Gotta love the French.
As the nation looks to overturn a two goal play-off deficit against the Ukraine, French newspapers have been polling the public to gauge confidence.
Suffice to say, hopes aren’t very high. In fact, they are downright pessimistic.
As in 84% of the French public doesn’t believe Les Bleus will make it to Brazil 2014, those figures by virtue of 23,000 votes cast in Le Parisien.
A similar poll taken from 60,000 people in L’Equipe had nearly as hopeless a response with 61% of the public believing France won’t qualify for this summer’s World Cup.
And, in what has to be the most troubling question and answer recorded, Le Parisien reports that only 16% of the country answered “yes” in regards to “Do you continue to support Les Bleus in spit of everything?”
It’s a response that will give Didier Deschamps’ team little hope after a flat performance Friday in Kiev. That match saw a weak center-back pairing of Eric Abidal and Laurent Koscielny exposed, with the latter being sent off for two yellow cards. Hopes are that the Arsenal man will be spelled by Real Madrid center-back Raphael Varane, who faces a race to be fit.
France will look to UEFA Player of the Year, Franck Ribery, to inspire the side and expect the Bayern man to link up with Mathieu Valbuena following a dismal performance by Samir Nasri last Friday.
Bowing out to the Ukraine would be a massive blow to Les Bleus after years of recent turmoil concerning fractured player relations with the management staff and the French Football Federation. At World Cup 2010 Nicholas Anelka was kicked off the team for a profanity-laced tirade against coach Raymond Domenech prompting captain Patrice Evra to organize his teammates into a training boycott.
Those actions prompted controversy, suspensions and strong reactions from French fans that have since appeared to be on the mend. But with World Cup qualification in doubt the new confidence polls raises questions as to whether this nation has ever really healed from that incident.
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]
However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.
Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.
They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.
The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.
Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.
[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]
Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.
The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.
[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]
Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0
Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.
[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]
Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw
Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.