HISTORY OF HOME ADVANTAGE FOR FRANCE

Posted on July 7, 2016. Filed under: FOOTBALL, EURO 2016 | Tags: , , , , |

The second semi-finals of EURO 2016 tonight pits the host country France with Germany. France have won the Henri Delaunay Trophy twice while Germany have won it three times.Germany are the holders of the World Cup and if those statistics make the ‘Die Mannschaft’ the favourites, then one can be for  a surprise.

The ‘Les Bleus’ are appearing to be peaking at the right time and playing on home soil can be a very big advantage. The French won the World Cup in 1998 defying all odds playing in front of the home fans.On the other side, there is Germany which fights till the last whistle is blown and the team cannot be taken for granted.

But with injuries and suspensions, the Germans are going into battle tonight without the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Gomez, Sami Khedira and Mats Hummels. Add to the absence of firing from the likes of Gotze and Muller. For the French, things are bright with the likes of Griezmann, Giroud and Payet in fine form. The injury to central defender Hummels can prove costly for the Germans. All the contenders for the Golden Boot are from the French team and that is something to worry for the Germans.

France won the World Cup in 1998 when a certain player going by the name Zinedine Zidane conducted the French orchestra and also went on to score two goals against Brazil in the finals. Pogba is not certainly in the class of Zidane but great things are expected of him.

Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil have to fire from the midfield. The strikers have to be on target. The lack of form reminds one of the immense value that was added by a certain Miroslav Klose. It is sad that Germany who at one time invented the concept of the ‘Libero’ do have difficulties in the midfield.

The match between Italy and Germany was highly tactical with no team wanting to lose and in the end the match was decided on penalty. This is the problem with modern football where strategies are more important than flair and fluidity on the pitch.

Coming to the coaches, it is interesting. The French coach is Didier Deschamps who lifted the World Cup in 1998 as the captain of his team as well as the EURO in 2000. The EURO championship would only add to his resume. On the other side, we have Joachim Low who would be willing to add the EURO to the World Cup. By doing so Low would join with the coach of Spain, Busquet to win the EURO and the World Cup.

During the World Cup of 1998, before every kick-off, the French goalkeeper Fabian Barthez was kissed on his bald head by his teammate Laurent Blanc. After the initial wins, this carried on through to the finals. This time, Griezmann is  greeted with kiss on his striking boot by teammate, Payet. The French would not mind more kisses from Payet.

In the end, it is a question of ‘who blinks first’. I am waiting for a good contest.

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A TALE OF TWO INDIVIDUALS

Posted on July 6, 2016. Filed under: FOOTBALL, EURO 2016 | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Later this night Portugal and Wales are going to play the first semifinals of the EURO 2016.This is not the first time for Portugal but for Wales it is. Of course, Portugal has always flattered to deceive even when there was the golden generation with the likes of Figo. The talents of Christiano Ronaldo has, so far, not brought glory to Portugal at the international stage.

No one expected Wales to come this far in the tournament even as the most famous Welsh footballer, Gareth Bale differed. But critics have been proved wrong and supporters have been pleasantly surprised. Of course, the tournament has been witness to the performances from unfancied teams like Iceland!

Portugal has not been a one man team but Ronaldo was expected to lead the team to glory by inspirational play. So far, there has been very little of this. On the other hand, Wales was dismissed as a one player team and the player in question is Bale.In the initial rounds this appeared to be true but then the others from the team raised their hands only for the red hot Belgians to be trashed.

Portugal, it appears has the better of defence and that is where Wales might be found wanting since two key players from the earlier matches are to sit on the bench for the semifinals on account of suspension. But if Bale scores early, then things might become very difficult for Portugal.

It is the most opportune time for Ronaldo to take himself and his team to a higher position at the international level. Even as football is a team game, there is enough opportunity for the individuals to come to the fore and end up glorious. It was thirty years ago that one Diego Maradona took Argentina all the way to World Cup glory in Mexico. Ronaldo has a clothing line called CR7 and in Chemistry the element Chromium is represented by the symbol Cr. For the uninitiated, it is Chromium that makes objects like our bikes and cars look shinier and blingier. The performance of Ronaldo can only add to the shine.

Bale and company have been under no burden of expectations so far.That resulted in the way Wales played so far. But the enormity of the semifinals may just be too much to sustain. Wales should continue to play in the same way.

Ultimately, it all comes to how two mightily gifted individuals, Ronaldo and Bale can inspire their teammates.What makes things interesting is the fact that Ronaldo and Bale are team mates at Real Madrid.

The mind says Portugal since there is the pedigree but the heart goes out for the underdog Wales.

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A SAD ENDING

Posted on June 30, 2016. Filed under: FOOTBALL, EURO 2016 | Tags: , , , , , , |

The defeat of Spain by Holland in the opening match of the FIFA World Cup, 2014 showed to the world the end of the golden era of Spanish football when Vicente Del Bosque and his players toyed with all kinds of opposition. The margin of win for the Dutch was 5-1 and it was not just a trashing but mauling. That day there was no Tiki Taka and most of the fans of La Roja were desperate to hear the final whistle for the carnage to stop. The Spanish could not recover from that defeat and had to make an early exit from the tournament and relinquish their hold on the World Cup.

A couple of days ago the Spanish took on the might of Italy in the last sixteen round of the ongoing EURO 2016. The Spanish suffered a surprise defeat in the previous match at the hands of Croatia. But very few expected to see the painful end of the Spanish progress in the next match at the hands of Italy.

The finals of EURO 2012 played in Kiev features Spain and Italy. The two teams are as different as chalk is from cheese when it comes to the playing style and the strategy. The Spaniards rarely appear to physically overpower their opponents which is something that the Italians are known for. Even when defending Spain did not look ugly. The ball was an object that was completely under the spell of the Spanish team as if a magic spell was cast. The Italians looked laboured with pass after pass eluding them and in the end, they lost by a margin of 0-4 something that is extremely rare in the finals of a major tournament.

Coming back to 2016, there was a different story with the Italians having the last laugh. Initially, the rain was thought to affect the ball skills of the Spanish, but as the rains stopped, there was not much improvement. The Italians came well prepared and there were very few opportunities for the Spanish. Andres Iniesta for long has been regarded as the conductor of the Spanish orchestra and in this encounter there was very little he could do. All his passes were intercepted and the Italians somehow seemed to anticipate all his moves.

When one considers the statistics relating to ball possession, there was very little to separate the two teams but there was purpose behind the Italian possession while the Spaniards appeared to look confused and lost. The Italians won by a margin of 2-0 and without the sterling show of the Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea, the margin would have been a lot higher and more embarrassing for his team.

It was sad the witness the end of an era in world football. It was painful to see Andres Iniesta, the architect of so many wins-including the finals of FIFA World Cup, 2010 look jaded and past his prime. The faces of the Spanish revealed a lot. Many from the current squad may have donned the national colours for the last time.

A wise man once said, ‘what goes up must come down’ and so have things gone the full circle for the La Roja. It will take a lot of time and some incredible talent to put Spain once again on the top.

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EU(RO) EXIT AND FALL OUT

Posted on June 28, 2016. Filed under: FOOTBALL, EURO 2016, SPORTS, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

First it was the exit from the EU (European Union) called ‘BREXIT’ and then it was the exit from EURO 2016 that brought England into focus, albeit, one on the front page and the other on the last page.But in both the cases, the failures resulted in some casualties.

As a student of Economics, it always is interesting for me to read about how things like free trade areas, economic unions etc. work in practice.That for me, was the reason why I felt connected with the referendum that resulted in the people of Britain deciding to leave the European Union. The Prime Minister of England, David Cameron, predictably announced his intention of leaving office after the ‘leave’ vote. It always has been a contentious issue in England.

The second exit of England relates to the ouster of football team from the EURO 2016 held in France. The opening minutes saw Wayne Rooney giving his team the lead from a penalty. But as is the case, the English players only flattered to deceive and at the end, Iceland were the winning team. As the match went on, the English players simply looked like going through the motions and waited for the final whistle. The manager of the English team, Hodgson made public his decision to quit his post almost immediately.

England has never won any major international football competition since the win at home in 1966 edition of the World Cup. The Germans still are not happy with one particular incident from that finals even after all these years. The best performance in the EURO is a last four finish in the 1996 edition of the tournament when it was hosted by England.The loss to Iceland is surprising to say the least.It is a surprise since the English Premier League produces quality football, of course, with a great deal of help from ‘foreigners’.

I am now interested in finding out the impact of BREXIT on English football in the years to come. The Bosman ruling allowed many players ‘free transfers’ and many players from other European countries could ply trade in England and also in other EU football leagues. With the leave vote, it remains to be seen as to how the English FA decides to tackle the new problem. The earlier restrictions relating to the number of foreigners at any time on the ground may create difficulties for the football bosses of England. At the same time, the English league may be left behind in terms of quality.

Experts are still wondering over the economic impact of BREXIT. The exit of Britain from the EU was not entirely unexpected as also the progress of England in EURO 2016.I am thinking about the effect on English football.

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