Posts Tagged ‘Patrick Vieira’

Inter Milan vs. Manchester United: The PLAYERS

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009


So remember that great “Serie A vs. EPL” section on La Gazzetta which I promised I’d partially translate?

Here’s the first batch of pink-goodness: a look at ALL THE PLAYERS from tonight’s Inter Milan vs. Manchester United UEFA Champions League match.

Boy I can’t wait for game-time. Meanwhile, feast your eyes on this. (oh, and credit goes where credit is due of course: the original)


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

All Venues
In France
In Italy
Competitive Matches
Euro Championship

First match
15 May 1910
Milan, ITA
Italy – France
Biggest win France
29 Aug 1920
Antwerp, BEL
France – Italy
06 Sep 2006
Paris, FRA
France – Italy
Biggest win Italy
22 Mar 1925
Turin, ITA
Italy – France
Most goals
18 Jan 1920
Milan, ITA
Italy – France
Last match
08 Sep 2007
Milan, ITA
Italy – France



 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.


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.”


(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:


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




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
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
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
Nº8 Nicolas Anelka Chelsea
Nº9 Karim Benzema Lyon
Nº18 Bafétimbi Gomis St. Etienne
Nº12 Thierry Henry Barcelona

Inter Milan 2-2 Siena: Nerazzurri Miss The Chance For an Early Celebration, Roma At -1 (Serie A Matchday 37)

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Serie AWell well well… it’s nice to see everything is back in order in Serie A. I was starting to miss matchdays like these: back in the day, amidst all the footy chaos and odd results there was still one fixed constant in the universe, namely Inter’s uncanny ability to shoot themselves in the foot.

If you’ve been following Calcio for longer than 2 years you all know what I’m talking about, right? Ah those days… they sure seemed to be gone after 2006. What, with Inter coming out unscathed of the Calciopoli scandal and creating this super-team of champions (this virtually unstoppable goalscoring machine that should have destroyed everything in its path), one wondered if the average Italian soccer fan would ever find another such perfect team to mock.

Don’t panic people, Inter‘s still here! Indeed, believe or not, the Nerazzurri tied 2-2 at home to Siena today. All they needed was a win and the Scudetto was a done deal: in fact, people in Milan had already prepared bottles of Spumante to celebrate Inter’s 16th title. But I guess that will have to wait one more week. Yes, Inter tied, by blowing away a double lead from Vieira (trumped by Maccarone) and Balotelli (trumped by Kharja), and then by missing the chance to make it 3-2 from the spot (bravo Materazzi). No need for hair-pulling just yet Inter fans, all you need to do is win at Parma next week and the Scudetto is yours. Ah, if only Parma weren’t fighting against relegation and in desperate need for a win themselves…

I’m being mean to Inter, so I should stop. Ultimately, Roberto Mancini’s team will (at 99% certainty) wrap this thing up next week with something like a ruthless 3-0 win, and in the end they’ll have the last laugh. But boy, do they deserve to made fun of right now…

The first 45 minutes of today’s match were, to say the least, unexpected. The entire San Siro stadium was decorated in Neroazzurro, displaying early celebratory banners and T-shirts to galvanize their team into victory. Inter responded by immediately shifting into high gear, making siege of Alex Manninger’s goal. The first attempts by Patrick Vieira (wide) and Marco Materazzi (off the crossbar) set the mood, and it seemed as everything was set for a Siena trashing: it only took 11 minutes after kick-off for the home team to pull in front, as Patrick Vieira applied the headed finish to a Luis Jimenez corner-kick. 1-0 Inter and expectedly, plenty more to come.

Plenty? Not quite. In minute 30, Houssine Kharja got free on the right wing, moved to the center and found the right corridor for Massimo Maccarone. The Siena striker got in behind the defense and torpedoed Julio Cesar low on his right. 1-1, and the San Siro suddenly turned silent. The Nerazzurri supporters did feel a little better later, when the big screen TV announced Napoli had scored vs. AC Milan, but they certainly weren’t expecting their team to have to fight for a victory today. Even more stunning, in minute 41 Siena could have actually taken the lead, but Andrea Rossi (through on goal after a counter-attack) inexplicably shot the ball right at Julio Cesar.

Screams of panic thus turned into sighs of relief for Inter supporters, and then into shouts of joy, because just before the break the Nerazzurri went ahead again. Out on the right wing, Maicon sent in a long throw towards the box, and Vieira flicked it over to the second post for a wide open Mario Balotelli: headed finish and 2-1 Inter. Cue 80,000 San Siro supporters in full delirium mode.

In the second half, probably instructed by their coach to put the nail in Siena’s coffin, Mancini’s boys continued to push forward. Julio Cruz had a good opportunity to make it 3-1, but his left-footed finish (after a great fake-shot dribble on his marker) landed wide of Manninger’s right post. Then, the Inter deck of cards progressively started unraveling. In minute 63. Mario Balotelli had to leave the field due to cramps (standing ovation for him, as he was substituted by David Suazo), and 5 minutes later Siena pulled level. Daniele Ficagna crossed the ball from the right, Burdisso only managed a touch and deflected the ball towards Houssine Kharja. The Franco-Moroccan winger armed a precise instep shot that landed into Julio Cesar’s left-bottom corner. 2-2, the entire Giuseppe Meazza stadium silent once again.

With 20 minutes left to play, all tactics flew out the window for Inter. The entire team was pushing forward, litterally putting 11 Siena men under siege: I mean there was no one (and I mean no one, except for Maccarone) for the visitors that wasn’t defending behind the ball line. Even Materazzi was pushing up, doing more damage than good (his back save in offside position on Cruz’s shot was quite… comical). Just a minute later however, Matrix had the chance to redeem himself: having obtained a penalty shot for a (doubtful) shirt tug from Riganò, the Inter center-back decided he was going to be his team’s hero by transforming the spot-kick himself. Manninger had other plans, and skilfully parried away Materazzi’s shot to the bottom right.

As Materazzi’s dreams of glory shifted from “hero” to “zero” (on the touch line, Roberto Mancini wasn’t hiding what he thought of his center-back ), Inter threw their last resources forward to obtain the 3 points. Mancio even brought on Hernan Crespo but it was all to no effect: the ensuing shots by Jimenez and Cruz were wide, Vieira’s appeals for a penalty were turned down, and the match ended in a 2-2 draw. As the home team left under the boos of the crowd, every Interista across Italy stared at the final result in disbelief. The Serie A season’s epilogue will have to be delayed one more week.


F.C. Internazionale Milano INTER-SIENA
[Match Highlights]
AC Siena
GOALSCORERS: 11’ Vieira (I), 30’ Maccarone (S), 45’ Balotelli (I), 69’ Kharja (S)
INTER (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar – Maicon, Burdisso, Materazzi, Maxwell (81’ Crespo) – Vieira, Cambiasso (85’ Pelé), J.Zanetti – Jiménez – Cruz, Balotelli (63’ Suazo).(bench: Toldo, Rivas, Maniche, Cesar). Coach: R.Mancini.
SIENA (4-3-2-1): Manninger – Ficagna, Portanova, Loria, A.Rossi – Vergassola, Codrea (46’ Alberto), Galloppa (65’ Riganò) – Locatelli (46’ Coppola), Kharja – Maccarone (bench: Elefhteropoulos, Rossettini, De Ceglie, Frick). Coach: Beretta.