Tag: France

European Championship Stories: 1984 – Le Veritable Roi Michel

They’ve been playing for one hundred and nineteen minutes on this balmy Mediterranean evening at le Stade Velodrome in Marseille and nothing, so far, has been able to separate the two teams. France, who sailed through the group stages of the 1984 European Championships, have surprisingly met their match in Portugal, who, prior to this summer, have not reached the finals of a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup. The two sides are locked together at two goals apiece, with a heroic performance from the Portuguese goalkeeper Manuel Bento having kept them at bay. For France, who just two years earlier had lost the first ever penalty shoot-out in a World Cup finals match to West Germany, a repeat beckons. Jean Tigana, the elegant midfielder who makes up one quarter of le carré magique, the “magic square” that is the engine room of this team’s success, collects the ball just inside the Portugal half of the pitch. He attempts a through-ball but a desperate lunge intercepts his pass. Tigana, however, has continued his forward momentum and picks the ball up again, and with one final burst of energy heads towards the right-hand touchline with it. Once there, he pulls the ball back, across the face of goal. It’s not a perfect pass, but it is enough to beat Bento’s dive. On the edge of the six yard area...

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European Championship Stories: 1960 – Cold War Football

There are plenty of people, not least within the governing bodies of football itself, who would have it that football and politics don’t mix. This is, of course, bunkum, whether we like it or not. The game holds such influence over so many people that it sometimes seems impossible for politicians not to be able to link the two, from the relatively harmless, “You only win the World Cup under Labour” slogans of Harold Wilson’s British government of the late 1960s to the altogether more sinister machinations of the state organisations and their leaders that ran clubs in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. That the expansion of pan-European football should have come in the years following the second world war shouldn’t be surprising. One lasting legacy of the war was huge progress in the area of aeronautics, which led to the rapid popularisation of commercial air travel in the post-war years. European tours by some of the biggest club sides on the continent – in particular those from behind the newly-formed Iron Curtain, such as Honved of Hungary and Dynamo Moscow – became commonplace and led to the formation of UEFA in 1954. The first European Cup winners would be crowned two years later. What, though, of international football? By the mid-1950s it was more than apparent that the future of the international game would involve further expansion...

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My Favourite Match: France vs Portugal, The 1984 European Championships

Football matches come, of course, in all shapes and sizes – the critically important and the relatively inconsequential, local derbies steeped in decades of mutual loathing and round-trips which measure thousands of miles and have never been undertaken before. Occasionally, though, context isn’t quite everything. Every once in a while, a match can suck an audience in entirely on its own merits and spit you out the other side with a grin the size of the Wembley arch. The presumed importance of the match in a broader sense becomes overwhelmed by the immediacy of the passion play of the moment, and these matches can stand tall, as exhibits of the intoxicating majesty and drama that football can offer those who watch it. The European Championships of 1984 were presumed not to matter very much to a British television audience by broadcasters in the United Kingdom. None of the home nations had qualified for it and the commercial network ITV even decided to abandon all coverage of the tournament, while even the BBC restricted most of theirs to highlights shows in the evening. The previous tournament, held in Italy four years previously, had been a dismal affair, distinguished only by the efforts of English hooligans to create an even worse atmosphere than the football on offer could of its own accord. The result of this insularity was that a British...

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The 2011 Womens World Cup: A Possible Revolutionary Encounter

Back in 1950, Harry Keough perhaps summarised best the general attitude toward the quality of the American game that might still hold true in some quarters of the international football community. After the postal worker and semi-professional defender considered England’s now legendary 1-0 loss to the US in Belo Horizonte, he quipped, “Boy, I feel sorry for these bastards. How are they ever going to live down the fact we beat them?” The sentiment has remained somewhat applicable historically, as the US failed to qualify for another World Cup for another four decades, seemingly comfortable to allow the world’s game to pass it by while busy playing baseball, basketball, and its own variety of football. Of course, this strictly pertains to the national men’s team, as the women’s program has been one of the most dominant in the history of international women’s football. Currently ranked the top nation by FIFA and with two World Cups on their mantle, we have come to expect the US women to be successful at an international event much as we anticipate the Spanish men’s program to win everything in sight. Considering the Americans have more World Cups than England overall, perhaps those bastards are still sorry they lost back in 1950. For in this 2011 Women’s World Cup, the Lionesses were unable to chance adding to England’s 1966 men’s trophy after they lost...

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England Lose World Cup Match On Penalty Kicks

Perhaps, on a bookshelf in the offices of the Football Association at Wembley Stadium, there is a leather-bound book called “How To Get Knocked Out Of  A Major Tournament”. It’s a well-thumbed tome, of course, and the England team at this year’s Women’s World Cup couldn’t help but crib from its extensive advice in getting themselves eliminated from this year’s tournament at the hands of France at the end of a tumultuous match in Leverkusen last night. Twice last night England were within touching distance of a place the semi-finals of the competition, the rewards of which were blown wide open with the stunning defeat of Germany at the hands of Japan last night, but on this occasion it was not to be. For all of the disappointment that the England team might feel this morning, though, the cold light of day reveals that, on the night, the best team won the match. France dominated possession from the very start and England’s goal came from a break and with the assistance of some poor positioning by the French goalkeeper. Still, though, England clung on, defending with increasing desperation until, with two minutes of the ninety on the clock left to play, France finally managed to crowbar their way back into the game. Extra-time was a slog, a game of attack versus defence which saw French players flit around the...

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