Tag Archives: zidane

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Sweden add verb "to Zlatan" to national dictionary

In honour of our genius! Swedes add verb 'to Zlatan' to national dictionary

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UPDATED:

13:58 GMT, 27 December 2012

Wonder goal: Ibrahimovic celebrates his stunning long-range overhead kick against England

Wonder goal: Ibrahimovic celebrates his stunning long-range overhead kick against England

Sweden has added the verb ‘to Zlatan’ to their national dictionary.

In the country’s latest way of honouring their footballing hero, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Swedish Language Council has approved the term, since it has been increasingly used in conversation by Swedes referring to an outlandishly talented action.

The word was originally coined on Les Guignols, a popular satirical puppet show – similar to Spitting Image – from French station Canal Plus, whose characters are in awe of the PSG striker.

To recognise this, the Swedes have even acknowledged the original French spelling of ‘zlataner’, simply tweaking to create ‘zlatanera’ and officially defined it as ‘from the French: to dominate on and off the field.’

Ibrahimovic is currently Ligue 1’s top scorer having netted 18 times for the Parisians. While he is a natural showman, he admitted that he does not rehearse his goal celebrations.

‘When I score a goal, I never know in advance how I will celebrate, given (I’m) the current top scorer in the championship,’ he told RMC Sport.

‘There is so much adrenaline. Timing is everything, the environment, my mood. This is pure emotion.’

Many players have lent their names to particular moves before, but affording their overall brilliance to a verb is a first.

Johann Cruyff was honoured with the ‘Cruyff turn’ and the 360-degree turn has been attributed to Garrincha – although both Zinedine Zidane and Diego Maradona have staked claim to this.

PSG are currently leading Ligue 1 on goal difference, ahead of Lyon and Marseille and face Valencia in the last 16 of the Champions League in February.

Talisman: Ibrahimovic is the leading scorer in the French top division with 18 goals

Talisman: Ibrahimovic is the leading scorer in the French top division with 18 goals

Juventus will win Champions League soon after Chelsea win – Matt Barlow

If this is not the Old Lady's year in the Champions League, then it will be soon

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UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 21 November 2012

The Juventus Stadium rocked to the noise of a proud name on the rise again. Fortunately this new Italian theatre of football is built upon strong foundations. Whether Roberto Di Matteo's Chelsea can say the same remains to be seen. It did not feel that way on Tuesday night.

It felt very fragile, as if the European champions were about to unravel, just six months after their greatest triumph. They were beaten by a better team in Donetsk and again in Turin, feeling the new power of the Old Lady.

Jumping for joy: The Juventus Stadium was rocking as the Old Lady saw off Chelsea on Tuesday night

Jumping for joy: The Juventus Stadium was rocking as the Old Lady saw off Chelsea on Tuesday night

Apart from Notts County – invited to open this magnificent arena because of their historic links to the club – Chelsea were the first English team to visit. They were steamrollered and it is easy to see how Juve's new home has become a key factor in their resurgence, in terms of economics and atmospherics.

Up to 40,000 pack into steep stands and generate a frenzy of noise amid a bonanza flags depicting black-and-white adopted from County and red-and-green from Italy.

Three and easy: The Italian side scored three goals against a lacklustre Chelsea

Three and easy: The Italian side scored three goals against a lacklustre Chelsea

It is modern and pristine, clinical inside like a private hospital. The dug-outs are shielded by glass with a bench at the front for the paperwork, pens and laptops and iPads and the like to rest upon. It is nostalgic, too.

An enormous club crest with its rampaging bull stares down opposite the players' tunnel and a giant '30' is controversially displayed in recognition of the number of Serie A titles they have won. Two of the 30 have been stripped after a match-fixing scandal but there is murkiness too in the rich history.

French fancy: Zidane watched his former club overturn Chelsea

French fancy: Zidane watched his former club overturn Chelsea

Reminders of those who have worn the stripes are everywhere, begging the question: How have they failed to win this trophy more than twice

Zinedine Zidane, one of the best, was present game to admire the Italian champions, although, in his advisory role at Real Madrid, he may fear them.

If this is not Juve's year in Europe, then it will be soon. The stadium is the only one privately owned in Italian football and produces huge match-day profits. Naming rights were sold for 75 million Euros to a sports marketing company, who have not yet found a buyer.

All of which means the new home is cherished and lucrative and the team builds. Lumps of its predecessor, the Stadio delle Alpi an still to be seen but no tears are shed for the old concrete bowl where Gazza turned on the waterworks in Italia '90.

Zinedine Zidane headbutt statue unveiled

Call this art Zidane's infamous World Cup final headbutt captured in bronze statue

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UPDATED:

17:06 GMT, 26 September 2012

Zinedine Zidane's infamous World Cup final headbutt on Marco Materazzi has been immortalised by a five-metre high bronze statue in the heart of Paris.

The shocking incident, in the 110th minute of the 2006 World Cup final with Italy, ended the legendary Frenchman's international career and the red mist moment has been captured by Algerian-born artist Adel Abdessemed.

Immortalised in Bronze: A statue depicting Zinedine Zidane's headbutt on Italy's Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final has been unveiled outside the Pompidou museum in Paris

Immortalised in Bronze: A statue depicting Zinedine Zidane's headbutt on Italy's Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final has been unveiled outside the Pompidou museum in Paris

The new statue of Zinedine Zidane's headbutt in Paris

The new statue unveiled of Zinedine Zidane's headbutt on Marco Materazzi

Moment of impact: The statue, by Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed, captured the red mist moment from the 2006 World Cup final between Italy and France in Berlin

The statue has been unveiled outside the famous Pompidou art museum and shows the grimace on the Italian defender's face as Zidane plants his shaven head into his chest.

Zidane had been planning to step down from the national team after the tournament but he bowed out early – and literally – after Materazzi allegedly made a derogatory remark about his sister.

It meant Zidane, one of the most gifted midfielders of his generation who shone for Juventus and Real Madrid and helped France to World Cup glory in 1998, missed the penalty shoot-out in which Italy won.

This is the end: The incident marked the conclusion of Zidane's illustrious international career

This is the end: The incident marked the conclusion of Zidane's illustrious international career

Jose Mourinho wary of Manchester City threat

Mourinho wary of Man City threat as Champions League clash edges closer

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UPDATED:

11:49 GMT, 16 September 2012

Jose Mourinho has insisted that his Real Madrid side are wary of the threat that Manchester City will pose when the two go head-to-head in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

Both sides won their domestic leagues last season and the fixture is the pick of the bunch in the opening week of Europe's showpiece club event.

Mourinho, whose side warmed up for the game with a 1-0 defeat at Sevilla on Saturday night, has been over to England to scout City ahead of the game.

Wary: Mourinho welcomes Man City to Madrid on Tuesday night

Wary: Mourinho welcomes Man City to Madrid on Tuesday night

'I went over to see City play because I want my job to be done as close to perfection as possible. I wanted to analyse our opponents not just by video or stats but to see them first hand,' Mourinho told the Sun on Sunday.

'Okay a match against QPR is not a good game to make a direct transfer to a match in the Bernabeu. But it was good enough to see some aspects of the City team.

'And what I do know is they have very good players – and are a powerful side.'

Mourinho picked out City strike duo Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli for praise: 'I don’t like to speak about opponents individually but it’s no problem to say that we respect Carlos Tevez a lot,' he added.

'I also know Mario Balotelli and the
player he is because we were together at Inter for two years and so he
certainly has nothing to prove to me.'

Real
have won the European Cup a record nine times, but they have not done
so since Zinedine Zidane's screamer at Hampden Park helped beat Bayer
Leverkusen 10 years ago.

Threat: Mourinho managed Mario Balotelli when the pair were at Inter

Threat: Mourinho managed Mario Balotelli when the pair were at Inter

But Mourinho insists there is no added pressure to become kings of Europe this year.

'Real Madrid is Real Madrid, it’s the real thing. A club no football result, no cup competition, no coach, no player can ever change,' he said.

'Quite simply Real Madrid is a club like no other. It’s incomparable with any other club in the world.

'There is no team anywhere that can be compared with Real Madrid. None.

'Remember I was in Portugal, in England and in Italy before coming here to Madrid, so I know what I am saying. There are great clubs but the pressure and the expectation is the greatest here at Real Madrid.

'It is huge but it is an enjoyable pressure, not a suffocating one.'

Meanwhile, City boss Roberto Mancini has told his players to ignore Mourinho in the build up to Tuesday night's game, insisting that he can have little impact on the outcome of the game.

'I played against him twice, Lazio
against Porto seven or eight years ago in the UEFA Cup. We lost 4-1 in
Porto and drew 0-0 in Rome,' Mancini said.

Unsettled: Ronaldo (left) spoke of being 'sad' earlier this month

Unsettled: Ronaldo (left) spoke of being 'sad' earlier this month

'I also met him in Milan when he went to Inter.

'It’s important that our players play this game – only this. The other things are not important.

'Without players you can’t play – but without managers you can still play.'
Mancini also confirmed that City were not interested in signing Cristiano Ronaldo, who is reportedly unhappy in the Spanish capital.

'Did we think of trying to sign him in the summer No,' Mancini said.

'But if they leave Cristiano at home on Tuesday night it would be better for us. Players like Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are difficult to mark.

'At the moment these two are the best players in the world. Real Madrid and Barcelona are the best teams in the world.'

Jonathan Woodgate wants to help Middlesbrough get back in the Premier League

Man on a mission: I want Middlesbrough back in the top flight, says Woodgate

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UPDATED:

22:46 GMT, 12 July 2012

As he contemplated the final, and arguably most important move of his life, Jonathan Woodgate was in a reflective and honest mood.

‘I have had some good moves,’ he said on his return to Middlesbrough’s training ground. ‘But in my opinion, mine has been a career that has not been great. I have not fulfilled at clubs due to injuries but that is part of life.

‘That might be an honest thing to say but it’s right though, isn’t it What have I won Not much. The FA Youth Cup, the Carling Cup. Scored the winner in that one. Went in off my nose, but it was still the winner.’

New boys: Emanuel Ledesma, Stuart Parnaby, Jonathan Woodgate and Grant Leadbitter line up

New boys: Emanuel Ledesma, Stuart Parnaby, Jonathan Woodgate and Grant Leadbitter line up

Mowbray welcomes Woody

Boro boss Tony Mowbray is delighted to have been able to add a player of proven quality and experience to his squad.
'In footballing terms, he is still relatively young. As a central defender, I know I played my best football around the age Jonathan is, after 30 years old,' he said.
'I played until I was 37 and in that context, he has got five years left at the top, and hopefully playing in the Premier League for a good few of those years.
'We have to get over the hurdle in front of us, of course, but I am delighted and I hope the people of Teesside are delighted that Jonathan has made this commitment to come back and help his home-town club get back to the Premier League. Not just for, hopefully, his performances on the field, but his experience of what it takes to be a top footballer.
'Just sitting and chatting, he has played with Zinedine Zidane and the original, Brazilian Ronaldo – it puts into context the quality of players, and to hear him talk, generally the best players have been the best professionals, who come in every day and do it right.'

Woodgate has eight England caps, which seems pitifully low for a central defender of such astonishing natural ability and pace.

A lengthy c.v. dating back to Leeds
includes a spell at Real Madrid with Zidane, Ronaldo, Beckham, but he
played just 14 games for Los Merengues before his first move back to
Teesside.

He is not unwilling to talk about that 13.4million move from Newcastle to Madrid, just not entirely comfortable with it.

‘I get embarrassed about it,’ he says.
‘I don’t like talking about Real Madrid and all that because it does my
head in. I was there years ago and I was at Stoke last season. In my
mind, let’s forget about all that.

‘The club where there is the biggest
“what if” is obviously Real Madrid but I cannot dwell on it. There are a
lot of “what ifs” but I try not to look at my past, I’d rather
concentrate on my future.’

One thing he can’t forget is his
Madrid debut, seven years ago against Athletic Bilbao. Woodgate had been
out for a year when he scored an own goal and was sent off. It earned
him cult status among Madrid fans and still brings a smile to his face.

Dramatic debut: Woodgate trudges off at the Bernabeu after being sent for an early bath

Dramatic debut: Woodgate trudges off at the Bernabeu after being sent for an early bath

Low point Not at all.

‘That was a good point in my career because I was fit again,’ he said. ‘And the fans even clapped me off.

‘Ronaldo came up to me and said,
“Don’t worry about it, you are playing”. I said, “Yeah, you’re right”.
We won that game 4-1, so it might have been different if we’d lost.

‘The low points are when you get
injured for the first time at a new club and it gets worse and you can’t
get back, then you come back too early and something happens again.

‘When you’re out there training and
the same injury comes. When you go to a new club and you are injured and
have an opportunity to prove yourself at the top and it just
collapses.

That’s the one that kills you.’

Moving on: Woodgate spent one season at Stoke after joining from Tottenham

Moving on: Woodgate spent one season at Stoke after joining from Tottenham

Much has changed at Middlesbrough
since Woodgate last wore the club’s red shirt. Sitting alongside manager
Tony Mowbray and fellow new signings Stuart Parnaby, Grant Leadbitter
and Emmanuel Ledesma was proof of that.

The likes of Mark Viduka, Gaizka
Mendieta, Fabio Rochemback, Mark Schwarzer and Gareth Southgate are long
gone — although Julio Arca is still there.

Woodgate has returned to Teesside
older, wiser and probably fitter. He is determined to secure promotion
for his hometown club after turning his back on the top flight.

Home favourite: Woodgate has previously spent time playing for his boyhood club

Home favourite: Woodgate has previously spent time playing for his boyhood club

Two weeks ago the defender was about
to head out for a jog when a mystery number flashed up on his mobile. He
nearly didn’t take the call, but is glad he did.

‘It was Steve Gibson (Middlesbrough
chairman). He said, “Do you want to have a chat and come and play for
Boro again” The lure of Middlesbrough, my hometown team, the idea of
trying to get them back in the Premier League was a big pull,’ Woodgate
said. ‘I had to think about it because I could have stayed in the
Premier League.

‘I came for a chat, spoke to the
manager. I could see how much he loves football and how many games he
watches, which is unbelievable, and the way he wants to progress and the
way he wants to play. We were on the same song sheet.

‘This is not a lack of ambition. I
want to try to get in the Premier League. I could have stayed at Stoke
or wherever and not played. But what do I want to do that for I am 32
and if I help get Middlesbrough in the Premier League it will be a
massive achievement and great for the area I love.’

Romain Amalfitano relishing challenge at Newcastle United

Amalfitano vows to repay faith of Pardew after joining Newcastle's French connection

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UPDATED:

05:45 GMT, 10 July 2012

Newcastle new boy Romain Amalfitano is determined to be his own man as he attempts to make his way in English football.

The 22-year-old former Reims midfielder, like a generation of French
players, grew up idolising superstar Zinedine Zidane, but he insists he
can only play in his own way.

New arrival: Amalfitano officially joins from Reims at the end of June

New arrival: Amalfitano officially joins from Reims at the end of June

French fancy: Newcastle have dipped into the French market once again

French fancy: Newcastle have dipped into the French market once again

Asked about his role models as a youngster, he told NUFC TV: 'Being
French, I would have to say Zinedine Zidane, but I didn't really have
anybody particular in mind who I was looking up to.

'I try to look at all midfield players and see what each of them is doing, but I want to be and stay myself.

'My first goal is to impose myself. Obviously, I know that is not going
to be easy and football goes very quickly, but it is not impossible.

'This is what I am here for. I try not to think about things too much,
take it day by day and not ask myself too many questions so I can
perform better.'

Amalfitano, like teenager Gael Bigirimana, faces the task of forcing his
way into a midfield which shone in last season's fifth-place Barclays
Premier League finish.

He knows that will be a significant challenge, but is relishing the
chance to show the manager and the Tyneside public exactly what he can
do.

He said: 'I am obviously very excited to know that there are 52,000 fans
in the stadium. I think there is a whole city behind this club
supporting the club.

'Obviously, I am very excited and I can also feel the pressure. I will have to deal with that and I will adapt.

'I just want to prove to them that I have the desire and energy to
succeed. I really want to do well here, not only on a personal level,
but also for the club.

Building: Alan Pardew wants to take Newcastle forward

Building: Alan Pardew wants to take Newcastle forward

'I want to show them that the club trusted in me. I am here now and I want to do everything I can.'

Amalfitano's first task on the pitch is to adapt to a new football culture and off it, to learn English.

However, while both will take some time, he is confident the football side of things will come naturally to him.

He said: 'Yes, that's for certain, I will have to adapt. But it's still football, it is universal.

'I have always done everything to be successful, so there is no reason
why I would not be able to here, and if I need to, I will adapt.

'The only issue is the language barrier, but there are many French players, so that is very helpful.

'Demba [Ba], Gabby Obertan, Sylvain Marveaux and also Mehdi [Abeid], who
I have just met, players who speak my language, have helped me.'

Euro 2012: France back on right path ahead of Spain clash

Fractured French back on the right path ahead of Spain clash, insists Blanc's No 2

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 22 June 2012

With another French squad apparently on the verge of ruinous mutiny it appears Laurent Blanc's players will have to overcome their mistrust of each other as well as world champions Spain to reach the semi-finals.

Just a week after declaring the dark days of Raymond Domenech's era over, a limp defeat against Sweden has catapulted the French back into crisis.

On the verge of mutiny: Blanc puts France through their paces on Friday

On the verge of mutiny: Blanc puts France through their paces on Friday

Euro 2012 email button

But assistant coach Alain Boghossian claimed everyone was still pulling in the same direction.

'After Sweden we sat down and talked things through,' he said. 'Now it is a new start, a new beginning for our players. The air has been cleared and everyone is happy and getting on well. We are considered outsiders against Spain but will try to make some problems for this very good team and find some weak points.'

In contrast, Spain enjoyed a relatively comfortable passage to this stage with two victories and a draw.

And ex-French midfielder Zinedine Zidane, now an adviser to Real Madrid, believes Spain remain tournament favourites.

He said: 'We all know that Spain are the favourites, not just for this match, but also for the Euros.'

Spain v France: Head-to-head record

Spain v France: A look back at four key clashes between the European big guns

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UPDATED:

09:28 GMT, 22 June 2012

Spain and France clash on Saturday night with a place in the semi-finals of Euro 2012 at stake.

The pair have met four times in major competitions with the French unbeaten.

Here, we look back on matches between the neighbours at European Championships and World Cups.

European Championships 1984 – Final
Spain 0 France 2 (Paris)

Michel Platini’s ninth goal of the tournament helped France to European Championship success on home soil.

Glory days: Michel Platini (left) led France to victory in 1984

Glory days: Michel Platini (left) led France to victory in 1984

Despite playing well for the first half, Spain’s resistance ended when Luis Arconada let Platini’s tame free-kick sneak over the line and a late chip from Bruno Bellone sealed the victory.

Platini finished as Euro 84’s top scorer, six ahead of his nearest challenger.

Euro 96 – Group stage
Spain 1 France 1 (Leeds)

The only time France have failed to beat Spain in a competitive match was at Elland Road as a goal from Jose Caminero five minutes from time cancelled out Youri Djorkaeff’s opener for Les Bleus.

Jumping for joy: Youri Djorkaeff celebrates scoring in a 1-1 draw at Euro 96

Jumping for joy: Youri Djorkaeff celebrates scoring in a 1-1 draw at Euro 96

In truth the game didn’t live up to its star billing with both teams set on keeping the door closed rather than playing expansive free-flowing football.

The draw continued Spain and France’s unbeaten runs of 18 and 25 games respectively and the pair progressed at the expense of Bulgaria and Romania.

Euro 2000 – Quarter-final
Spain 1 France 2

Raul wasted a great opportunity to send the game into extra-time when he blazed a last-minute penalty over the bar after a flailing Fabien Barthez had brought down Abelardo in the area.

Zinedine Zidane’s curling free-kick had given France the lead before Gaizka Mendieta equalised from the spot.

Blunder: Spain legend Raul watches his penalty clear the crossbar at Euro 2000

Blunder: Spain legend Raul watches his penalty clear the crossbar at Euro 2000

Djorkaeff’s unstoppable drive late in the first half turned out to be the winner as Spain wasted a host of late chances.

France went on to beat Italy in the final thanks to a David Trezeguet golden goal.

World Cup 2006: Last 16
Spain 1 France 3 (Hanover)

A Zidane masterclass led France to a quarter-final clash with Brazil.

Spain briefly took the lead through David Villa’s penalty but Franck Ribery equalised.

All over: Zinedine Zidane (right) seals France's win at the 2006 World Cup

All over: Zinedine Zidane (right) seals France's win at the 2006 World Cup

With the match heading to extra time
Zidane took centre stage. First his free-kick deflected up to Patrick
Vieira, who nodded in at the back post.

Zidane then skipped around Carles Puyol and fired past a wrong-footed Iker Casillas to send the French fans into raptures.

Star man: Zidane celebrates after ripping Spain apart in Germany

Star man: Zidane celebrates after ripping Spain apart in Germany

It sparked a fantastic run to the final, but ultimately the tournament ended sourly for France and Zidane…

PS – It’s not long before they meet again – they’ve been drawn to face each other in World Cup 2014 qualifying.

It"s fun and games for the Germans: Hummels winning admirers as the face of Low"s confident young side

Fun and games for Germans: Hummels wins admirers as face of Low's side

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UPDATED:

23:07 GMT, 21 June 2012

Polite, self-deprecating and generous, young Mats Hummels sat beside the tactics board at the Germany team hotel and eased old stereotypes to its edge.

Hummels had just lost at table tennis — ‘I have no idea how,’ he laughed — he has been mountain biking around Gdansk, and is about to start Steve Jobs’s autobiography.

As he said: ‘We have other options than just sitting in your room thinking about football. If you do that, you get weird about it.’

Good shout: Mats Hummels is Zinedine Zidane's pick of the tournament

Good shout: Mats Hummels is Zinedine Zidane's pick of the tournament

As Hummels spoke to foreign reporters in near-perfect English, another option was on view in the Germany media centre, where Thomas Muller was cooking risotto.

At 23, Hummels, of Borussia Dortmund, is nine months older than Muller. Since Germany embraced the planet at their World Cup in 2006 and Jurgen Klinsmann introduced a more expansive style, German perceptions have altered.

Culturally there is change, as seen in names such as Mesut (Ozil), Mario (Gomez) and Jerome (Boateng); and when Hummels mentioned ‘machines’ and ‘efficiency’, it was in reference to first England and then Greece.

It is such that Hummels was asked about Germany being ‘fun’, a question Lothar Matthaus may never have encountered.

‘It is different to before, because we do not have very many “senior” players,’ Hummels replied. ‘Only Miro Klose is over 30. The rest are younger — even our captain, Philipp Lahm, is 28.

Making the grade: Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller were promoted from Germany's Under 21 set-up

Making the grade: Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller were promoted from Germany's Under 21 set-up

‘They are still young. They do not feel like they are something special. Of course, they are the best players in Germany, but as people we are all at the same level.’

So far, manager Joachim Low’s meritocracy is working: Germany won all 10 qualifiers and are the only team to reach the last eight with three group victories. Hummels has played in all three, confirming his growing reputation as an elegant centre half. The term libero is back in employment.

Hummels began his career at Bayern Munich, where his father Hermann was a youth coach, but made only one senior appearance before moving to Dortmund. There he has won the Bundesliga for the past two seasons, but sees the Germany team dominated by Bayern. He stressed domestic rivalry ‘doesn’t come into play with the national side’.

Still, politics exist. It had been thought a German quarter-final would be of historic interest because Russia or Poland were deemed likely opponents. As it is, it is Greece, it is Euro-debt, it is Angela Merkel. But is it Greek revenge

Turning defence into attack: Hummels darts away from Denmark's Niki Zimling

Turning defence into attack: Hummels darts away from Denmark's Niki Zimling

‘I don’t think so,’ Hummels said, before adding: ‘It could be.’ And then: ‘But it’s just sport. I think it will be like the Champions League final, Bayern v Chelsea. It will be very defensive.

‘It’s important we are not as slow as we were in the second half against Denmark. They are not spectacular, but they can defend and they don’t need so many chances to score. They are effective.’

German confidence is understandable and
yet there has been criticism at home. At first Hummels countered the
idea of Germany’s defence being its weakest link — ‘I can assure you, it
isn’t; right now I am ready to become part of a German wall.’ But
rather than dismissing the overall appraisal, he understood it.

‘That’s not so wrong,’ he said. ‘We needed some luck against Portugal and again against Denmark. We also had a serious situation against the Netherlands. If Robin van Persie scores after seven minutes we have a problem. That’s why I talk about the details.’

The issue of detail was first raised when England, who could meet Germany in the semi-final, came up.

Hummels immediately referred to the last World Cup and Germany’s 4-1 destruction of England in Bloemfontein, but not in a triumphant way.

‘It’s detail — you can’t say Germany’s better than England, because if the goal from Frank Lampard had counted maybe England would have made it. For the five or 10 minutes after England scored it was very tight. England could have won that game.’

If only: Lampard's 'goal' might have changed the result in 2010, says Hummels

If only: Lampard's 'goal' might have
changed the result in 2010, says Hummels

He was courteous again when taken back one year earlier when Hummels was part of the German Under 21 team that beat England 4-0 in the European Championship final.

Five of that side — Manuel Neuer, Hummels, Boateng, Sami Khedira and Ozil — are regulars in Low’s starting XI while others are in the squad. For England there is James Milner and Theo Walcott. ‘Joe Hart would have played if he had not been booked,’ added Hummels.

A final question of the Dortmund man will boost Manchester United. How good is Shinji Kagawa

‘We’re very sad he left. He’s fast and it makes no difference if he uses his left or right foot. I’ve not seen such a good player often.’

It is a compliment others are paying Hummels. When Zinedine Zidane was asked to nominate one player who has impressed him so far, he said: ‘Mats Hummels.’

Laurent Blanc delighted to end French drought after storm

Blanc delighted to end French drought after storm… but takes new swipe at England

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UPDATED:

21:32 GMT, 15 June 2012

On the ball: France coach Laurent Blanc

On the ball: France coach Laurent Blanc

Ukraine's players were first drenched by a thunderstorm, then swamped by France's clever passing football.

The French ended a six-year drought
for a win at a major tournament by beating Ukraine 2-0 in match delayed
for nearly an hour because of a huge downpour, thunder and lightning.

Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye scored
early in the second half to help France's to its first win in a major
match since the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup.

'I hope the next win won't take another six years because I will be
long fired by then,' France coach Laurent Blanc said. 'We dominated the
game right from the start in terms of shots on target and possession.'

Zinedine Zidane's head-butt and red card in the 2006 World Cup final
brought the curtain down on France's golden generation – and the French
then failed to win a match at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.

Blanc hopes Friday's win is a sign France can finally be a contender again.

'We scored twice and could have had more,' Blanc said. 'We have a lot of potential.'

Friday's match at the Donbass Arena had only been going for five minutes when, the atrocious conditions forced the players off the field until the rain let up.

After a 1-1 draw with England in its opening match, France has four points in Group D, the same as England and one more than Ukraine. The French also extended their unbeaten run to 23 games.

Delight: Blanc celebrates victory

Delight: Blanc celebrates victory

'I congratulated my players and the Ukrainian players,' Blanc said. 'It was a good match with both teams trying to attack.'

The fate of both teams will be decided on Tuesday, when France plays Sweden and Ukraine faces England. The Swedes were eliminated after losing to England on Friday.

For the French fans, it was finally something to cheer about after being eliminated in the group stage at both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2008.

'France is probably one of the favorites,' Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin said through a translator.

'Some players thought we were already in the quarter-finals. We will have a serious conversation with them. … It is not possible to win the first game and play the second like this.'

Both France goals were the product of the one-touch passing and movement that was once the team's hallmark.

Net gains: Cabaye tucks home the second goal for Les Bleus

Net gains: Cabaye tucks home the second goal for Les Bleus

For the first, Franck Ribery gathered the ball on the left, sprinted forward and then set up Karim Benzema near the penalty area. The Real Madrid forward stroked the ball to Menez, who then cut inside and drilled a low shot inside the near post with his left foot.

The goal justified Blanc's decision to replace veteran midfielder Florent Malouda with Menez, although the Paris Saint-Germain winger had two earlier chances denied by the legs of Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov.

'Menez is a player who needs confidence,' Blanc said. 'He is a quick player and it was a very encouraging game from him.'

France's second goal was another example of exquisite teamwork, with Ribery and Samir Nasri combining to find Benzema. He cushioned the ball and then split the Ukraine center halves with a superbly weighted pass that allowed Cabaye to run on and finish with an angled shot.

With France's confidence peaking, Cabaye almost added a third midway through the second half with a half-volley that hit the middle of the right post.

Party time: Cabaye celebrates scoring with Karim Benzema at the Donbass Arena

Party time: Cabaye celebrates scoring with Karim Benzema at the Donbass Arena

The exasperated whistles from the frustrated home fans at the Donbass Arena grew in intensity, and by the time Nasri forced a late save from Pyatov with a curling free kick, the home fans were already leaving.

'If we are not winning, whistle at me, not the team,' Blokhin said.

Moments before kick off, the rain intensified as about 49,000 soaked Ukrainians gave a searing rendition of their national anthem after a clap of thunder had interrupted France's 'La Marseillaise.'

When crackles of lightning lit up the sky, referee Bjoern Kuipers made a quick decision in the fifth minute that the players' safety and the drenched field made it impossible to continue.

'We were afraid that the match wouldn't start again,' Blanc said. 'We really wanted to play (and) despite all the rain, the field was in good condition.'

Menez should have given France the lead in the 28th. Ribery intercepted a dreadful back pass from midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk and hit a quick cross that ball rolled behind Benzema and fell to Menez – but Pyatov kicked his effort away.

Ukraine's only clear chance of the match fell to Andriy Shevchenko in the 35th, but his firm strike was blocked by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.