2014 World Cup team preview: France

Leave a comment

Getting to know… France 

For a generation of viewers that came into their fandom around France’s 1998 World Cup triumph, Les Bleus will always be a world power. The recent reality, however, is less flattering. Since Zinedine Zidane’s retirement after Germany 2006, France has qualified for three major tournament but failed to make an impact at any. At Euro 2008 and South Africa 2010, France failed to advance out of its groups, while Euro 2012 saw Laurent Blanc’s team make a meek exit at the quarterfinals.

From an inability to replace icons (Zidane, Lilian Thuram, Thierry Henry) to off the field issues, there are a number of reasons why France has failed to live up to its global reputation. With an easy group draw in Brazil, however, head coach Didier Deschamps has a chance to send Les Bleus in a new direction.

Record in qualifying

France’s hopes of unseating Spain in Europe’s Group I were given a boost when Olivier Giroud’s 94th minute goal snared a point in Madrid with Les Bleus’ third (of eight) qualifiers. When France gave that point back with a 1-0 home loss to the world champions five months later, Deschamps’ team was destined to return to the playoffs.

Once there, a 2-0, first leg loss at Ukraine on Nov. 15 had France on the verge of missing the finals, but a switch in formation and personnel allowed Deschamps to turn the tide in Saint-Denis. First half goals from Mamadou Sahko and Karim Benzema had France even by the 34th minute, with a second half winner from Sahko putting the team through to its fifth consecutive World Cup.

What group are they in? 

Switzerland was the seeded team others wanted to draw. When Ecuador and Honduras joined Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side in Group E, it became one of the tournament’s easiest groups.

While France’s name value makes the nation the favorite in the eyes of some, that may not necessarily be the case. Regardless, this group will prove kinder than most France could have been drawn into.

Game schedule:

15 June, 15:00, Porto Alegre – France vs. Honduras

20 June, 16:00, Salvador – Switzerland vs. France

25 June, 16:00, Rio de Janeiro – Ecuador vs. France

Star player: Franck Ribéry

The reigning French Player of the Year, Ribéry’s one-on-one ability could prove lethal wide left of Les Bleus’s dangerous midfield. With Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi, and Paul Pogba in the middle, Deschamps has a threesome that could force opponents to dedicate numbers to the problem. The more room that creates for a winger who averages just under 14 goals per season with Bayern Munich, the longer France is likely to last in Brazil.

Manager: Didier Deschamps

Hired in the wake of Euro 2012, the former Juventus midfielder has slowly instilled some of his reputed steel into his national team. Part of that can be seen in the more robust 4-3-3 the coach has used after experimenting with 4-2-3-1 and various versions of a 4-4-2. Another symptom of that edge: Excluding one of the team’s most talented players, Samir Nasri, after the Manchester City midfielder’s displays is dissent. A former World Cup and European champion as a player, Deschamps is trying to lift France to the same heights as a coach.

Secret weapon: Blaise Matuidi

The extent to which any of France’s prospective starters is a secret is debatable, but still operating in the relative anonymity of Ligue 1, Matuidi’s virtues tend to be underappreciated. A strong, two-way, connecting force for Paris Saint-Germain, the 27-year-old could serve a similar role for Les Bleus, though his influence at either end of the pitch could prove just as important. With 15 goals over the last two years at PSG, the former Troyes and Saint-Etienne man continues to show his value going forward, while his ability to be a stalwart in front of the defense provides liberties to the talented Cabaye and Pogba.

Prediction: If Ecuador proves strong in a South American World Cup, there will be a three-way fight to get out of Group E. Else, whether France finishes ahead of Switzerland will depend on Les Bleus playing to their potential. Regardless, Deschamps’ team is expected to get to the knockout round.

Day Six: All the action from the U20 World Cup

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the second consecutive tournament, the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team is poised to qualify for the knockout stages of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup latest

In its second match of this year’s edition in South Korea, the U.S. earned an important three points in a 1-0 victory over Senegal, while its main rivals Ecuador fell, 2-1 to Saudi Arabia. The win shot the U.S. up to first place in Group F with four points while Senegal and Saudi Arabia sit just below with three points. Ecuador occupies the final spot in the group with one point through two games.

Seventeen-year-old Josh Sargent scored for the second straight game and the defensive unit anchored by Erik Palmer-Brown and Cameron Carter-Vickers in central defense held tight to earn the U.S. a clean sheet. The U.S. finishes up the group stage on Sunday against Saudi Arabia.

In Group E action, France thrashed Vietnam 4-0 and New Zealand defeated Honduras 3-1.

Click on the link above for all the latest news from the U-20 World Cup, while below are video highlights from Thursday’s four games in Groups E and F.

Group E

USA 1, Senegal 0

Saudi Arabia 2, Ecuador 1

Group F

France 4, Vietnam 0

New Zealand 3, Honduras 1

Rooney left off England squad for matches with Scotland, France

Getty Images
Leave a comment

This summer could be the start of a new era with the England National Team.

England and Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney was left out of Gareth Southgate‘s 25-man squad ahead of a pair of international matches in June. England faces Scotland on June 10 in a World Cup qualifier at Hampden Park before traveling to the Stade de France three days later for a friendly match with Les Blues.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

While Rooney didn’t make the squad, his Manchester United teammate Marcus Rashford did make the team, with Southgate preferring him to be with the senior squad instead of play for England’s Under-21s at the UEFA Under-21 Championship this June in Poland.

“He’s in the senior squad on merit, and has been for a year,” Southgate said to FA.com. “He had one game with the Under-21s when I was there in September and he was outstanding that day, but he’s not really been a part of the Under-21 squad. His performances warrant him being in the senior squad.”

Other notable inclusions in the squad are Tottenham right back Kieran Trippier, who is in line for his first senior international cap, as well as 34-year-old Sunderland forward Jermain Defoe, coming off back-to-back Premier League seasons with 15 league goals.

If Rooney’s time with the Three Lions is over, it would mark a true changing of the guard in the England squad. Rooney, who has 119 caps and is England’s all-time leading goal scorer with 53 goals, made his debut in 2003 in a friendly match against Australia, at the time becoming the youngest player to make his England debut at the age of 17. The record was broken by Theo Walcott.

Rooney came to prominence with the Three Lions with a burst in Euro 2004 in Portugal, leading England to the quarterfinals. Perhaps England could have gone farther if Rooney hadn’t broken a bone in his foot and had to limp off in the first half of England’s ouster against Portugal.

Since then, it’s been a mixed bag for Rooney. While he’s scored bags of goals, he’s never really lived up to the hype in the big tournaments.

Under his watch, England’s never made it past the quarterfinals in either the World Cup or European Championships and he’s been part of big disappointments, including failing to qualify for Euro 2008 and getting bounced by Iceland in Euro 2016. England also failed to make it out of the group stage at the last World Cup.

It’s possible that Southgate left Rooney off the squad purely based on form as Defoe was included, but it could be a sign of things to come, which is a chance for younger players like John Stones, Alli and Kane to take leadership positions within the team.

Stream Live: USA takes on Senegal at U20 World Cup

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team is halfway home in its second game of the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup group stage, holding a 1-0 lead over Senegal after Josh Sargent’s left-footed blast.

[ LIVE: USA U-20 vs. Senegal ] 

Tab Ramos’ side came back to draw Ecuador 3-3 in a wild first game of the tournament but after losing central midfielder Gedion Zelalem, holding midfielder Derrick Jones has moved into the starting lineup and provided more stability in the center of the park.

Below you can watch a replay of Sargent’s first-half goal and above is a link to stream the U.S. game live via Telemundo Deportes.

LAFC makes plan for training complex east of downtown

Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) The MLS expansion Los Angeles Football Club plans to spend $30 million to build a training complex on the campus of Cal State LA.

LAFC revealed its proposal Wednesday after the plans were approved by the California State University Board of Trustees.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

LAFC will renovate the university’s stadium field while constructing a complex to house its players, staff and coaches, along with the LAFC Academy youth development team.

The team’s two-story training building will be financed entirely by LAFC’s deep-pocketed ownership group. LAFC also committed to donate $1.5 million to the university.

The complex will be located on the north campus of Cal State LA, just 10 miles east of Banc of California Stadium. LAFC will begin MLS play in its under-construction downtown arena in March.