Monday, June 09, 2008

France 0-0 Romania

France, as the BBC's commentator Steve Wilson said as the final whistle went, are in trouble. True enough, but we were all in trouble this afternoon, heading home from work as quickly as possible in order to catch the whole of this afternoon's match between France & Romania. It was an absolute stinker. Neither team managed any serious shots on goal and what was so striking about the match was the Romania were so very seldom put under any pressure whatsoever. It felt as if the French either couldn't really be bothered, didn't have any confidence or simply believed that all that they had to do was turn up and the three points would eventually, somehow find their way to them. One suspects that there was a little from columns A, B and C at play here, but the biggest single contributing factor seemed to be a lackadaisical attitude - they gave possession away needlessly on many occasions - and the amount of space the Romania had when they did break out of defence.

Where did it go so horribly wrong for France, then? It goes without saying that they have never satisfactorily replaced Zinedine Zidane after the 2006 World Cup (how could they have done?), but the lack of creativity in the centre of midfield seems to stifle the rest of the team. There is no room for the full-backs to get forward. Franck Ribery, their best hope of finding the combination with which to unlock the Romanian defence, was an almost embarrassingly peripheral figure on the right hand side of the French midfield, coming inside in the vain hope of trying to breathe a little life into a deflated performance. Ultimately, though, they played at little more than walking pace and this was straight into the hands of a Romanian side that one suspected would have quite liked to win the match but weren't going to take risks in order if it meant that they might the precious single point that was within their grasp.

When France did show any urgency, they looked plenty capable of winning the match. A mis-hit shot was comfortably gathered the Romanian goalkeeper Lobont. Maloud had a run at the Romanian defence and shot narrowly wide - the nearest that they came to scoring in the entire match. Ultimately, though, they were utterly tamed by a Romanian side that was unambitious but seldom needed to do much more than maintain their attention. In the last ten minutes they hesitantly pushed forward and could even have won the match from a corner in injury time, when Daniel Nicolae mis-hit a shot that he could easily have found the goal with.

The Romanian performance could easily be described as "unambitious", but this overlooks the fact that they achieved greater than anything that many would have anticipated. They managed the point that somehow leaves their chances of qualifying looker better than those of France, and they never had their backs to the wall in order to do so. More troublingly four UEFA, only four of the ten teams that have played so far have managed to score. The draw may open up the Group Of Death to a potential upset, but the watching public could do with considerably less of what we saw this evening.


Steve said...

Hi....I found your blog from a link at http://halfhearteddude.blogspot.com/.

I've got a serious question for you.

I'm a ignorant American who just started watching football this weekend when I came across the Germany/Poland match.

I'm puzzled by the fact that all the players belong to one club or another but come together to play for the country team for tournaments like this.

Is it that none of the regular leagues play while the tournament goes on? And, does the country pay the players' salaries? Or does their club pay their salary and it's expected that they play for their country in these tournaments?

It's all quite confusing to me right now.

Also, to my untrained eye, Germany looked much much better than Poland on Sunday. Are they one of the better teams in the tournament?

200percent said...

So many questions...

International representative matches pre-date serious club football. The first recognised international match was played between England in 1872, whereas club football (and in particular professional football) didn't really take off until the 1880s. The FA Cup started in 1871, but the Football League didn't start until 1888.

The clubs pay the wages currently, although international squads currently pay money to the clubs and pay for the treatment if the players get injured whilst on international duty. It's likely that Football Associations will have to pay more and more for the right to request international players in the future.

No association can force a player to play, but players will do if for no other reason that it is very, very lucrative to do so. For an English footballer, regular England appearances would probably double the amount of money that they would get from their next contract deal.

Most tournaments in Europe run from August until May, except for northern European countries such as Russia and Sweden, where the winter is too harsh for football. Their leagues are usually suspended for the duration of the tournament, plus a couple of weeks either side of it.

Germany are the re-tournament favourites, and Poland's qualification for is was something of a mystery (to me, at least). Their performance was very impressive, though nowhere near as the Dutch were tonight against Italy. More on that to follow.

Steve said...

Thanks for the information.

Now, if only ESPN would show these matches in the U.S. Yesterday's Italy/Netherlands match was supposed to be shown, but they had NASCAR on instead....

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