Tag Archives: france

Three Days. Two Upsets. Zero Practical Significance.

On Saturday, Poland beat Germany 2-0 in a European Championship qualifier. The general consensus seems to be that the match was really, really important: it marked Poland’s poland germanyfirst ever victory in a fixture freighted with historical significance and ended Germany’s amazing seven-year unbeaten streak in qualifiers.

But here’s the thing: UEFA’s controversial expansion of the Euros, one of the few international tournaments that consistently features exciting soccer, pretty much guarantees that powerhouses like Germany and Spain, which lost 2-1 to Slovakia on Thursday, will qualify. This week’s upsets were exciting to watch – but in terms of the Road to France ’16 (or whatever we’re supposed to call the qualification campaign), they were completely meaningless.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Nicolas Anelka, the Quenelle, and UEFA’s Oppressive Rules

The media rarely misses an opportunity to denounce football’s governing bodies – for corruption, for anelka quenelleincompetence, for awarding prestigious international tournaments to corrupt and incompetent governments. Indeed, over the last few years – amid stories about problematic elections, dodgy sponsorship deals, and nefarious plots to help Cristiano Ronaldo win the Ballon d’Or – anti-FIFA/UEFA harangues have become a staple of football coverage, an easy way for grizzled sports journalists and renegade bloggers alike to stick it to the man.

So it’s more than a little surprising that in the aftermath of West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka’s celebratory “quenelle” – a sort of inverted Nazi salute popularized by a controversial French comedian – football writers have spent far more time complaining about the stupid, immoral, insensitive behavior of pampered players than examining the UEFA rules governing political expression.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reflecting on the Euros: 15 Things We Learned

1.      It’s getting harder and harder to host- In recent years, FIFA and UEFA have made a lot of noise about the importance of spreading football around the globe, encouraging traditionally unsuccessful football nations to host international tournaments. It’s no surprise, then, that, despite a couple of glorious moments, this year’s hosts were both eliminated before the first knockout round. After all, neither Poland nor Ukraine is one of the best eight teams in Europe.

Wild expectations don’t help. After Poland’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Greece, Francizek Smuda claimed that his team had been “paralyzed by pressure.” Ukraine looked similarly disabled against England, though a controversial goal-line decision provided them with a readymade excuse.

2.      Holland are still unreliable- Almost 40 years after the 1974 World Cup final, Holland are still masters of self-destruction. First, their pre-tournament preparation was marred by a dressing room argument over whether certain black players had been racially abused by someone outside the squad. Then the team imploded against Denmark, Arjen Robben forgot how to shoot, and Robin Van Persie reverted to, well, Robin Van Persie-at-the-2010-World-Cup-form. Holland exited the Euros without a single point, and Bert Van Marwijk resigned soon thereafter.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Nasri Seeks Redemption

On the face of it, Manchester City’s thrilling title success looks like Nasri’s plan come to fruition. Despite the claims of Gunners fans, he left Arsenal not for money, but for a shot at the trophies that have eluded Arsene Wenger for eight years. To Nasri, Manchester City, with their Arab riches, represented an enticing chance for sustained, silver-lined success.

Nasri had enjoyed a productive spell at Arsenal. He missed out on major honors, but his goals – especially a brace against Fulham – solidified his reputation as one of Europe’s most dangerous creative midfielders. Come summer 2011, he was a hot property. First Manchester United and then Chelsea chased his signature. Eastlands, though, was always his preferred destination: “That’s all I wanted since the start,” he said after sealing the move. “I’m happy to be there in this dressing room.”

Perhaps some of the success went to his head. In his first interview with Manchester City’s official television channel, Nasri claimed that Arsenal fans are “not that passionate”. The remarks quickly backfired.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements