Solidarity blossoms ahead of symbolic England-France friendly

Leave a comment

Few things in this world can bring people together like sport.

[ MORE: Deschamps, Lloris speak ]

On Tuesday at Wembley Stadium, just four days after 129 people were killed in several terrorist attacks in Paris, the French national team will play against England in London in a show of defiance.

In the eyes of the French national team: the show must go on.

Speaking at Wembley Stadium for the first time publicly since the attacks, manager of the French national team Didier Deschamps and team captain Hugo Lloris spoke of how the decision by the French Football Federation to not cancel the game will send out a message.

“Sport in general and in particular football, which is the most popular worldwide, has always been a symbol and represents important values. After these events, these values are even more important,” Deschamps said. “Those present on the field of sport tomorrow night have a duty of representing and symbolizing the values of sport. Throughout my career as a coach, football has always had an important function in everyday life. Globally, it has a strong role in society. Sport and football is a way of life in many nations. It is a strong symbol and players can give a great example and be role models on how to behave. The key, to my eye, is that we have the chance to represent those beautiful colors of blue, white and red and we will do that with pride.”

Well over 80,000 fans are expected at Wembley — the FA have revealed that ticket sales have actually increased over the weekend as fans want to show support for France — in what is a high-profile fixture between neighboring countries who have always been great rivals on and off the pitch. All of that now goes to one side. It is not about the game, it is rather about an occasion which represents solidarity, unity and a collective belief that the terrorists who seek to attack the very fabrics of not only French society but those of nations across the globe, will not succeed.

This act of defiance from the French national team in the face of mourning is remarkable. Lassana Diarra, who started in central midfield for France in Paris on Friday, lost his cousin Asta Diakite in the attacks. Striker Antoine Griezmann’s sister was caught up in the attack on the Bataclan but escaped unharmed. This tragedy has closely touched this team but they were adamant that the game must be played.

The game will be beamed across the world as everyone will see how powerful sport can be in times of tragedy. Following the attacks three days of mourning were declared in France by President Francois Hollande as well as a state of emergency. On the fourth day after the attacks, France will play England and the occasion will act as a small way of helping to heal the wounds of a nation in deep sorrow.

“We have been together and talked together as a group, it has been dramatic few days and very hard,” Lloris said. “We have been trying to keep focused and while at Clairefontaine trying to keep up with the news. We are now trying to focus our minds on doing the job on the field; to play for our country and play for the victims… Tomorrow will be a great moment of solidarity. I think the president made the best decision to play this game. It will be an opportunity to show character through that game and allow us to share this moment with all the English people.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16: (L-R) Didier Deschamps the head coach of France and Hugo Lloris the captain of France address the media during the France Press Conference at Wembley Stadium on November 16, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Deschamps (left) and Lloris speak at Wembley.

The fact that England are France’s opponents and the game will be played in London is poignant. Both nations and aforementioned cities have been targets for terrorist attacks in Europe over the last decade. In many ways London and Paris mirror one another and the fact that 13 of France’s 23-man squad either currently play or have played for English teams means the bond they have to the nation is strong. Many of these French players will feel at home in England, playing against current or former teammates who represent the English national team.

“The horrific atrocities perpetrated in Paris on Friday were an attack on our very way of life, our freedom, our democracy,” Mayor of London Boris Johnson said. “Of course we can never be complacent, and tomorrow’s game will be policed appropriately, but I can’t think of a better riposte to this ideology of hate than to carry on with our lives, our loves and our passions.”

With the famous Wembley arch lit in the red, white and blue of France, the country’s motto — Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite — emblazoned on the front of the home of soccer, plans for home fans to create a giant mosaic of the triclore before kick off and home fans urged by the English authorities to sing the French national anthem before kick off with the lyrics to La Marseillaise put on the big screens, the feeling of unity and solidarity will be strong.

“There will be a lot of emotion from the players but we are in London and people here are respectful,” Lloris, who is captain and goalkeeper for Tottenham Hotspur in London said. “It will be a great moment of solidarity. We have been touched by messages from all over the globe, particularly in England. I know the English very well from my time with Tottenham and I know they will help us to commemorate and do the right thing and support us before the game and we are very grateful for the messages. It’s important for us that for a group of players who will sing together and share that moment. It will be amazing if the England fans can sing the Marseillaise, and share in this moment.”

It is, of course, not only in England that this solidarity has shone through in the midst of tragedy. Throughout the soccer and sporting world over the past few days we have seen a huge show of support for the people of Paris and France to honor those who were killed. Teams across college football in the U.S., the NFL and numerous American sports showed their support and it wasn’t just in the sporting world either with famous landmarks across the world lit up in red, white and blue to show Parisians they are not on their own.

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 15: French flags are displayed alongside the American flag in honor of the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field on November 15, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Sport paid its respects to the victims.

Germany, the nation France were playing last Friday when suicide bombers reportedly tried to get in the Stade de France before blowing themselves up outside the stadium and as other horrendous attacks were carried out across the French capital, will play their bitter rivals the Netherlands in a friendly in Hanover on Tuesday. Head coach of the German national team, Joachim Low, first of all thanked Deschamps and his team for staying with the German players in the depths of the Stade de France on Friday following the game. The visitors could not exit the stadium safely and stayed the night, united with the French players and staff as the tragedies unfolded.

“I think it was a great gesture by the French team and by Deschamps,” Low said. “They offered us to stay overnight in their hotel and that they would clear a number of rooms. They also waited until it was clear that we would fly directly to Germany.”

There was some trepidation from the German players, when their team hotel in Paris was subject of a bomb scare earlier on Friday but it turned out to be a hoax, about playing the Netherlands on Tuesday but Low summed up the defiant mood.

“After sleeping on it, it was clear to us that the match must take place,” Low said. “The match has a clear message for freedom and democracy but also for solidarity with France. Our thoughts tomorrow will be with the victims and their families… I hope that the sporting rivalry between Germany and the Netherlands will now take a backseat and the match will now take on another valuation. I’m of the opinion that if we understand the meaning of the match, we have won. No matter what the result will be.”

In terms of the role the home team will play at Wembley on Tuesday, manager Roy Hodgson, captain Wayne Rooney and English FA chief executive officer Martin Glenn spoke to the media on Monday and emphasized the magnitude of the occasion.

“I understand fully that the French authorities had a very clear opinion on the topic and they wanted the game to go ahead so for us it was very easy to go along with that. As a result we will do our best to make a really good game of it but we can’t deny the seriousness of the occasion,” Hodgson said. “We can’t deny that this game is special. It is not a normal friendly because it is occurring four days after this unbelievable terror attack and unfortunately that is going to be lingering over everybody whether we like it or not.”

That notion of the world standing tall and uniting for France in its time of need once again appeared.

“I think globally football does a lot for the world,” Rooney said. “It shows that everyone as a unit, the world as one and football has the power to do that. The world of football has to stay strong together. I am sure everyone will do that and deal with the situation as best as us as players, the fans, know how to do. I am sure football will help bring people together.”

“The global nature of the game is really important,” Glenn added. “It was important that the French authorities wanted to do it. The match tomorrow is going to have massive global significance. It is the first big event that has happened since the tragedy of last Friday. I think it is important for us to be totally supportive of them and do something great together to demonstrate that terrorism can’t win. The eyes of the world are going to be on Wembley tomorrow, not just the French and English people.”

Deschamps was defiant as he prepares to lead his team against England with the world watching on, just four days after the stadium he and his team last played in was targeted by terrorists.

“We are here now to take to the field to represent our country. With even more pride than we normally would and make sure the blue, white and red are proudly represented by the players on the field,” Deschamps said. “It is the very first time a stadium, football players and supporters have been a target for a terrorist attack. But sport has a way of uniting people, sport is the very representation of economic and social life; everyday life. I have always said that it is a huge source of pride for me to represent my country in sport and that has become even more important now. Sport represents a union of diversity and diversity coming together.”

The Stade de France after the France-Germany game ended.

PSG’s Mbappe praises Klopp, Liverpool in recent interview

Kylian Mbappe Liverpool
Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images
Leave a comment

This is going to delight the Anfield set.

Paris Saint-Germain mega striker Kylian Mbappe has admitted admiration for the way Liverpool plays, as conversations continue regarding his future.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news | Current table ]

Mbappe, 21, may be the most valuable commodity in the world given his position, accomplishments, and skill set. For France, he has a World Cup to go with 34 caps, 13 goals, and 10 assists. For PSG and Monaco combined, he’s scored 117 goals and 65 assists in 180 appearances.

He doesn’t turn 22 until December.

But there’s long been a thought that the World Cup winner will eventually have to leave PSG to cement his legacy given the relatively shallow competition in the league.

“This season, Liverpool have been a machine in the Premier League,” he told The Mirror. “They have made winning look easy but the truth is that it is never easy. Performances like they have been having don’t just happen.

“To be as ruthless as they have been would come from lots of hard work in training and from having a very good manager.”

Liverpool fans will be nodding along, beckoning the center forward with arms extended and hands waving him to them.

Real Madrid has often been the rumored destination, and we’ve argued that there’s no fee too high for this player considering how many years he has ahead of him.

With transfer fees possibly ducking low this summer after a wake-up call from the coronavirus, could Liverpool upgrade its dangerous front three with one of the top center forwards in the game?

The fact that the Reds reportedly negotiated a percentage of jersey sales into their new apparel deal could help, because it’s easy to imagine red Mbappe jerseys all around the world.

Canada’s Davies shines again as Muller brands him Roadrunner (video)

Alphonso Davies
Photo by FEDERICO GAMBARINI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alphonso Davies sees your expectations and he moves past them with vigor.

The Canadian phenom again took the international spotlight and ran with it, past it, and over it on Tuesday as Bayern Munich put one hand on its eighth-straight Bundesliga title with a 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news | Current table ]

We’ll get to the stats and the style in a bit, but let’s start with some video that showcases the elite physical package he’s built.

Davies isn’t grinding here and he’s actually a bit slow to recognize the danger as Erling Haaland works over David Alaba.

Haaland isn’t at top speed and balance, too, but it doesn’t matter. Davies is there in a hurry. And it’s also about what he does when he get there. There are plenty of speed merchants in the game, not all of them can tackle Erling Haaland.

[ RELATED: Real Madrid targeting Davies as Marcelo replacement ]

That’s why this viral soundbite from Thomas Muller is gaining a lot of traction (also because it’s funny).

The roadrunner quip is the main attraction, but hidden in it is the implication that Davies has these elite make-up skills but is only going to get better with experience and awareness. He’s cutting out Haaland a minute earlier.

Before you watch that, though, here’s what Davies said on the play.

“Obviously being a young player I get caught out of position a lot and I’m happy to have the speed I have. That’s a factor in my game that I use very well, but I think over the years going forward with this team I will definitely learn more about my position, better positioning so it doesn’t look like I’m out of position just running back as fast as I can to catch up.”

Davies moved from Vancouver Whitecaps to Bayern just last year, but is already the undisputed best player for the Canadian national team with five goals and eight assists in 17 caps.

His 54 tackles are tied for 16th amongst Bundesliga players (Remember: He’s 19).

His 72 dribbles are top in the league (Again: 19).

Only three players have won more duels than his 180 (Not 20 until November).

And his two professional matches of left back experience before October were with Bayern II in 3.Liga this Fall. That’s bonkers.

Meep-meep.

Bundesliga wrap: Bayer, Gladbach wobble; USMNT back is Eintracht hero

Bundesliga wrap
Photo by Arne Dedert/Pool via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Second-half goal explosions led to excitement in two of three late Bundesliga kickoffs on Tuesday, with an American making a super sub impact in Frankfurt.

Bayern won 1-0 at Dortmund earlier in the day, opening the door for a challenge on second. Bayer and Gladbach both declined to enter.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news | Current table ]

A loss for the former and draw from the latter all make this an absolutely wonderful day for the seven-time reigning champs in Bavaria.

Bayer Leverkusen 1-4 Wolfsburg

A Maximilian Arnold set piece star show saw the German behind three goals as Wolfsburg firmed up its top six credentials with a big win against red-hot Bayer.

Marin Pongracic headed two of Arnold’s free kicks home with a third taking a turn off the wall to give Arnold a goal of his own. Renato Steffen also scored in the win.

Julian Baumgartlinger scored very late for Bayer, who sinks fifth with 53 points.

Wolfsburg’s win gives them 42 points, four more than seventh-place Freiburg.

Wolfsburg had the two best chances of the first quarter-hour and it could’ve easily been 1-0 or 2-0 if not for a crucial blocked from Bayer defender Edmond Tapsoba and a fine save from Tomas Hradecky minutes later.

Bayer found some footing in the latter stages of the first half, forcing a save out of Koen Casteels before Kai Havertz tempted the frame with a header off a set piece.

The visitors’ breakthrough came before halftime, as ex-Salzburg defender Pongracic rose high to meet a terrific Arnold free kick from the right side to make it 1-0.

Wolfsburg had two quick chances to start the second half, Hradecky making a right arm save and a second chanced missed by the visitors.

Arnold’s 65th-minute free kick then took a hard turn off Kai Havertz inside the Bayer wall en route to defying Hradecky for 2-0.

The third goal arrived in short order, smallish Steffen outleaping Wendell to a Joao Victor cross and heading home.

American defender John Brooks subbed off in the 82nd minute with Wolfsburg holding a 4-0 lead and Havertz in the midst of one of his worst matches in a while.

Brooks posted six clearances, three interceptions, and a tackle and had a rough passing day by his very high standards. Brooks completed 70 percent of his passes, including four-of-eight long balls (Sofascore).

USMNT teen Ulysses Llanez made the bench for Wolfsburg but was an unused sub despite the big score line.

https://twitter.com/FOXSoccer/status/1265372544305168389

Werder Bremen 0-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

The hosts built on a weekend win by going toe-to-toe with a still out-of-sorts Gladbach on Tuesday at the Weserstadion.

Gladbach moves fourth, level on points with Bayer Leverkusen but ahead on goal differential after the latter’s blowout.

Bremen is still 17th after gaining its 22nd point, two points back of 16th and five back of 15th.

Gladbach had the first half edge in possession and shots but could not break down Bremen, who matched them chance-for-chance on the day.

USMNT youngster Josh Sargent earned another start for Bremen, going 74 minutes with 26 touches, a clearance, an interception, and two fouls drawn. He wasn’t at his best in duels but, again, Bremen’s system puts center forwards on an island and you get the feeling Florian Kohfeldt designed for defense against powerful Gladbach.

Eintracht Frankfurt 3-3 Freiburg

USMNT back Timothy Chandler scored with his first touch of the game to complete a thrilling comeback for Eintracht in a 3-3 draw.

Chandler subbed into the game in the 81st minute and deposited Filip Kostic’s handiwork in the 82nd, three minutes after Daichi Kamada had pulled the hosts to within one.

Eintracht showed a lot of heart in the comeback, out-attempting Freiburg 34-10. The point moves Eintracht five points clear of the bottom three and seven ahead of the automatic relegation places.

Freiburg remains seventh, now four points back of Wolfsburg and capable of finishing the midweek as low as ninth.

Vincenzo Grifo scored a goal and later set up another for Freiburg, with Nils Petersen and Lucas Holer also finding the back of the net.

Grifo’s third goal of the season gave the visitors a 28th-minute lead that would last only seven minutes.

Andre Silva answered with his 10 goal in all comps for Eintracht on loan from Milan, and it was 1-1 at the break.

Freiburg scored in the 67th and 69th to take a lead and, seemingly, another step toward the Europa League.

Instead, it was Eintracht who firmed up their footing at the other end of the table.

Here’s Chandler’s equalizer, a nice feat of power and coordination.

Wednesday

12:30 p.m. ET: RB Leipzig v. Hertha Berlin
2:30 p.m. ET: Augsburg v. Paderborn
2:30 p.m. ET: Union Berlin v. Mainz
2:30 p.m. ET: Hoffenheim v. Cologne
2:30 p.m. ET: Fortuna Dusseldorf v. Schalke

Kimmich reacts to thrilling winner for Bayern in Der Klassiker

Joshua Kimmich
Photo by FEDERICO GAMBARINI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Joshua Kimmich isn’t an out-and-out scorer, but he looked the part after his heroics led Bayern Munich to a huge victory.

Ask him about his stunning chip over Borussia Dortmund in Tuesday’s Klassiker, and the Bayern Munich midfielder doesn’t tone it down.

“The best goal in my career,” the German midfielder said, via Bayern Munich. “It was very important.”

Kimmich has 28 senior goals between club and country, and this one was a beauty. Kimmich took a lay-off from Kingsley Coman and spun a ball over the flailing Roman Burki.

[ 3 THINGS: Dortmund 0-1 Bayern ]

Burki is a fine keeper and Dortmund had only allowed one goal in his last six outings before the derby. It was going to take something special to beat him.

Kimmich says that Hansi Flick’s staff had prepared the Bayern players for the habits of the strong and aggressive goalkeeper.

“We were previously informed that Bürki is always relatively high.”