Almost 20 years to the day since France beat Brazil 3-0 in Paris to win their first and only World Cup, the man who captained a team that united a nation moved to within 90 minutes of getting his hands on the trophy again. Triumphant as a player back in 1998, Didier Deschamps now has the opportunity to become only the third man to repeat that feat as a manager, following in the footsteps of Brazil’s Mário Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer, the German. Players, not just managers, win World Cup matches, but this semi‑final victory felt like a personal success story for Deschamps, who tactically outwitted Roberto Martínez, his opposite number. It was a night when France executed their game-plan so perfectly that it seemed strange to think that the country’s longest-serving coach has often been accused of putting together a team with no real identity or style. That narrative belongs to the past after Deschamps got right with the way that he set up his side against Belgium, who played right into France’s hands. Belgium finished the game with just about every attacking player that Martínez could call upon on the pitch and still never looked like penetrating that wall of blue shirts. Outstanding defensively, epitomised by the performances of the impressive Raphael Varane and the indefatigable N’Golo Kanté, France frustrated the life out of the Belgians. This was their fourth clean sheet in six World Cup matches – only Argentina have scored against them in open play – yet it is the sprinkling of stardust at the other end of the pitch that makes them such a formidable package. Kylian Mbappé, who was not born when one million people lined the Champs Élysées in 1998 to celebrate the achievement of Aimé Jacquet’s team, showed yet again why he is the world’s most exciting teenager with a ball at his feet. Mbappé, quite simply, was unplayable at times. There is something almost freakish about his pace – defenders look as though they are walking when Mbappé is running – and Belgium were petrified whenever he got on the ball. With only 10 seconds gone, Mbappé had already torn past two Belgians and that dash down the Authentic Brian Propp Jersey France right set the tone. There was one moment that evoked memories of that iconic Diego Maradona photo taken at the 1982 World Cup, when six Belgians were pictured confronting the Argentinian as he had the ball at his feet. Mbappé is not Maradona – not yet, anyway – but at the age of 19 he already intimidates and terrifies opponents. As Authentic Carson Tinker Jersey Mbappé stood on the edge of the area, four Belgium players were drawn towards him, leaving so much space for Benjamin Pavard, the right-back, to run in behind. Mbappé timed the pass perfectly and only an instinctive save from Thibaut Courtois, with his right boot, prevented France from taking the lead. With his extraordinary speed, Mbappé allows France to pick teams off on the counterattack – and that is exactly what France did. They were content to retreat from the outset, sitting deep rather than pressing from the front, remaining narrow while soaking up possession – Belgium had 64% of the ball – and then breaking with alacrity in the transition. One passage of play in the first half illustrated how effective that approach can be. Kanté seized the ball deep in the France half and fed Paul Pogba, whose lovely stepover took him away from Mousa Dembélé. Mbappé set off on a run between Jan Vertonghen and Vincent Kompany, and Pogba’s slide-rule pass came so close to finding him. It is an option that was simply not there for France two years ago, when they lost to Portugal in the European Championship final, yet their evolution since then is not just about Mbappé’s emergence. Kanté and Varane have both come into the team and given them strength through the spine, and Pogba is playing with much greater maturity. If there is one weakness it is in the centre forward position, where Olivier Giroud has now played 497 minutes at the World Aaron Ekblad Authentic Jersey Cup without scoring. Deschamps would argue that his decision to bring Giroud back into the team, after an unconvincing win over Australia in the opening match that drew criticism back home, Authentic Joffrey Lupul Jersey has given them more balance up front, which is probably true. wholesale jerseyscheap nfl jerseys cheap jerseys cheap nfl jerseys cheap jerseyscheap nfl jerseys wholesale nfl jerseys
Moscow hummed with the sound of car horns and pavement parties on Sunday as Russia celebrated defeating Spain in a nerve jangling World Cup penalty shootout and England fans to join the carnival in the capital. The hosts, who are the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, produced the biggest upset so far by beating Spain, a giant of the game and world champions eight years ago. A ripple and then a roar passed through a 78,000 sellout crowd at the Luzhniki stadium, and the Russian players stormed the pitch, the noise was so loud it hurt. On Nikolskaya Street, a pedestrianised thoroughfare near Red Square illuminated by twinkling fairy lights, hundreds of local people and fans from around the world strained to see outdoor TV screens in cafes. They huddled under umbrellas as the rain began to fall towards the end of the last-16 match with the score remaining 1-1 after extra time. When goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev made a save with his left foot to secure a 4-3 penalty shootout victory, the buildings seemed to shake. Many swung flags above their heads and others sobbed in amazement. Vladimir Kondratyev, a manager at a sales company who was inside the stadium, hugged the Brazilian man beside him. “I told everyone they were going to win,” he said as he walked out of the Luzhniki with the aid of a cane. “I never doubted them for a second.” The festivities continued into the night, with drivers beeping their horns in celebration and some leaning out of car windows to high-five passing pedestrians. The unexpected success of Russia has undoubtedly contributed to a feelgood atmosphere at the World Cup, and increasing numbers of England fans are keen to experience it for themselves. Their first knockout round match against Colombia here on Tuesday is being called England’s biggest game for over a decade by many, with expectation intensifying after the premature exits of Spain and reigning champions Germany. England supporters were scouring the internet for tickets and some online touts were quoting three times the face value. It is understood the FA’s entire official allocation of 1,520 seats has now sold out, which with Fifa stating that there are no Irving Fryar Youth jersey more tickets available means any other fans who want to watch the game inside Moscow’s Spartak stadium will have to obtain tickets through other channels. Up to 6,000 England fans are expected to make the journey to the Russian capital, which has been transformed by a riot of colour, music and good-natured rivalry for the past three weeks. With internal flights between the 11 World Cup host cities requiring a stopover in Moscow in transit, the city has benefited from a carnival atmosphere Nick Foles Jersey as Joaquin Benoit Youth jersey fans from all 32 of the tournament’s countries converge in the main squares. However many England fans make it to Moscow, it is certain they will be dwarfed in number and noise by Colombians, with the country estimated to have 50,000 supporters currently in Russia. A sea of their yellow shirts streamed past the red-brick Kremlin walls on Sunday, through the metal detectors and into Red Square. On a humid afternoon in front of St Basil’s Braden Holtby Youth jersey Cathedral, they gathered en masse. Some were from the capital, Bogota, others from Cartagena and Santa Marta, but 12,000km from home they came together in support of their team. cheap jerseys wholesale jerseys cheap jerseys wholesale jerseyscheap jerseys wholesale jerseys cheap jerseys wholesale jerseys
It was Sunday afternoon, in a beachfront hotel in Repino, and Gareth Southgate was thinking back to the night England qualified for the World Cup and one of those jarring occasions at Wembley – of which there have been a few – that somehow still feel so relevant when charting the trajectory of his team. Southgate was reminiscing about a scratchy 1-0 win against Slovenia last October when the overriding memory was not Harry Kane’s late winner but the sour indifference of the crowd and the jarring of thousands of fans feeling it necessary Womens Nick Vannett Jersey to make their own entertainment – origami in this case. The paper planes that landed on the pitch felt like a symbol of the fans’ apathy. Jeers Womens Duke Ihenacho Jersey soon followed. “Bored spectators, paper planes and early exits – something is seriously wrong with this England team,” was one headline. And it was even worse, as Southgate could also remember, during England’s excursion to Malta the previous month when the opponents featured a centre-half from Ebbsfleet United and, for many of the travelling Robert Thomas Jersey supporters, something snapped. The mass walkout around the 70-minute mark that night seemed like a choreographed protest. The chants of “We’re fucking shit” told their own story and what has never been reported until now is that England’s players were also targeted as they left the ground. Malta were 190th out of 211 teams in Fifa’s rankings and had won only five competitive matches in 55 years. Yet it was 0-0 at half-time and a late goal rush, when England scored three times, did not spare Southgate and his players on the journey away from the stadium. The chants informed them they were not fit to wear the shirt. It was spiteful, mutinous and the culmination, undoubtedly, of too many years of pent-up frustration. Ten months on the current side will be in Moscow on Tuesday to take on Colombia for a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup and Southgate – the man who applied for several Championship jobs without even getting an interview only a few years ago – has held himself in such a way he is doubling up, apparently, as an unexpected leader of fashion, asked in one BBC interview whether he was aware how much waistcoat sales had rocketed back in England. “They’ve been able to change perceptions of how an England team might play,” Southgate said of his players. “We mustn’t lose sight of that. When we qualified, people were throwing paper aeroplanes on to the pitch at Wembley. We were driving back to our hotel in Malta with obscene chants being thrown at us from supporters. “I feel like we’ve started to connect the team with the public again. I feel like we’ve created excitement, that we’ve played in a style that has really shown what young English players are capable of, and I want us to continue doing that. I really believe in the group of players we’ve got. They are young. They are inexperienced. For some of them, this will be one of the biggest games they’ll have been involved in. But maybe not the biggest. We’ve always got to keep that context for the players.” His belief is that England cannot “consider ourselves a top team until we have beaten a top team” but he is encouraging them to think like one before they get the chance to stake that claim against players such as Radamel Falcao, Juan Cuadrado and, injury permitting, James Rodríguez. Ever since the start of this tournament one phrase has been heard more than any other within the England camp. It is to “attack Womens Jason Sanders Jersey the tournament”. Don’t hold back, don’t play with the restraint of other England teams. Don’t be the team of Euro 2016 and many others. Southgate played in an era for England when the team spirit was undermined by club cliques. Yet on Saturday, when given a day off, Jordan Henderson, Danny Welbeck, Marcus Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jesse Lingard went together to the Divo Ostrov amusement park in St Petersburg. Or to put it another way, two players from Liverpool, two from Manchester United and one from Arsenal, all acting daft on a rollercoaster because they thought it was going to pull away before they had fixed their seatbelts. “You have to put club rivalries to one side,” Lingard said. “We have been like family. We all get along with each other and that’s why we have done so well. There is no squabbling. There are no cliques.”
It was inevitable that, at some point, the conversation with Gareth Southgate would turn to the most harrowing ordeal of his professional life and the reasons why the England manager, after two decades of living with the consequences, is so determined to make sure his team will not fall into the same trap. Southgate was thinking back to that night against Germany in the semi-final of Euro 96, with the game drawn 1-1, and the traumatic events that led to John Major, the prime minister, offering him a sympathetic hug outside Wembley. The night Southgate was asked by Terry Venables, just moments before the penalty shootout Joey Bosa Womens Jersey started, if he would take one and it hit him, in his own words, like “a bolt from the blue”. The night he assured Bryan Robson that, yes, he had taken a penalty before. “Bryan didn’t ask for details,” Southgate later recalled. “That suited me. My penalty career had been brief: one missed effort for Crystal Palace three seasons previously.” It is 22 years since Southgate set off on that lonely walk from the centre circle and, if nothing else, at least it means he can speak from authority now England have reached the stage of the World Cup where the line between success and failure could feasibly rest on one team’s accuracy from 12 yards. Southgate can remember that walk and how dark it had suddenly become: the realisation the world was watching, the nauseous feeling that Andreas Köpke, the German goalkeeper, seemed to have grown a few inches and, worse, the moment the crowd made out who it was walking towards the Mike Reilly Jersey penalty area. “It’s Southgate, the inexperienced lad,” was how it felt at the time, nerves mangled. For England, Southgate’s haunted look that night is all part of a wider narrative. Add Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle at Italia 90, Paul Ince and David Batty at France 98, David Beckham and Darius Vassell at Euro 2004, the misses of Frank Lampard, Steven Joe Sakic Womens Jersey Gerrard and Jamie Carragher at the 2006 World Cup and the Euro 2012 aberrations of Ashley Young and Ashley Cole. England’s shootout record is, frankly, abysmal: six defeats from seven in major tournaments, the exception being against Spain at Euro 96. And not forgetting, the penalty misses of Les Ferdinand and Rob Lee against Belgium in the King Hassan II International Cup in Authentic Randy Jones Jersey Morocco in 1998. Equally, it is fair to say England’s players will never have been better prepared if Tuesday’s game against Colombia, or any of the possible assignments beyond that point, goes the same way and perhaps that should not be a surprise given the identity of the manager and his own story. “I have had a couple of decades thinking it through,” Southgate said. “I was a volunteer, really [in Euro 96]. The type of character I was, I felt you should put yourself forward. It is probably braver not to, if you are not confident. But in defence of the staff who were there at the time, penalty shootouts weren’t as regular then. FA Cup ties, for instance, went to two or three replays, so we weren’t in those situations as often as now. The depth of knowledge and understanding wasn’t so great and we didn’t have as much information as we do now.” Southgate was asked after the 1-0 defeat against Belgium in Kaliningrad whether players had started practising penalties and he replied the process had started in March rather than cramming in everything over a matter of days. His players have been encouraged to practice at the end of virtually each training session, starting with the walk from the centre circle. A team of video analysts – two of whom, Stephen O’Brien and Mike Baker, are in Repino – have studying the opposition penalty-takers to offer Jordan Pickford clues, as well as analysing the diving patterns of all the World Cup goalkeepers. England already have their five designated penalty-takers drawn up and the back-up options. Southgate even has a list of the staff who are allowed to go on the pitch and others he wants to keep out of the way. The phrase he uses, more than once, is to “own the process” – meaning to take control rather than wilting under the pressure, as he did. England’s players even had psychometric tests before the tournament to help the process. wholesale nfl jerseys cheap nfl jerseys wholesale nfl jerseys from china cheap jerseys cheap jerseys cheap jerseys free shipping cheap jerseys china cheap jerseys from china
This has been a difficult start to the World Cup for Germany but there are two positives. First, they have their own destiny in their hands and would go through to the knockout phase with a two-goal win against South Korea. And second, their problems are readily identifiable: a midfield that does not protect the defence in transition and a forward line that, so far, has lacked an edge. Jogi Löw, the Germany manager, has been concerned enough to have “a lengthy chat” with Thomas Müller. “After the match against Mexico we tried to analyse his way of playing with the help of videos and clips,” Löw said. “He is somebody who is very open to comments and also critical in self-appraisal.” There is not much Löw can do about that, and the carousel of four rotating forwards he fielded in the second game looked extremely dangerous until Sweden took the lead and provoked a measure of panic. The structure of the side, though, is his department. Mexico and Sweden were gifted opportunity after opportunity to counterattack down the flanks as Germany’s full-backs pushed up with no real cover offered by the back of midfield, even if Sebastian Rudy, who has a broken nose and will not be available, and then Ilkay Gündogan made a better Anthony Munoz Jersey fist of it in the second game than poor Sami Khedira, his legs seemingly gone, did in the first. That has been a persistent problem of late, with Germany conceding in each of their past seven games, a run stretching back to the 0-0 draw with England in November. The return of Mats Hummels from a neck injury should help but Jérôme Boateng is suspended. “If you look at all of those matches we are vulnerable to fast breaks and counterattacks,” Löw said. “It’s not always down to the defensive line: if we have three or four players racing towards the defensive line it’s an unfortunate situation. Against Sweden we were better in transition to a defensive action.” Better, but far from perfect. “South Korea have players who can use the space when it opens,” Löw said. “It would be helpful on the whole if we could lose the ball less often.” In terms of player development and tactical approach, Germany have seemed recently a beacon of modernity, but there is a curious sense with this side that they are surviving on more traditional virtues. Two things changed for Germany at the 2006 World Cup, when Löw served as assistant to Jürgen Klinsmann. As they embraced progressiveness, two things were supposed to have been laid to one side: the dependence on Führungsspieler – leaders on the pitch – and the belief in themselves as a Turniermannschaft – a tournament team; one, that is, that had a Bob Lilly Jersey mental strength that meant they did not really have to play well to make progress through a tournament, just as the stodgy 2002 side had somehow reached the final. This was all part of Klinsmann’s revolution, itself part of the wider process of Ben Gedeon Jersey Das Reboot that overhauled academies and embraced the pressing game to which Germany had for so long been resistant. Yet Germany won the last World Cup and are still in this one because, they needed it, they found the requisite inner drive and ruthlessness: there is a steel beneath the beauty. It allowed them to scramble through against Ghana and Algeria in 2014, and to stifle France and Argentina, and that quality was there again in abundance against Sweden. Toni Kroos, making up for his error, was just the sort of leader Germany needed him to be before bending in the brilliant winner. The mocking nature of the post-match celebrations that so angered the Swedes, while a world away from the antics of, say, the 1982 side, suggested that at least some of the old arrogance remains. wholesale jerseys from china wholesale jerseys cheap nfl jerseys wholesale nfl jerseys wholesale jerseys wholesale jerseys from china