Posts Tagged ‘Karim Benzema’

Fiorentina 1-2 Lyon: End of the UCL Line for La Viola… (UEFA Champions League 2008-09)

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Less fancy playing, better defending, more cynical finishing. This will be Fiorentina‘s lesson tonight after their elimination from the 2008-09 UEFA Champions League. And it sounds like an awfully familiar one. The kind that spectacular but inexperienced teams are forced to learn, as indeed La Viola’s return to Europe’s top competition demonstrated. 8 years after their last appearance, Fiorentina’s adventure ends in the Group Stage.

As for Lyon, they proved that winning seven Ligue 1 titles in a row can be a useful experience. You know, for European cups and stuff.


Lyon 2-2 Fiorentina: Alberto Gilardino Strikes Twice… But the French Get Back (UEFA Champions League 2008-09)

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Fiorentina had the French “Lion” almost tamed. In their nth rendez-vous with top European football (since the 2001-02 season, OL have won 7 consecutive Ligue 1 championships), Lyon started the match at ferocious pace, but after a couple whip-cracks by Alberto Gilardino (coupled with an almost flawless Viola defence) the beast had stopped roaring.

However, thanks in no small part to Swedish referee Peter Frojdfelt, the French team got the helping hand they needed to draw level. A shame, because this was probably the best version of La Viola since the season’s start.

(From Gazzetta): Lyon’s start was frightening. The French lauched themselves forward with full of use of their offensive weapons: Fred, Govou, Juninho and most of all Karim Benzema. Remarkably however it was Mathieu Bodmer, a defender, who fired the overhead shot hitting the crossbar and making the Viola fans shiver.

But then in minute 11, La Viola found the way to flip the game inside out: Montolivo recovered the ball, Felipe Melo switched the play to the right to Luciano Zauri, whose cross found the noggin of Alberto Gilardino. Violin-man’s lovely diving header opened the scoring, and Prandelli was ecstatic. 1-0 Fiorentina.

A goal which really did the trick for the visitors, pumping gas into the Viola’s game and morale. Of course, the French responded with venom, mainly through Benzema who was driving Zauri mad on the left flank (but Frey always kept close guard right behind him). Then there were the Fiorentina counter-attacks, with Sergio Almiron hitting the top corner with a shot for the highlights reel, and Adrian Mutu who (thanks to Boumsong’s mistakes) forced goalkeeper Hugo Lloris into a miraculous save. Also, there was La Viola’s second goal: a textbook maneuver that sent Mutu down the right flank to provide the pinpoint cross for Il Gila. ‘Nother header, and 2-0 Fiorentina.

Lyon began the second half in the same manner as the first, pounding away through the drive of Benzema and Juninho. On occasion the French pressure was incessant, but the Viola were organised in defence and Frey continued to be exceptional. French coach Claude Puel tried some substitutions, shortly imitated by Cesare Prandelli (ready to play the Alberto Santana card).

Then however came the episode that opened the match up for Lyon, something which will much talked about in the week to come. With Zauri writhing in pain on the ground (he later had to be stretchered off and substituted) Lyon calmy manufactured their goal via a Benzema-Piquionne combination, amid protests from the Viola to kick the ball out and the complete indifference of the referee (the same referee which had allowed Van Nistelrooy’s goal vs. Italy to stand during Euro 2008). 2-1.

From that moment the game changed, and the French, aided by the psychological blow to their opponents, found the equaliser five minutes from the end. From 30 yards out, everyone expected Juninho Pernambucano to deliver one of his famous free-kicks, but instead the Brazilian midfielder faked the shot and rolled the ball towards Benzema on the right. The French youngster, devoid of marking, then simply had to slam a hard shot towards the first post, surprising Frey. 2-2.

Just as not all teams are like the Viola, not all teams are famous for their fair play.


Olympique Lyonnais
[Match Highlights]
 ACF Fiorentina
GOALSCORERS: 1′, 42′ Gilardino (F), 73’ Piquionne (L), 86’ Benzema (L).
LYON (4-3-2-1): Lloris – Reveillere, Boumsong, Bodmer, Kallstroem – Makoun (60’ Ederson), Toulalan, Juninho – Govou (89’ Mounier), Benzema – Fred (65’ Piquionne). (bench: Vercoutre, Cris, Gassama, Mensah, Pjanic). Coach: Puel.
FIORENTINA (4-3-1-2): Frey – Zauri (76’ Jorgensen), Kroldrup, Dainelli, Vargas – Almirón, Felipe Melo, Montolivo – Kuzmanovic (64’ Santana) – Gilardino (81’ PazzinI), Mutu. (bench: Storari, Gobbi, Donadel, Jovetic). Coach: Prandelli.


Top 10 Flops of Euro 2008

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Top 10 Flops of Euro 2008

Luca Toni‘s topping the charts again… only this time, it isn’t very flattering. English tabloid The Sun just dished out another Top 10 list, regrouping the “Biggest flops” of this Summer’s Euro championship tournament. The Italy striker tops the list, despite receiving a pat on the back from Bayern Munich chairman Karl Heinz Rummenigge.

It’s not [Toni's] fault if things didn’t go well, it’s Italy’s” said Rummenigge. “He was only served well in the game against France, he made mistakes but also won the penalty which changed the match. Against Spain he was very criticised, injustly: I did not see a single good pass played to him in that game to even have a chance of scoring. He was all alone, and he was missing Pirlo.” Still not enough for The Sun writers, and who can blame them? Going from 40 goals in his first season with Bayern to zero goals at Euro 2008 surely deserves some criticism…

Number 2 in the list is Chelsea and Czech Republic keeper Petr Cech, earning the spot thanks to his less-than-stellar performance vs. Turkey (Nihat Kahveci is still saying thank you). Completing the podium we find Barcelona and France defender Eric Abidal, who caused the penalty kick against Toni in the match vs. Italy, and the resulting red card that virtually cleared the road for the Azzurri’s victory.

In 4th spot, title holders Greece (knocked out in the first round), followed by Thierry Henry (“the man whose star continues to fade“) and Mario Gomez (“[Germany] were effectively playing with 10 men for their three group games“). At 7th spot are host countries Austria & Switzerland, for getting knocked out in the group stage “and barely raising a cheer from their own fans“.

Completing the “best of the worst” list, Fiorentina and Romania striker Adrian Mutu (who probably still hasn’t swallowed Buffon’s PK save), France’s Karim Benzema (a “wonderkid that failed to impress”) and the host TV broadcaster (for the power outage during the Germany-Turkey semi-final).

Here’s the full list with captions from The Sun article:

TV static Nº10: The Host Broadcaster
A massive electrical storm in Vienna saw Germany’s thrilling showdown with Turkey ruined for millions of armchair fans. At least 10 minutes of the rollercoaster semi-final was lost in the TV coverage, including Miroslav Klose’s goal.

Nº9: Karim Benzema French forward Karim Benzema reacts at the end of the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match France vs. Italy on June 17, 2008 at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich . Italy won 2-0. (AFP/Getty Images)
The France striker went into the tournament with a growing reputation as his country’s wonderkid. Fans were told he was the hottest property outside Italy, Spain and England. But Benzema failed to impress during his two dismal displays for the hopeless French.

Romanian forward Adrian Mutu is pictured during the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match Netherlands vs. Romania on June 17, 2008 at the Stade de Suisse Wankdorf in Bern. (AFP/Getty Images) Nº8: Adrian Mutu
The former Chelsea striker was tipped to pull up trees with underdogs Romania. And with a penalty against Italy, he was one kick away from sending his side into the quarter-finals. But Mutu fluffed his effort and Romania later tumbled out against Holland.

Nº7: The Co-Hosts Host countries Austria and Switzerland
Austria and Switzerland were both among the first seeds for the tournament as the host nations but they barely raised a cheer for their own fans. Austria bowed out with a single draw, while Switzerland’s only points came against Portugal in a dead rubber following their own elimination.

German forward Mario Gomez (back) lays on the field next to teammate German defender Clemens Fritz during their Euro 2008 Championships Group B football match Germany vs. Poland on June 8, 2008 at Woerthersee stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria. (AFP/Getty Images) Nº6: Mario Gomez
Germany’s route to the final was no mean feat — especially when you consider they were effectively playing with 10 men for their three group games. Gomez contributed next to nothing, with boss Joachim Low seeing sense in the quarter-finals to finally drop him.

Nº5: Thierry Henry French forward Thierry Henry reacts after missing a goal opportunity during the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match France vs. Italy on June 17, 2008 at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich . Italy won 2-0. (AFP/Getty Images)
The man whose star continues to fade must take some of the stick for France’s disjointed campaign this month. Henry’s goal against Holland masked an ineffective showing, with his deflection against Italy condemning his side to an early exit from the group stages.

German coach of the Greek national football team Otto Rehhagel gestures during the Euro 2008 Championships Group D football match Greece vs. Spain on June 18, 2008 at the Wals-Siezenheim stadium in Salzburg. (AFP/Getty Images) Nº4: Greece
It seems a bit harsh for the surprise winners of Euro 2004 to be here but defeat in all three group games was truly woeful. And Greece’s arch-rivals Turkey rubbed the defending champions’ noses in it by reaching the semi-finals with a series of thrilling comebacks.

Nº3: Eric Abidal Slovak referee Michel L'ubos (L) hands a red card to French defender Eric Abidal (C) next to midfielder teammate Claude Makelele (R) during the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match France vs. Italy on June 17, 2008 at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich. (AFP/Getty Images)
Playing the world champions in a win-or-bust final group game is never easy, yet France did not help themselves. When defender Abidal chopped down Italy’s Luca Toni for a first-half penalty and straight red card, it was au revoir Les Bleus.

Czech Republic's goalkeeper Petr Cech reacts after their Group A Euro 2008 soccer match defeat to Turkey at Stade de Geneve stadium in Geneva June 15, 2008. (REUTERS) Nº2: Petr Cech
Leading 2-1 against Turkey with just two minutes left, Czech Republic had one foot in the quarter-finals— until Cech’s howler. The Chelsea keeper horribly fluffed a routine cross for the equaliser, before an injury-time winner sent his side packing.

Nº1: Luca Toni Italian forward Luca Toni heads for the ball during the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match France vs. Italy on June 17, 2008 at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich. (AFP/Getty Images)
The Italian hotshot came to the finals on the back of a golden season with Bayern Munich, notching 31 goals in the Bundesliga. But Toni endured a dreadful tournament, missing countless chances as well as looking like a man running through treacle.

Agree with the list? Tell us what you think below.

France vs. Italy in 30 Pictures

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Since I’m in an “uploading-pictures” kind of mood, here are selected snapshots of Euro 2008′s France vs. Italy match two days ago. Emphasis on “selected” (i.e. by me, because I thought they were funny and because I just can).

Also, since every self-respecting picture should include a caption, I have provided two for each. By hovering over the picture, the real (serious/boring) caption (as well as any photo credits) will pop up. Below the picture, a funnier (I hope) version of the same caption by me.

Note that with regards to the match timeline, pictures are in no particular chronological order.


Euro 2008: France 0-2 Italy – Azzurri Step Out of the Grave and into the Quarter-Finals

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

France 0-2 Italy. Ladies & gentlemen, this is how you mix a “Blue Lagoon”: 1 oz Vodka (Pirlo), 1 oz Blue Curaçao (De Rossi), cherry (Buffon’s save on Benzema), 1 part Lemonade. Don’t have any lemonade? We’ll settle for some Oranje zest (Huntelaar and Van Persie). The Azzurri’s Euro 2008 adventure continues to the Quarter-Finals. With rage. That of Andrea Pirlo, master sniper from the spot, and Daniele De Rossi, serving a thundering set-piece drive into the net.

It would be hasty to say “the World Champions are back”, but they’re on the right track. Today, the team looked in better shape, more motivated, more concentrated. And luck, the factor the Azzurri were so cruelly lacking until now, finally lent a helping hand to Roberto Donadoni & Co. France’s match went from bad (Franck Ribery’s injury in the 10th) to worse (Eric Abidal’s foul on Luca Toni inside the box, and resulting red card) in less than 15 minutes, and Thierry Henry’s deflection on Daniele De Rossi’s 62nd-minute free-kick was just the ultimate insult for Raymond Domenech, who will undoubtedly have to step down following his team’s elimination.

Not Roberto Donadoni. The Italian coach lives to fight another day with the Azzurri, who will now be facing Spain in the Euro 2008 Quarter-Finals. With still some doubts to erase (Who will replace the suspended Pirlo and Gattuso? When will Luca Toni finally release his goalscoring power?) but with a significant morale booster. Beating France will always do that to ya…

Tactically, Italian coach Roberto Donadoni decided to make two changes for today’s match: full confidence in Gennaro Gattuso and Antonio Cassano. Italy’s 4-3-2-1 formation looked a lot like AC Milan’s Xmas tree formation, with Talentino and Simone Perrotta providing support behind Luca Toni. In midfield, except for Daniele De Rossi this was vintage Rossoneri set-up: Gattuso and Pirlo providing the core of play for the Azzurri (the former to win the ball back, the latter to distribute it forward). As for the back line, no doubts there: Zambrotta and Grosso on the wings, Panucci & Chiellini in the middle.

On the other end, France’s Raymond Domenech made a bold move by leaving veteran center-back (and captain) Lilian Thuram on the bench. Some may say Thuram’s past his expiration date, but his replacement today (Eric Abidal) would later prove playing center-back’s not his thing. Other changes made by Les Bleus included François Clerc replacing Sagnol as right-back and Karim Benzema subbing in for Florent Malouda.

France started the match with rage. Concentrated. Motivated. The Azzurri weren’t inferior to the task. Italy’s passing experts (Pirlo, Cassano, Zambrotta, Grosso) immediately got to work, and it took them only 4 minutes to set up Luca Toni in the clear (after a missed touch by Abidal), precisely through a deep pass of the Lyon wing-back. LucaBomber however shot wide, adding to his unfortunate series of missed chances at Euro 2008 (a list which would only get longer as the match progressed).

In minute 8, the first turning point of match: Franck Ribery went down while trying to challenge Zambrotta off the ball (getting entangled in the Italian wing-back’s legs). Knee injury and game over for Franck, enter Samir Nasri. 30% of France’s penetration power had just been stretchered off, something which the Azzurri certainly weren’t lacking today. Christian Panucci tried to put his golden noggin to work (minute 11), finding only Makelele to deny him the joy of his second at Euro 2008. 10 minutes later a good service by Pirlo was narrowly missed by Perrotta inside the box. The Azzurri were fighting.

In minute 25, the second (and decisive) turning point: a great ball by Pirlo found Luca Toni through on goal inside the box. Luca hooked the ball and was ready for the finish, until Eric Abidal upended him from behind sending the Bayern giant flying. Penalty and red card for the Barça full-back, every France fan regretting Thuram. From the spot Andrea Pirlo made no mistakes, and sent it flying into the top left corner. 1-0 Italy.

Counter-measures for Domenech had to include patching up the gaping defensive hole, so Samir Nasri promptly left his place (his matching lasting only 15 minutes) to Jean-Alain Boumsong. That effectively left Henry and Benzema rather lonely up front, with Sydney Govou as the only real solution of passing support. Not enough. The Azzurri were just having a field day meanwhile: in minute 27, Daniele De Rossi grazed the crossbar, one minute later a Cassano cross from the right found Toni inside the box, connecting with a stylish heel/bicyle flick (not sure what it was) narrowly wide of the post. Then once again Toni (exploiting a Pirlo pass) was through on goal, and once again… missed the target. Not Luca’s day obviously.

France reacted with French pride, keeping the Italian defense on their toes. A good run by Thierry Henry sent the Barça man through on the right, but his diagonal shot was inches wide of Buffon’s left post. A warning for Giorgio Chiellini, his marker on the occasion. Meanwhile, De Rossi and Gattuso were operating as the “Azzurri lions of midfield”, the latter living up to his “Ringhio” pitbull reputation and the Roma man acting almost as an added stopper (with the occasional runs forward). On one of these runs, Italy obtained a good free-kick on the edge of the box, which Fabio Grosso carefully aimed at the bottom-left corner of Gregory Coupet. France’s keeper got a hand to it, deflecting the shot onto the post. After 45 minutes, France 0-1 Italy and Romania 0-0 Netherlands: the Azzurri had their ticket to the Quarter-finals, but anything could change.

In the second half, France was back with a vengeance: first Karim Benzema exploited a good right-wing cross and connected with a slamming a howitzer wide, then Thierry Henry gave shivers to Azzurri supporters with a low shot to the ground (easily saved by Buffon). Italy was suffering in midfield (overpowered by the physical presence of Makelele and Govou) and fear was slowly re-surfacing. Time for some changes: out Andrea Pirlo (accumulating fatigue over the past 3 games), enter Massimo Ambrosini (another defensive midfielder).

Then suddenly in minute 56, some more good news arrived for the Azzurri: Netherlands had just opened the score vs. Romania through Klaas-Jan Huntelaar! Even better news would arrive just 5 minutes later, as Daniele De Rossi went for power on a Cassano-obtained free-kick, finding Henry’s boot on the way to goal. Fooled by his teammate’s deflection, Coupet was sent the wrong way, powerless. 2-0 Italy!

Cue some more changes for Donadoni: out Perrotta, enter Mauro Camoranesi. Domenech replied with Nicolas Anelka on for Govou. Not much of a change for France, who were more or less keeping afloat thanks to the creativity of Karim Benzema. His curling right-footed effort in minute 73 was destined for the top corner, but Gigi Buffon once again proved why he is the best keeper around. Then came the news of Holland’s 2-0 goal, and everyone wearing Azzurro in Zurich went nuts.

Unpack your bags guys, we are staying in Vienna!



 Fédération Française de Football FRANCE-ITALY
[Match Highlights]
 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio
GOALSCORERS: 25’ pen. Pirlo (I), 62’ De Rossi (I)
FRANCE (4-4-2): Coupet – Clerc, Gallas, Abidal, Evra – Govou (66’ Anelka), Toulalan, Makelele, Ribery (10’ Nasri, 26’ Boumsong) – Benzema, Henry. (bench: Mandanda, Frey, Malouda, Vieira, Thuram, Squillaci, Sagnol, A.Diarra, Gomis). Coach: Domenech.
ITALY (4-3-2-1): Buffon – Zambrotta, Panucci, Chiellini, Grosso – Gattuso (82’ Aquilani), De Rossi, Pirlo (55’ Ambrosini) – Cassano, Perrotta (64’ Camoranesi) – Toni. (bench: Amelia, De Sanctis, Gamberini, Barzagli, Materazzi, Quagliarella, Del Piero, Di Natale, Borriello). Coach: Donadoni


France 0-2 Italy – MyVideo