Posts Tagged ‘Franck Ribéry’

Euro 2008 – France vs. Italy Preview: The Grand Final, Take 2

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Franck Ribéry and Luca Toni were right: Tuesday’s match between France and Italy has all the marks of a grand final.

On paper, two of the strongest teams in the footy world. Mutual respect, but also a great history and rivarly extending throughout the years: epic battles lost & won, the most recent of which took place only 2 years ago on the biggest stage that any sporting event could wish for: a FIFA World Cup final!

On that day (July 9, 2006), Italy and France competed with a mathematical certainty: there would be a winner that night, and one of them would be walking away with glory. On Tuesday, the two World Cup finalists will be competing to stay alive. And at the end of the day, there’s a very real possibility both will be walking away in shame. Defeated. But it is something neither of them prefers to think about and frankly, neither do we.

Pre-Match Statistics

Through history, Italy and France played each other only once during European Championship finals, and that is a match many Azzurri fans would rather not remember (July 2, Euro 2000 final in Rotterdam, Netherlands). In total, the two teams have played 35 matches together (5 World Cups, 1 Euro Cup, 2 Euro Cup qualifiers, 2 Olympic games, 24 friendlies, 1 Tournoi de France), with Italy winning 17, tying 10, and losing 8 (74-48 the goal differential).

Note that Italy have not beaten France since June 2, 1978, when the Azzurri were victorious over Les Bleus at Mar del Plata, for the first group stage match of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Since then the two countries played each other 9 times, with France obtaining 5 wins and 4 draws (the most notable of which was the World Cup 2006 final which, for statistical purposes, ended 1-1 after extra time).
.

Head-to-head France vs. Italy

Played
Wins
France
Draws
Wins
Italy
All Venues
35
8
10
17
In France
15
3
7
5
In Italy
15
2
3
10
Neutral
5
3
0
2
Competitive Matches
10
4
3
3
Euro Championship
1
1
0
0

Date
Venue
Match
Result
First match
15 May 1910
Milan, ITA
Italy – France
6-2
Biggest win France
29 Aug 1920
Antwerp, BEL
France – Italy
3-1
06 Sep 2006
Paris, FRA
France – Italy
3-1
Biggest win Italy
22 Mar 1925
Turin, ITA
Italy – France
7-0
Most goals
18 Jan 1920
Milan, ITA
Italy – France
9-4
Last match
08 Sep 2007
Milan, ITA
Italy – France
0-0

.

Italy

 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio

(From La Gazzetta): ZURICH, 16 June 2008 – “The match is tomorrow.” Four words that reveal Roberto Donadoni’s passion. The usually calm Italian manager looks exhausted, almost alone in the midst of the storm. Yes, tomorrow is “the match“, and the Azzurri will play it with one regret: “We won’t be the masters of our own destiny.”

The coach believes in his own heart: and so do all the Azzurri. There is France on one side, and then… another match. And there’s also the future: Donadoni doesn’t want to cut the Azzurri’s horizon short. “No, I haven’t packed my suitcase yet in Baden.” he says. The suitcases are all there and there is always time to pack them. Right now, we are thinking about something else.”

CASSANO? – Unlike the eve of the match against Romania, Donadoni doesn’t want to reveal his line-up. “You want to know if Antonio is playing? This time, I won’t say anything. I’ve pretty much made up my mind on the line-up, but I will give it the final touch tomorrow morning.”

According to La Repubblica, one of the possible solutions to complete the Cassano-Toni pair would be Mauro Camoranesi, one of the players still in need to impress at Euro 2008. “He recuperated just like the others, although those that played longer are also subject to a certain mental fatigue” admitted Donadoni. Kinda like saying the Italo-Argentine could be facing some bench time on Tuesday. The alternative to Camoranesi is Antonio Di Natale, in better physical shape but with lower defensive abilities.

The defensive & covering tasks would be therefore left to the likes of De Rossi, Gattuso, and Ambrosini (currently the midfield trio most likely to start vs. France). Andrea Pirlo would thus be relegated to the bench, in part because of his co-existence problems with De Rossi against Romania. “I will be on the field tomorrow” said however Pirlo on Monday, very convincingly. As for the defense, there is little doubt that the same back four we saw against Romania (Zambrotta, Panucci, Chiellini and Grosso) will all get a start vs. France also.

.

Buffon
Zambrotta, Panucci, Chiellini, Grosso
Gattuso, De Rossi, Ambrosini
Cassano, Toni, Di Natale

.

As for Donadoni, the Italian manager is at a crossroads: in or out? Dreaming of Vienna, the Prater and the Quarter-finals, the Don tries to put his feelings into words. “What can I tell you? That our burden is as big as the will to win. It’s a nice match to play and everyone would like to play it.” The coach has some precise convictions: “The winner tomorrow will be whoever thinks more about their own match.” He has given the players a brief but clear message: “We shall not focus on whatever doesn’t concern us… France should be the only thing on our minds.”

THE FINAL – The Netherlands are another reality, one hour away by car. That’s where the fate of three national teams will be decided. Romania, Italy or France? Donadoni looks straight ahead and reiterates: “We are ready, we know what we are playing for: tomorrow we will give everything we have, body and soul.” Almost like another final.

RISK- For the Azzurri to play to the best of their abilities, Donadoni will need to ignite the flame of passion in his players. Rational plays, but also some craziness & creativity coupled with a little bit of spunk: the Cassano solution. The Don is quiet about it: “You will see tomorrow. I am not saying anything.” But then, he opens a small window to deductions: “We have played with three strikers before, in other circumstances. I think I have always selected a balanced team.” Undeniable, but what about France? The coach hands it in: “I think these are matches where it’s necessary to take just a few extra chances.”
.

France

(From La Repubblica): Rome is crying about the Azzurri, but Paris isn’t laughing about Les Bleus either. Roberto Donadoni and Raymond Domenech have, believe it or not, many things in common as they approach the France vs. Italy match. Both managers will lose their jobs if their team is eliminated, both have made certain tactical choices which have been strongly criticized by the press, and both have been struggling with key injuries within their team (Italy have Fabio Cannavaro, France have Patrick Vieira).

However, the mood of Chatel Saint Denis (France’s training facility) is probably even more sombre than that of Casa Azzurri right now. The French press did not see France’s 0-0 draw vs. Romania with a kind eye, but they went absolutely ballistic after Les Bleus got steamrolled by Netherlands on matchday 2. In particular, Domenech’s choices to leave Karim Benzema out and “Granpa” Lilian Thuram (age 36 and a half) in were heavily criticized in the hexagon. The 21 year-old Lyon striker is seen by many as a rising star of the French team, but was left out in favor of a 4-2-3-1 formation including Govou, Malouda, and Ribéry in support of Henry. With his team down by two goals, the French coach still preferred to leave Benzema out, choosing the likes of Bafétimbi Gomis and Nicolas Anelka instead.

As for France’s 36 year-old captain, French sports newspaper L’Équipe simply defined his performance as “worrisome“. Some even postulated the old Parma and Juve defender could be left out of the anti-Italy line-up, an hypothesis which however seems unlikely, given the knock picked up by the other starting center-back William Gallas. Thuram himself, although acknowledging his poor performance vs. Holland, declared to be sure of playing against the Azzurri. “This isn’t the first national team match in which I played badly, you just can’t remain among the very best for too many years” Thuram said. “However, our performance against Netherlands will be a bad memory, and nothing more.” The Barcelona center-back added he wants to be part of the eleven vs. Italy at all costs, stating that “The contrary would be very serious“.

According to L’Équipe, this is the expected formation for Tuesday:

.

Coupet
Clerc (or Sagnol), Gallas, Thuram (or Abidal), Evra
Govou, Makelele (or L.Diarra), Toulalan, Ribéry
Henry, Benzema

.

Thus despite Thuram’s convictions, it would not be surprising to see all of Sagnol, Thuram, Makelele and Malouda be relegated to the bench on Tuesday, as the French coach revolutionizes his back-line. Raymond Domenech tested several alternative formations during Monday’s training at Chatel Saint Denis, one of which being Franck Ribéry in a left-winger role (a position he is accustomed to with Bayern). In turn, Sydney Govou would take Ribéry’s place on the right, and the two wingers would then work to support lone striking pair Henry-Benzema.

But going back to Domenech, another source of criticism for the French coach was his decision to keep Patrick Vieira in the roster, despite the midfielder’s injury struggle. Many would have preferred to see talented ex-Arsenal youngster Mathieu Flamini, who was ready for action and called up as a precautionary measure, but was then sent home in the hopes of seeing Vieira get better (something which at this point, will probably not take place).

In other words, tension and problems aren’t what’s lacking in the French roster, but Bayern midfielder Franck Ribery (one of those who created so many problems to the Italian defense back in 2006) swears France is ready to turn the page. “We are feeling much better now compared, to the immediate moments after the loss vs. Netherlands. We suffered a very heavy loss despite playing a good match, and we all gathered together to talk about it. To clarify that our Euro 2008 adventure is not over since we still have a small chance of making it to the next round. We will play our chances to the end, we must believe in it, otherwise there’s no point in playing“.

.

France vs. Italy, kick-off time 20:45 CET

.

FORZA AZZURRI

.

Fun with Franck & Luca: The Toni-Ribéry Show (The Grand Final)

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

France vs. Italy might still be two weeks away (Tuesday June 17, 20:45 CET), but members of the two teams have already began the eager anticipation.

We had Gattuso vs. Malouda back in September (when the two teams met for qualifiers), it’s now time for two other components of the Azzurri and Les Bleus. Presenting to you: the Franck Ribéry vs. Luca Toni show.

These two have become quite inseparable friends since their arrival in Munich last year, so the FC Bayern management had the great idea of putting them together for a TV ad, produced by Allianz (the German insurance company which sponsors the club and after which the Bayern Stadium -Allianz Arena- is named). 

Here’s the result:

Although the clip is pretty much self-explanatory, here’s the translation for those with limited French/Italian knowledge:

The clip starts with Ribéry’s cell phone ringing, playing the French national anthem. At which Toni reacts by taking off his shirt and showing his “Italy Campioni del Mondo” t-shirt.

Ribery: “Hello? Honey?”
Toni: “Honey? What honey? Here, look”. (shows t-shirt)
Ribery: “Man, you suck. All you Italians you suck. Afterwards, we’ll go you and me”
Toni: “Ok, no problem”

Ribery: “Here, can you do THIS, you Spaghetti world champion?” (scoops the ball into basket)
Toni: “Man that’s easy”

Toni: “Here look, let me see you do this” (tries to bounce the ball into the stadium and fails)
Ribery (bursts out laughing, then succeeds where Toni had failed): “Ahhh look at this. Italiano? No. Francais? Yeaaah!”

Toni (attempting to dribble Ribery, then feigns a cramp, then pushes Ribery out of the way): “Come on!”
Ribery: “Hey man, this is not Serie A. Try to play soccer.”
Toni: “Come on, pay attention!”

(more fun on the field, then they go up the stands to shoot in the net. Ribery scores first)

Ribery: “Ah you can’t do that can you? The Italian he can’t, the French he can”
Toni: “Yeah yeah let me show you the Italian now” (goes up more stairs) The French? Ah! La baguette… let me give you the baguette.” (scores into goal)
Ribery: “That was luck”
Toni: “Ok, so let’s go on the roof. Come on! On the roof!”
Ribery: “Okay let’s go”
Stadium steward: “Stop, it’s over! Schluss! Finito!” (kicks them out)

 

The Official website has a few additional features (on top of the video) including pictures, an interview with Toni & Ribery, plus Cut Scenes & Making Of clips to be coming soon.

[Note: special thanks to Kevin of Serie A Talk for letting me know about the ad first]

France’s Euro 2008 Roster – 23 Players, No Cissé or Mexès and Gomis is a Surprise

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Since it’s May 28 and all the Euro 2008 rosters have been finalized, let’s take a look at Italy’s biggest rivals from Group C. It may be called the “Group of Death”, but I am talking of course about France. Coach Raymond Domenech had already made a “Pre-selection” list of 30 players some weeks ago, eventually cutting down the group to the required 23 imposed by UEFA. Much like World Cup 2006 (which saw the surprise call-ups of Franck Ribéry and Pascal Chimbonda) there were a few surprises in the list, in particular regarding the absentees.

For example, Mickaël Landreau and Djibril Cissé had extensively featured on Les Bleus‘s roster since the World Cup but instead, the French coach chose to privilege and reward the recent form of Steve Mandanda (keeper for Marseille) and Bafetimbi Gomis (striker for St. Etienne).  Les Verts‘s forward had surprised everyone this Tuesday, by scoring the two victory goals in France’s friendly encounter vs. Ecuador (one better than the other, the second of which a spectacular scissor-kick). Cissé must be really fuming though, because he hasn’t played in a major tournament since World Cup 2002 (he was suspended in 2004 and injured in 2006).

In defense, the biggest surprise comes from the absence of Julien Escudé, a pillar of FC Sevilla’s and France’s backline in recent years (it seems however that the French center-back “re-awakened” his hernia (pubalgia) problems on Tuesday and was thus excluded for health/fitness reasons), as well as that of for Philippe Mexès (considered by many as one of Serie A’s best defenders this year). The latter just further demonstrates my theory that Domenech has an absolute phobia for anything coming from Italy, biggest case in point being David Trezeguet‘s (20 goals in Serie A this season, one goal behind topscorer Del Piero) absence even from the “Pre-Selection” list. One really has to wonder how on Earth Sebastien Frey didn’t get the cut.

Finally, Jérémy Toulalan and Lassana Diarra were preferred over Mathieu Flamini and Alou Diarra (Flamini just signed for AC Milan… you see how proving my theory just gets easier and easier?), while Hatem Ben Arfa was discarded due to his limited use in Lyon’s line-up this year. French sports newspaper L’Équipe suggests that by choosing 4 main strikers (Henry, Anelka, Benzema, Gomis) in his roster, Raymond Domenech is determined to keep utilizing his tested 4-4-2 formation for the SwissAustria tournament.

Here’s the full list:

.

Number Goalkeepers: Club:
Nº23 Grégory Coupet Lyon
Nº16 Sébastien Frey Fiorentina
Nº1 Steve Mandanda Marseille
.  
Defenders:  
Nº3 Eric Abidal Barcelona
Nº2 Jean-Alain Boumsong Lyon
Nº14 François Clerc Lyon
Nº13 Patrice Evra Man Utd
Nº5 William Gallas Arsenal
Nº19 Willy Sagnol Bayern Munich
Nº17 Sébastien Squillaci Lyon
Nº15 Lilian Thuram Barcelona
.  
Midfielders:  
Nº21 Lassana Diarra Portsmouth
Nº10 Sidney Govou Lyon
Nº6 Claude Makélélé Chelsea
Nº7 Florent Malouda Chelsea
Nº11 Samir Nasri Marseille
Nº22 Franck Ribéry Bayern Munich
Nº4 Patrick Vieira Inter
.  
Forwards:  
Nº8 Nicolas Anelka Chelsea
Nº9 Karim Benzema Lyon
Nº18 Bafétimbi Gomis St. Etienne
Nº12 Thierry Henry Barcelona