Posts Tagged ‘Sebastien Frey’

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

Fiorentina 0-0 Rangers: Heartbreak for La Viola, Rangers Advance to the Final on Penalties (UEFA Cup Semi-Finals, Leg 2)

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

What a shame. They played better, they had more scoring chances, and they deserved a win, yet Fiorentina‘s 2008 UEFA Cup adventure ends in the Semi-Finals. The cruel fate of penalty kicks, which has plagued Italians so many times in the past (but which after the 2006 World Cup seemed to be a forgiven affair), condemned the more talented and technical side.

La Viola’s last penalty kick by Bobo Vieri, sent miles over Neil Alexander’s crossbar, is unfortunately the lasting image of a Fiorentina-dominated match, 120 minutes where Rangers did the best with they had. Walter Smith’s all-out defense tactic, hoping the match would come down to a shootout, eventually rewarded the visitors, who will now be contending the UEFA Cup trophy to other surprise finalists, FC Zenit.

Before the match started, the entire Artemio Franchi stadium (joined by La Viola’s youngsters and “old glories”) joined together to sing Fiorentina’s anthem, sort of a “thank you” ritual for the excellent season the team has been having this year. The 40,000 Viola spectators then turned their singing into chanting, supporting their team as the return leg of the UEFA Cup Semi-Finals began. And support they would need, because right from the start Rangers’ tactics were to disrupt their opponents’ passing game in the center, and rely on fast counter-attacks to obtain a valuable away goal. The scoring chances therefore, took quite a while to arrive.

To find the first shot on goal, we had to wait till minute 20, a Riccardo Montolivo mid-range effort which Neil Alexander had no trouble neutralizing. A few minutes later, another shot by the Viola midfielder grazed the crossbar and it seemed as if in this portion of the game, long-range efforts would be the only way Fiorentina could produce anything tangible. Eventually however, the forward runs by Mario Santana and dangerous ball controlling abilities of Adrian Mutu seemed to stir up the Scottish defense, and it looked that if they tried long enough, a goal would arrive for Fiorentina before the half.

Unfortunately, the injury of Marco Donadel (replaced by Zdravko Kuzmanovic) came in the way of these plans, and the match rapidly reverted to its previous stale-mate, with David Weir attentively man-marking Gianpaolo Pazzini and preventing him from doing anything but pass the ball backwards, and Barry Ferguson asphyxiating the playmaking abilities of Fabio Liverani. Not even the generous runs forward of Martin Jorgensen (once again playing in the right-back position) could muster anything for the home team, and the first half thus ended scoreless. 0-0 at the break.

In the second period, the movie script did not change much for Rangers. Containment was their main motivation, even though La Viola’s initiatives were progressively getting more dangerous. Mutu and Pazzini in particular, combined skilfully in the 51st minute when the Romanian striker got down on the left and delivered a perfect cross, but the U21 Azzurrino’s deflection was narrowly wide of the mark. Minutes later, a great rebound shot by Tomas Ujfalusi grazed the crossbar, as the Rangers’ defense progressively started to get more shaky and permit additional space to their opponents.

Shortly after a good free-kick combination between Liverani and Mutu (slammed hard onto the Rangers keeper, who narrowly controlled the ball before Pazzini’s winning tap-in), Cesare Prandelli decided to play the ‘Bobo’ card. Vieri’s 34 years of age don’t permit him to hold more than 60 minutes, but seeing a possible overtime on the horizon, the Fiorentina coach thought it was time to bring in the ex-Italian international, possibly in order to find a winning header on a corner-kick. Bobo actually came quite close on a number of occasions, but either ended up making a mess of the ball or shot it miles over the crossbar. On their part, Rangers reacted with their dangerous counter-attacks (through Daniel Cousin and Steven Whittaker notably), but Sebastien Frey was ready. After 90 minutes still no score… time for extra time.

Continuing onto his work from the second period, Vieri immediately came close with a very good chance from the left, but narrowly missed his aim wide of the post. Prandelli inserted Franco Semioli for Santana in order to give more energy to his attacking trio, but at this point Rangers had decided it was time to hold down the fort. Barely even coming out of their own half, the Scottish visitors found a way to patch up their leaks and kept the net of Alexander safe until the final minute.

Before the ill-fated penalty shootout sequence, there was time for Fiorentina to come close to scoring once again, notably through Adrian Mutu (great volleyed effort deflected by a defender) and Christian Vieri (shots narrowly wide, or over the crossbar). It just seemed it wasn’t going to happen for Fiorentina today because even when it came down to the spot-kicks, Frey gave La Viola’s supporters the illusion of qualification by parrying Ferguson’s first shot, only to take it away moments later with the mistakes of Liverani and Vieri.

With 3 matches left in the Serie A, Cesare Prandelli’s consolation should be aplenty however, if Fiorentina manage to hold their 4th Champions League-qualifying spot at the expense of AC Milan. This time, there won’t be any penalty shootouts involved.


0-0 (4-2 p.s.o.)
[Match Highlights]
 Rangers F.C.
PENALTY SHOOTOUT: Ferguson (R) saved, Kuzmanovic (F) goal, Whittaker (R) goal, Montolivo (F) goal, Papac (R) goal, Liverani (F) saved, Hemdani (R) goal, Vieri (F) wide, Novo (R) goal.
FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey – Jorgensen, Ujfalusi, Gamberini, Gobbi – Donadel (42’ Kuzmanovic), Liverani, Montolivo – Santana (95’ Semioli), Pazzini (78’ Vieri), Mutu. (bench: Avramov, Dainelli, Osvaldo, Pasqual). Coach: Prandelli.
RANGERS (4-4-1-1): Alexander – Broadfoot, Carlos Cuellar, Weir, Papac – Davis (80’ Novo), Hemdani, Thomson, Whittaker – B.Ferguson – Darcheville (64’ Cousin). (bench: G.Smith, Buffel, Boyd, Dailly, Faye). Coach: W.Smith