miss the big Swede for sure)

We’ll look at another player later in the day who may be headed towards a “next” title he really doesn’t want.

Mea Culpa Netherlands, Mea Culpa

As I sit here watching the Chile vs. Australia match, I’m in shock.

The Netherlands’ annihilation of Spain in their opening match of the 2014 World Cup is going to be a major talking point for many until the next time either team lines up on the pitch. I don’t think many saw that coming, as I certainly didn’t.

While the impact of the game certainly means more to the Spaniards and Dutch people around the world, it means a lot to me as well from a pure footballing standpoint.

During my entire football-related life, my list of favorite national teams has been short. Sure, there have been plenty teams I admired, for various reasons, but it’s always been these four. The list goes Jamaica(always first of course) the Netherlands, Spain and France.

For a longtime, until recently, the list was in that order as well.

Jamaica is the land of my birth so that’s easy. It was a family thing to be in love with the “Total Football” of the Dutch despite their constant under achievement. Spain, similarly so, were also underachievers with plenty of talented footballers. My former attachment with Cesc Fabregas enhanced that allegiance. My French fancy really kicked into gear heading into, and continued throughout and beyond, the 1998 World Cup.

It also helped that they  produced my favorite footballer of all time, Thierry Henry.

Not being a native of these European countries, I had, I felt, every right to alter allegiances from time to time. However, the Netherlands were usually second in line. I certainly always cheered for each team during tournaments though, and never felt like a loser if they ever played each other.

Until now.

My allegiance with the “tiki-taka” game of Spain moved to such an extreme thanks to their successes, and those of Barcelona, that I  became quite disdainful of my other two sides. It stings a little less with an Henry-less France but not so with the Dutch. I think the 2010 World Cup final was what really did me in. I lost faith.

The constant “beep beep” of my phone at work alerted me that something was happening. I didn’t have a clue. What’s funny is that I never realized Spain was winning because the first time I dared to check the score it showed Netherlands up 2-1 at around the 64th minute. “Plenty of time,” I thought, “to get an equalizer and a not so disastrous point in game one.”

While I certainly didn’t want, or prefer, if the Netherlands lost, I, like so many others, expected it to be a Spain win.

And they were winning. So how did they lose? I have yet to watch the game, and may need a day or two to collect myself and do so depending on time as  the live games provide more intrigue at this point. I’m sure the weakness of their style, full-backs pushing up too high, was ruthlessly exploited by the Dutch.

Maybe the football gods decided this was necessary as a result of the ultimate betrayal by, cue the Arsenal fans, Fabregas. Maybe they decided to prolong my stay at work, I was trying like hell to leave, so I wouldn’t have to be further humiliated by watching whatever that was from Spain.

While my brother and father reveled in the retribution of the “Oranje” I was conflicted. I had, as a certain author of the Prime Time Sports blog stated, fell in love with the imitators and not the originators.

I’ve seen it now.

I came to detest a forward pass played, I believed, too quickly, and preferred a sideways pass to keep the ball. Sound familiar? I even became annoyed with Arsenal for seemingly failing to play as beautifully as my second club, Barcelona.

I have tried to stray away from that mentality in recent times, and may be prompted even further considering this result. I do love Total Football but I also want total control of a game. The opposition, like many of my online  FIFA opponents when I was at my best, must absolutely detest playing against me.

I’m happy for the Netherlands. I really am.

I won’t suddenly switch gears and except them to win the World Cup or anything but I’ll be more invested, and excited, as I was in the past. I can’t say if they’ll overtake Spain again though. Definitely not right now.

I still have high hopes for this Spain squad and I’m looking for a six point trio in Group B, with goal difference being the decider. It could happen.

In even better news, if a Spain loss can be considered such, it may help my overall predictions somewhat. Spain bowing out early means a, slightly, less difficult run to the final for Argentina. It would likely be Italy, not Spain, that Lionel Messi and company face in the semifinals.

I guess we’ll see.

To sirs Cruyff, Michels, Gullit, Rijkaard, Van Gaal and Bergkamp, as well as Ajax and the 1974 Dutch side I say, my bad.  I won’t lose faith again.