Wednesday, July 20, 2011

We're Going On Holidays!

we'll be enjoying plenty of these!
Hi, all.

For the past six months, here at the FD, we've entertained you with various articles ranging from match reports, to transfer news, to feature articles, and now we're thinking, after a summer of providing you all with such sweet-ass material - well, we'd like to think so - we're taking a well-deserved break.

Oh, but dont worry. We'll be back at the beginning of August, previewing the new campaign as it draws closer, as well as keeping you informed on the international scene, throwing in the odd interview, scattered with various statistic pieces which we've become fairly fond of of the last few months or so to keep you on your toes.

Until then, you can keep yourselves sane by checking out the archives towards the bottom of the page.

Ciao for now,

- Dylan

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Revisiting the Euros: Denmark Win European Championships 1992

They weren't even supposed to be there. And yet, they somehow defied the laws of the game and won the European Championships. That's football for you.

Danish coach Richard Moler Nielson was on the brink of the sack following Denmark's failed attempt at qualification for the European Championships in 1992. Nielson became sick of seeing this Danish side play beautiful football but lacking sufficient results. He tried implementing his management skills on the team but it resulted in one of their most famed players quitting the international game, in protest of Nielson's playing style. That player was Michael Laudraup. What Nielson, his squad and the media didn't know at the time was that it would turn out to be for the greater good.

Denmark's qualification for the tournament was a mixed bag, to say the least. They began with a comfortable 2-0 victory over the Faroe Islands, followed by a draw with the Northern Irish, then a 2-1 defeat to eventual table-toppers Yugoslavia. The results sparked a drastic change to Nielson's Denmark with Michael and brother Brian Laudrup quitting the international scene and then star players like Jan Molby and Jan Heintxe were subsequently left out of the squad by Nielson due to 'disciplinary problems'. The Danes won all their remaining qualifiers but it wasn't enough as Yugoslavia topped the group thus qualifying for that summers European Championship.

The Yugoslavian team, led by captain Dejan Stankovic, traveled to Sweden to prepare for the tournament early in June. What they didn't know was that they'd soon be dealt an ultimate blow to their European Championship preparations as the civil war back in Yugoslavia had them inexplicably expelled from the competition. Stankovic was given the job of breaking the news to his teammates during a team meeting just ten days before the Championship commenced.

“It was the worst day of my life, and the worst thing is that I couldn’t explain to the players why,” he said. “This is sport, not politics, and the two should never go together. There were terrible things going on in my country and I am deeply ashamed of them. But when I looked at these players, I looked at the way thattheir faces cracked when I told them this news, I wanted to know why Uefa had let things go this far. If they were going to throw us out of the competition, why didn’t they tell us before? We had been training, we were already at the hotel in Sweden, and now we had to go home. We had to go back to reality. And still, nobody would tell me why.”

What was Yugoslavia's loss was Denmark's gain as when Moler Nielson received the phone call asking Denmark to compete at the expense of Yuogslavia, he couldn't have been more ecstatic. He quickly shared the message throughout his team which had disbanded for their summer holidays. The Danes had been keeping a close eye on each installment on what was going on inside Yugoslavia and it was fair to say, some half-expected the Yugoslavian team to be banished from Sweden. Anyway, with only ten days to prepare the Danish side, led by Richard Moler Nielson, set off on a European journey with nobody really expecting them to make an impression.

The Group stage pitted them against outright favourites France,  the much fancied England and host nation Sweden. England were heavy favourites against the Danes in the opening game and so when Moler Nielson's men held the English to a 0-0 stalemate, they had already caused an upset and had one unexpected point to their names. After the triumph in Malmo, Denmark then travelled to Solna to take on host nation Sweden. It was a far more entertaining game than the Danes' previous encounter but the pendulum swung when Sweden took the lead through a Tomas Brolin strike midway through the second half. However, even though they lost Denmark still had a chance of qualifying from the group. All they had to do was bet France in the final group game. In the build-up to the final group game against France Moler Nielson decided to reward the team with a bout of mini-golf, just days before the France game. Oddly enough, the team bonding excercise worked wonders as Denmark defied the odds and caused another upset by beating and knocking out Championship favourites France. The 2-1 win meant that Denmark qualified for the semi-finals finishing under Sweden in group A. Denmark's semi-final qualification in second place meant that they'd be entertaining the winner of Group B, who were the heavily fancied Netherlands.

The odds on the Dutch progressing heavily outweighed that of the Danes, but Moler Nielson's men knew that they had surpassed expectations and anything extra was an achievement in itself at this point. So when Lars Elstrup had caught sight of a Burger King and posed the question to Nielson, the coach felt that his players had served themselves justice at getting this far and treated them to a one-off fast food feast.  They reentered the bus chuffed that the gaffer had granted them their proposal and beknownsted to them they were to return the favour just days later when they took to the pitch against the Dutch.

Denmark had a shock lead barely five minutes in. Brian Laurdup whizzed down the right flank and crossed it for Henrik Larsen who headed home after the cross evaded Netherlands keeper Hans van Breuklen. The Danes were off to a flier and it was fair to say, had ousted the Dutch in so many departments until the equaliser came. Dennis Bergkamp got his name on the score sheet with a strike from just outside the box midway through the first half but that goal didn't stop Denmark from continuing their impeccable Euro journey.  Larsen stole a second goal courtesy of a rare Ronald Koeman mistake and there was now a strong belief surging through the team that they could go on to win this tie. They just had to keep focus and complete the job in-hand. Unfortunately, they couldn't hold on and the Dutch rallied through an 86th minute goal coming from Frank Rijkaard, stabbing home from a corner. Denmark headed for extra-time virtually unsure of their fate as they had to play on with one injured man because they had already used up their substitute limit.

Despite the Dutch's superiority, the game was taken to penalties after a pulsating extra-time bout and the Netherlands were first up. Ronald Koeman dispatched his penalty, then Larsen levelled things up with a fine spot-kick tucked away into the bottom corner. Marco van Basten then stepped up for the Dutch. His attempted penalty was palmed away by the ever-so remarkable Peter Shmeichel and it was advantage Denmark. Povlsen's subsequent penalty hit the back of the net. The remaining six penalties were all safely dispatched and thanks to Kim Christofe, Denmark knocked out the holders and progressed to final to do battle with the current World Cup champions Germany.

The Danes once again got their necks in-front as John Jensen got them off to a flier with a thunderbolt from the edge of the 18-yard box. The Germany team began to dominate and had it not been for a spirited performance from Danish keeper Peter Schmeichel Denmark would have surely gone behind. Save after save after magnificent save, the Danes were lucky to head into the break with that slim 1-0 lead. The second-half was more of the same as the Germany team huffed and puffed its way past the Danish defence, only to be denied by the imperious Schmeichel every single time. Then it happened. Denmark struck the crucial blow. On 78 minutes Kim Vilfort stole between two German defenders and aimed a left-footed shot in off the post, leaving the Danes virtually assured of European triumph. And when Bruno Galler blew up for full-time, various members of the Denmark team trotted over to congratulate Schmeichel on his man-of-the-match performance. It was a fairytale ending to a fairytale story for the Danes after winning a tournament they hadn't even qualified for in the first place and Moler Nielson had saved his job, for the time being anyway.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gervinho - Arsenal Target

For a while now, Arsenal, and more importantly Arsene Wenger, have been reluctant in competing for players in the transfer market. As a result, Arsenal have fallen beyond the ranks and had to be satisfied with a 4th place finish, having won only three games since March. If Wenger and co. want to be challenging for trophies next season they're going to have to abandon the youth policy this Summer. I'm not saying they'll be spending particularly large and obnoxious amounts of money but one or two signings in or around the £20m mark would go a long way to securing their ambitions for competing at the top once more next season. According to reports, an Ivorian that goes by the name of Gervinho is "on the verge" of signing for the Gunners. But who exactly is Gervinho?

Well, Gervinho is a winger who plies his trade with Lille in France's Ligue 1. He moved to Les Dogues in 2009  following impressive displays for fellow Ligue 1 side Le Mans. During his first season at Lille, Gervinho scored 13 and assisted 4 goals in 32 games, in the process helping them qualify for UEFA's Europa League the following season. In his second season at the club, Gervinho helped a significant amount in securing Lille's first ever Ligue 1 and Coupe De France double netting 18 and assisting 10 times in their most successful ever campaign. Andrew Gibney of French Football Weekly gives you his view of Gervinho:
He is exceptionally quick, and he combines that well with great upper body strength. That gives him a great base to take on defenders and he usually succeeds in beating his man. During his time at Lille his finishing has improved, with 15 goals and 10 assists this season he is a very dangerous player once inside the box. With the ability to find a team-mate or provide the finish he was one the main reasons Lille finished top of Ligue 1 this year.
Not only does his pace give him the ability to take on players but he also has the intelligence to use it to run in-behind defences and latch onto any passes played through the middle. In Lille’s fluid 4-3-3 system the winger was allowed to drift inside and find the space created by the movement of Moussa Sow and Eden Hazard. This is an ability that would be ideal in the current Arsenal system, the movement of Robin van Persie could benefit the runs of Gervinho and in Nasri and Fabregas they have the players to find his well-timed runs.

However, Andrew goes on to tell us that there are some aspects of his game that need touching up on.

Not everything in 24-year olds game isn’t complete. His style is still very raw, when he is running with the ball he doesn’t always look in control “Bambi on Ice” is a phrase that has been used to describe his running technique. At times his passing can also leave a lot to be desired, not the actually quality of the pass but the timing of the delivery.

But, along with Eden Hazard, success can come at a price. Take former Lille midfielder Yohan Cabaye for example. He's already been snapped up by Newcastle, for the modest fee of £4.3 million. And Gervinho is next on the list to leave the Stade Lille-Metropole. Eden Hazard is also being heavily linked with a move away from Lille. By the time the new season rolls around there will be a lack of strength in-depth for the champions, even with the additions of Dimitri Payet and Marko Basa.

 Payet is an apt replacement for Arsenal-bound Gervinho, who can be described as "quick" and "blessed with terrific technique and dribbling skills". Payet had attracted interest from Liverpool and Chelsea in late 2010 from his shining performances for St. Etienne and even rejected a move to PSG in the January transfer window earlier this year.

Sources say that Gervinho is mightily close to joining the Gunners and if so, will become their first signing of the summer. Wenger will also need to find a replacement for captain Cesc Fabregas if Barcelona can finally get their hands on him after years of yearning for the La Masia graduate.

For one, I think if Arsenal can sign Gervinho, it'd be a great signing and he could partner Van Persie up-front, helping the team as well as banging them in from all angles. Us Premier League fans hopefully look forward to seeing him strut his stuff come August.

An Interview With GibFootballShow's Andrew Gibney!

So I managed to bag an interview with Andrew Gibney, who runs the excellent Gibfootballshow football website over in England. Without ruining anything he's a Lille fan, with a throbbing passion for Ligue 1 in France. Oh and he like's Eden Hazard. Right, you better dive in before I spill anymore:

1. When did you first start following football on a passionate level? 

"Oh god eh. The first thing I remember is Celtic winning the Scottish cup in 1988 and then Italia ’90. I’ve always had a bit of an obsession. I remember for USA ’94 I would do drawings of the all teams strips and colour them in, writing down all the squad lists etc. Then I always realised I would watch any match I could.

I never thought when I was at school that I would write about anything never mind football but about two years ago I started writing down my thoughts, there is an old blogger site somewhere it was just myself and friends who read it, the more I wrote the more I watched.
My wife used to love football, she had a season ticket with Sheffield United for seven years, but I think she hates it now cause of all the games I’ve watch in the last seven years."

2. Where'd you get the idea for the Gib football show?

"Well I used to have a general blog called “The Gib Show” just a place I could write things down, not just football. I then thought I should start one that was just football. I spent ages trying to think of a catchy title but couldn’t find one I liked so I just wedged “football” in the middle and “gibfootballshow” was born.

That was back in October 2009 the podcast wasn’t born until June 2010. I was inspired by the daily World Cup shows from the Guardian and The Times and started looking into if this was something I could do.
There are a few shows at the start that just feature me on my own. Then via twitter I discovered the wonders of Skype and it’s just grown from there. I have always found it more fun to have a chat about football rather than just writing about it, it’s a great way to get things off your chest and have some great discussions (on and off air)."

3. Were you ever expecting it to be such a hit?

"No, never, it’s all a bit of a shock. Not sure why 2,500 people follow me on twitter. The site has had nearly 150,000 hits and over 50,000 unique hits. It’s crazy. I’m just a guy who likes football and wants to share his views and now I have people from all over the world writing articles for the site and I’ve met some great people through doing the site and the podcast."

4. As well as running the Gibfootballshow, you also contribute
heavily, as well as being co-editor, to the French Football Weekly
football blog. How's that gone for you so far?

"FFW has gone really well. The site started just as a vehicle to push the podcast that myself and Chris Oakley began recording in February. The show has been a success I think, there are no other English language Ligue 1 podcasts out there so we have filled a little hole in the market.

In the past month I have begun building the website up and it has been a huge success. Unfortunately Chris had to give up the podcast but I have found a replacement, his first show will be in July, and I have also brought in another writer. So now the site is a three person effort and this month has been huge.

We have been publishing profiles of the players linked with moves to English and a variety of other stories, to give you an idea of the success we’ve had. From February to May the total views came out as 4,500 which I was happy with. In June alone we’ve had over 10,000 views which is just out of this world.
With a team of three behind the site now, plus other providing some extra content we are very excited about the upcoming season."

5. You're obviously very interested in Ligue 1, following Lille and
such. When did you first begin supporting Les Dogues?

"Eh the Lille thing started around 2005. I had seen bits and pieces of Ligue 1 but never really paid any interest. It started with a friends mum bring me back a Lille scarf from France and I got intrigued and investigated the team, liked what I saw and carried it on from there. Over time I began to be obsessed by the league and fell in love with Lille."

6. Who's your favourite player in the world right now and why?

"Oh that’s a tough one. I suppose the best player on the planet to watch right now is Lionel Messi, he is just phenomenal and you’d pay anything to watch him live. Outside of Messi and inside France well everyone knows my love of Eden Hazard and part of me can’t wait till next season when he moves and everyone gets to see what I was going on about all this time. Away from Eden I love watching Mamadou Sakho at PSG he’s phenom in the defence, and I really enjoyed watching Dortmund this season they played football the right way."

7. And finally, what are your plans for the future Andrew?

"Well with GFS the plan for this season is to have a big group of writers including myself to keep the articles coming. I will be continuing the Yorkshire Football Weekends and writing about them.

The podcast will hopefully go from strength to strength we have some ideas up our sleeves and are looking forward to the season.

Over at FFW we think World domination is on the cards, no only joking. The aim is to be a well-respected place for information on the French league and it’s players. My ultimate goal is to gain Media access for Euro 2016. The podcast will kick start with myself and new co-host Jonathan Johnson, hopefully continue where we left off, bringing more interviews hopefully with some players and provide an enjoyable show that people will want to listen to."