Category: Sports

France: Where Did It Go Wrong?

France, the favourites to win EURO 2020 following their World Cup victory, crashed out in disappointing fashion on Monday night. Shyam takes a deep dive into why they lost against Switzerland.

30th June 2021

By Shyam

Cockiness and Complacency: made in France

“No spirit, no togetherness and a poor attitude,” Patrick Vieira said with an expression mixed with disbelief, disgust and anger after witnessing France’s capitulation vs Switzerland. Stinging words, but reflective of the performance put in by Les Bleus, as they threw away a 3-1 lead to the Swiss before being beaten on penalties. Coming into this tournament, France were clear favourites. And why wouldn’t they be? Reigning world champions, world-class players in nearly every position and an experienced manager in Deschamps.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that there was an air of complacency about them throughout the EUROs. From the media’s comments before the game to Pogba’s celebration after his goal (that included no less than 6 unique celebrations), the overall impression was, “we’ve won the tournament already. These games are just a formality”. One can only imagine what’s going through the minds of every French player, journalist and fan following their humbling. 

Formation, formation, formation? A problem with France’s foundation?

However, France’s problems ran deeper than just a bad attitude. Didier Deschamps was forced into a 3-at-the-back, having no fit left-backs available for selection. Previously Deschamps experimented with little success with the 3-4-1-2, with the conclusion being it demanded too much discipline from Pogba. This formation demanded that he play as one of two midfielders and failed to get the best out of the attack.

Now add to the mix, an out-of-form Clement Lenglet and a makeshift left-back in the form of Adrien Rabiot and you have a recipe for disaster. The disconnect between the midfield and attack prevented France from creating meaningful chances and Deschamps acknowledged this, switching to a back 4 eventually.

What about the real France?

Deschamps switched to a back 4, and suddenly for 25 minutes we saw the “real France”. Les Bleus dazzled with free-flowing, electric football culminating in a 30-yard screamer from their poster boy Paul Pogba. It was maybe the first time we saw the team we expected. The one that created chance after chance, putting relentless pressure on the opposition until they got their goal. Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba also showed us how their individual brilliance could conjure a goal out of nothing. 

The collapse

However, France inexplicably collapsed in the last ten minutes. Following some particularly shocking defending from Kimpembe and Varane, Switzerland had equalized. The penalties, the ultimate test of composure, were always going to be a struggle. Granit Xhaka, the Swiss captain, had the entire team energized and the passion was palpable. Judging by the shell-shocked look on the faces of the French, the dreaded thought of losing probably played on their mind and resulted in them losing the shootout.

Is Deschamps to blame?

Deschamps of France

France’s problems could also be attributed to the squad. When choosing a 26-man team from a country that possesses such unbelievable talent, Deschamps was always going to leave some players out. But his decision to take two left-backs, coming off of long-term injuries, was one that proved costly. Lucas Digne and Lucas Hernandez both got injured in the group stages forcing Deschamps to switch away from his preferred formation.

Other decisions such as taking Moussa Sissoko over Camavinga and Ndombele were questionable at best (and criminal at worst). The fact of the matter is that France underperformed with the set of players they had. The shot of Mbappe walking alone to the tunnels with no players consoling him spoke volumes about the French squad. A squad of superstars lacking cohesion.

France will probably stick with Deschamps for the next World Cup in Qatar, but expect to see some changes in the squad, the tactics and most importantly the mentality of the team. 

The Fall Of The Old Lady

After years of dominance in Serie A, Juventus are set for their worst season in years. Why has the Old Lady fallen? Read this article by Shyam to find out…

14th May

By Shyam

The Events

“It’s a collapse. What we saw from Juventus was embarrassing,” Fabio Capello said from his Sky Italia studio after witnessing Juventus’ humiliating 3-0 loss to AC Milan. He wasn’t wrong. The Bianconeri looked tired, uninspired and only threatened in spells with Ronaldo looking isolated throughout the 90 minutes. Performances like these have characterized Juventus’ season.

A tough start to the season under Pirlo was made worse as the squad was plagued with injuries and personality clashes, of course culminating in the harrowing night in Turin where Sérgio Conceição’s Porto claimed a deserved victory, leaving Juve with yet another disappointing Champions League campaign.

Where did it all go wrong?

So where did it all go wrong? We all know success comes in cycles, but nobody expected the fall of the Old Lady to come like this, especially after their domestic domination for close to a decade. To be potentially finishing outside the top 4 is nothing short of a disaster for Agnelli and all associated with the club.

Why has this dramatic fall happened? Well firstly, I think we need to start with the manager. Juventus have often been criticized for not having an identity, but I think it’s clear what they’re supposed to be. A 3-5-2 out of possession and a 4-4-2 with the ball with an XI of energetic counter-pressers who can control possession and play incisive passes between the lines.

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Execution, execution, execution

The problem lies with the execution – aimless crossing, predictable passing and speculative long shots have all become a common occurrence during Juventus attacks. With the appointment of Pirlo, one thing that was expected was for him to breathe life back into the midfield. Fluid movement and exchanges accompanied by hard running and tackling, much like the midfield he was such an instrumental part of. However, it’s been anything but.

The lack of ball progression offered by players like Rabiot, Ramsey and Bentancur creates a huge disconnect between the defence and attack which is especially harmful in the games vs other big sides like Inter and Lazio. 

Pirlo

However, there’s only so much Pirlo can do with this squad. “We make life difficult for ourselves” is a common remark heard from him in press conferences and it has rung true across the season. From Kulusevski’s back passes against Torino to Bentancur’s inane back pass against Porto, mistakes have dotted the season and done no good for the confidence of the players.

The players have also struggled with momentum, with Federico Chiesa’s electric March being halted by injury and Kulusevski managing only 1 goal in the entirety of 2021. Juventus have failed to fill the gaps left in their squad by major departures and their recruitment has been short-sighted with little to no thought as to how to integrate new players into the squad.

Round-up

Ultimately, the club that has dominated Serie A for so long and has almost been synonymous with Italian football for the better part of a decade serves as a warning. With big clubs across Europe like Dortmund, Barcelona, Arsenal on the verge of collapse perhaps they are a few lessons to take from this. Don’t appoint an ex-player as a manager if they do not have the proper experience.

Recruitment should be done with the long term health of the squad in mind, not just the near future. And perhaps most important of all –  a rebuild, however painful and expensive it may be, should not be put off until you’re left with an unhappy fanbase, ageing players and no trophies.

Rating Ronaldo’s Craziest and Most Expensive Purchases

For his blogging debut, Aakash explores Cristiano Ronaldo’s most expensive and ridiculous purchases. You won’t believe some of these!

7th May 2021

By Aakash

Have you ever wondered, “If I was a multi-millionaire footballer, what would I buy?”. Well, you are in luck as I am here to make your dreams come true. Cristiano Ronaldo is not only one of the highest-paid athletes to ever exist, but he is also one of the most extravagant spenders in the world. He earns a monumental £46.7 million a year from his base salary alone, not including sponsorships and advertisements. With sponsorships and salaries, we can only imagine how much he truly earns a year. 

Number one on the list is a wax figure of himself:

Certain rich people might have portraits or paintings of themselves, well this man owns a life-sized version of himself. This item prices at around $25,000, not one of the most expensive things he owns but an unexpected and over-the-top purchase at that. After Madrid’s Museum of Wax honoured Ronaldo with a statue, he was so impressed that he had a replica made that he reportedly keeps at his house. Certain people might remember the horrendous sculpture of Ronaldo that was made in Madeira Airport which torrented a peal of laughter out of the Portuguese man, followed by a look that showed he was clearly not impressed. Well, at least now he had a figure made for him that he actually enjoyed.

I would give this purchase a 7/10 – I rate the creativity but the price isn’t high enough to justify a greater score. He must love himself so much to own something like that though.

Next on the list is Ronaldo’s New York Apartment:

Ronaldo owns a New York apartment located in the Trump Tower. You must be thinking, “oh, okay. That’s not that surprising.” Well, that is not until you hear the price he paid for this. This apartment amasses to a whopping $18.5 million and has views of the Hudson River, Empire State Building and Central Park. 

This purchase gets a 6/10 – whilst it was a potential 8, the fact that it’s located in the Trump Towers knocks off 2 valuable points. However, the sheer price is extraordinary and the fact that he owns such an expensive apartment in New York may suggest a future move to the MLS at the end of the ageless man’s career? Maybe New York Red Bulls or New York City FC? We can only hope so.

Last on the list is a diamond-encrusted custom watch:

The diamond-encrusted custom watch is made by Jacob and co. Some may have heard of this company making iced-out watches for famous rappers back in the 90s and 2000s. The watch is fitted with 424 white diamonds and is worth around a giant $1.85 million. But here’s the catch, the almost 2-million-dollar watch has so many diamonds in it that it can’t even tell the time. Bit of a waste of money for something that doesn’t even work if you ask me. But anyway, with that many diamonds in it, it would probably blind you before you’re even able to read the dials.  

This overpriced toy gets a 6/10 from me. Whilst 424 white diamonds sound eye-watering, the look of the watch doesn’t quite match. Its weird pentagonal shape and ugly dark blue strap takes away the attractiveness of this piece and forces me to rate it no higher than 6.

Fan Channels: A vector of support or money-hungry attention seekers?

“When is it gonna end, Robbie?”

“Maupay you’re a cheat and I hope Brighton get relegated.”

These are just a handful of iconic moments that have emerged as a result of the emergence of the fan channel era. Without a doubt, these off-the-cuff and reactionary post-match reviews have been the source of laughter amongst surrounding football fans. But is this new wave of fandom and punditry causing more harm than good?

In a recent debate hosted by Talksport, Arsenal legend Ray Parlour boldly claimed that Robbie Lyle (owner of AFTV YouTube channel) prefers when Arsenal lose as AFTV gets more views. The logic behind this statement is that rival fans enjoy watching an AFTV meltdown postgame following a loss. The statistics do not support this statement. In Arsenal’s recent FA cup victory, AFTV received a staggering 1.3 million, whereas in Arsenal’s iconic last-minute loss to Brighton, in which member Ty uttered those famous words into existence (“Maupay you’re a cheat and I hope Brighton get relegated”) received a mere 633,000 in comparison. These baseless claims from Ray Parlour have a hint of irony, as he is an employee of Talksport, a radio show that feeds off reactionary phone-in sessions in which supporters express their anguish and immediate frustration postgame.

The arrival of fan channels has most certainly given a more prominent voice for football fans. This has further been supported by the constant development of social media and other technological platforms. The United Stand, a YouTube channel owned by Mark Goldbridge, has recently surpassed the 1 million subscriber mark. In short, this is one hell of an achievement, especially considering that the channel is barely 6 years old. The influence of this channel on the views of Manchester United fans worldwide is visible from the recent protests against the Manchester United ownership. Fans forced their way into Old Trafford and caused chaos, and even managed to get their game Vs Liverpool postponed due to their effort in getting their message across. These views have been amplified by The United Stand, in which their displeasure is expressed, as they believe that the Glazer family (Manchester United owners) are not fully committed to the expansion of the club, and treat the club more as a profitable business than a football club.

However, it is not all sunny on the part of fan channels. Claims of abuse directed at the players of each respected club are not entirely false. This was perhaps most prominent in the case of Granit Xhaka. The majority of you reading this article must be aware of the instance in which Granit Xhaka received boos from fans in the Emirates during a game vs Crystal Palace. The Arsenal midfielder responded to this by taking off his Arsenal top in an act of rebellion. Arsenal fans did not take kindly to this gesture, and AFTV, in principle, slated Granit Xhaka. Following these insults led by AFTV, Granit Xhaka’s social media pages were flooded with abuse to the point where he revealed that he had received death threats from certain “fans”. Of course, this is not exclusively just AFTV causing this inhumane behaviour. Multiple footballers have received racial and social media abuse. In response to this growing wave of abuse, certain Premier League football clubs and footballers have decided to boycott social media from 30th April-4th May.

In summary, fan channels are an interesting addition to the world of football. Without a doubt, they are having an increasing influence on the decision making of clubs – you only need to look as far as the 48-hour abolishment of the European Super League. Fan involvement within the sphere of football is broadening, and this is being abetted by the increase in interaction through social media. Of course, fan channels are far from perfect, and the persistent abuse of players signals this, but I truly believe they demonstrate an improvement in the perception of our beautiful game.

Extreme Sports 101: No.2

14th April 2021

By Otto

The purpose of last week’s post was to begin to bring peoples attention to extreme sports. It often flies under the radar as simply a subsection of sports in general, which might seem like a fair assumption. Actually, extreme sports are in a completely different ballpark and often not considered when people talk about sports.

Well, for this week I will be talking you through snow sports specifically, the number of different snow sports there are and why they are actually more interesting and beneficial than they may seem.

Let me start off with a brief list of the different snow sports there are: skiing, snowboarding, dog sledging, snowshoeing, ice climbing, ski biking, snow driving, sledging and I can assure you the list goes on. If you have something you really enjoy doing in the summer, then I can almost guarantee that it will exist on either the snow or the ice. There are arguments suggesting that not all of these activities can be considered extreme sports and I believe that’s fair when taking into consideration sports like cross-country skiing, but on average these sports require great skill and bravery to be able to be taken part in at a reasonably good level. This wide range of activities only emphasises the opportunities within snow extreme sports and how many options there are for everyone whether you fear dogs or heights there is always something for you. 

At first thought you might think, “Oh, extreme sports, sounds kind of like an unnecessary risk to take for some adrenaline,” and sometimes I have to agree with that, but I truly believe some people just don’t understand how beneficial an experience of extreme sports can be. I think snow sports is a great example of this because there are so many papers and research projects that suggest there are far more benefits that outweigh the positives in Winter Extreme sports. The main topic of conversation in these projects is the connection some of the athletes build with their surroundings and environment. Many describe it as one of the most beautiful feelings you can experience and to me that just sounds so perfect; getting more in touch with the world that has given us so much. Putting our safety in the hands of gravity. That just appeals so greatly to me and something I think all people should try to experience in their lifetime.

Battle of the Heavyweights: Is Boxing or MMA More Dangerous?

12th April 2021

By Nilesh

Your average bloke would suggest, or perhaps even be convinced that MMA is a much more dangerous sport than boxing. This is not a common misconception. Surely the lighter gloves and the possibility of receiving a shin smack bang on your chin must equate to a higher mortality rate. Your average bloke would be mistaken. During the period of 1890-2011, there have been 1604 boxing-related deaths, averaging around 13 deaths a year, whereas there have only been 16 deaths since the formation of MMA in the mid-1990s. This may come as a mind-boggling statistic to those of you reading, and most certainly to your average bloke. But why is this? Let’s delve into the full story.

In terms of the anatomy of the sport, boxing is focused on damage being sustained to the body and head, whereas in MMA there is far more flexibility and creativity in the approach you can take. As with the current influx of UFC champions with a prolific wrestling background (e.g. most notably Khabib Nurmangomedov, Kamaru Usman and Jon Jones) who clearly underline that a fight can be won without knocking your opponent’s lights out. This is backed up by the fact that the highest proportion of neck and head injuries are in boxing, standing at 84%. In addition, MMA fights last only 3 rounds (potentially 5 in championship fights) reduces the time frame in which damage can be sustained, whereas boxing fights last 12 gruelling rounds.

CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) is a brain-related injury that is sustained in multiple contact sports, most notably in rugby, boxing, MMA and American Football. It is worth stating that the majority of boxing deaths do not come immediately after suffering a tough fight, but instead by enduring a cumulative amount of damage over the course of their careers. Therefore, it may be difficult to point the finger at the sport of boxing as an entity for the cause of death for many of its former athletes. There is no denying, however, that it plays a major factor.

Fans attending fights are always expecting grandstand knockouts in both MMA and boxing executed in brutal merciless fashion. This is clearly incentivised in the UFC in which a fighter is given a $50,000 bonus for “knockout of the night”. On the other side of the spectrum, we want our beloved fighters to be able to live to fight another day. But can we have our cake and eat it?

How can a fighter go for that illustrious crowd-pleasing finish, whilst also minimising the risk of potentially life-altering harm? This has been a debate circulating the network of fight fans for decades that has yet to be answered.

There is certainly a societal stigma around fighters, and men in particular, having to go out on their shield. The translation to this being, fighters sustain extra damage instead of calling a fight because they do not want to be seen as “pussies” by the public. Referees are also guilty of letting fights go on, especially in boxing where a referee will allow a fighter to continue as they have made the count to 10, although they are clearly not in the right state of mind to continue to compete. This, therefore, increases the likelihood of fighters contracting CTE and being affected later in their lives.

Accountability most certainly must be taken by the biggest organisations in the fighting business to protect their athletes from unnecessary harm, and potentially take steps to minimise the risk in the ring. As science continues to develop, the hostile truth of brain-related injuries in fighting are getting revealed, and action must be taken soon.

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