Dave’s Rant: Americans and soccer, some people should just be quiet.

ESPN, stick with Landy Cakes, please!!

So, today, I was thinking about doing a preview of the upcoming match between France and Uruguay. Honestly, I don’t know a damn thing about Uruguay, and I will admit that 100%. So, a friend of mine recommended ESPN Soccernet to do my preview. He was doing a preview on the Mexico game, so I guess ESPN would be a good source since, hell, we get most of the Mexican games here.

Anyway, before I went over to the Uruguay page, I decided to look at the France page. And, well, after looking at that page, I decided I wasn’t going to look at the Uruguay page because I had no idea if I was going to get the right information.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know many people don’t watch France and, therefore, might have to do a little research on the team. But here in America, we are a country that likes to boast that “we know everything” even if we don’t know squat. And this is exactly the case in ESPN’s preview of the FNT, in addition to the responses to the ESPN preview article.

First, lets go into the article itself. After the second paragraph, I knew this was going to be painful to read. Ravi Ubha, who wrote the preview for ESPN, said “France, which overachieved at the 2006 World Cup by reaching the final…” Alright, now France did make it a lot further than people expected, except for me. I was one of the only ones that had France winning it all. Again, I knew a little bit more about the French team. Unlike most people, I wasn’t saying “who is this Ribery guy.” Still, with the combination of veterans and young players (mostly veterans though), France went through to the finals and, unfortunately, lost to Italy. It was a shame and, unlike Ireland, we are not still dwelling on the fact that we could have won.

As I continued to read the article, there were a few items that were correct. France did poor in the Euros in 2008, Domenech was disliked and is being replaced by Blanc. Pretty elementary stuff, but correct nonetheless. Still, in addition, he talks about the French formation, which impressed me a tad bit.

Then we go to the “Players to Watch” section. And who was number one? Yep, you guessed it! Thierry Henry! Why? Because he is the only guy that most Americans, especially the ones that don’t follow soccer, know. Last year, I was doing a fantasy American football draft, and a friend of mine (great guy, knows a lot about American football) said that “the best player in the World was French, Thierry Henry.” Easily, a year ago, Henry was far from the best player on the French National Team, or in La Liga or, hell, even at Barcelona!

So, I assume that the ESPN writer had Henry as number one because most American fans know him, even those who don’t watch soccer. Still, we don’t even know if Henry will be a starter (even though L’Equipe is talking about replacing Govou with Henry today).

The second “player to watch” was Yoann Gourcuff. Ok, I can see this one maybe. He said that people are calling him to the “next Zidane” (like they did with Ribery four years ago), which is a pretty big stretch since Zidane ran in and attacked the goal more than Gourcuff does. Still, I could maybe see why he is number two. He wouldn’t be my choice, but the buzz is around him. So, yeah, I will give ESPN this one.

Their third player to watch is Hugo Lloris! What are they…crazy? No, HE is the first one to watch, not Henry. France will live and die by the play of Lloris. Since two of the teams that they are going to play are Latin teams (Uruguay and Mexico),  much of the play is, we expect, going to be played up the middle with speed and short passing. And if there is any place that France is weak right now, it is in the middle defense. Gallas and Abidal still continue to have problems with communication. And if these two break down, then Lloris will have more work to do. Therefore, Lloris is easily the number one player to watch for France in the group stage.

So, after their 1,2 and 3 players to watch, they talk about who is hot and who is not. Well, they did get the “who is not” one right, and that was Thierry Henry. But who is hot? They went with Franck Ribery, who they say “Ribery sizzled at Bayern Munich.” Ok, besides the fact that he missed half of the season to injury and he was red carded against Lyon in the Champions League Semis and didn’t play the rest of the tournament, I guess he did have a good season? Ok? Don’t really know where they get this information from, but, uh, ok?

While many of the players are really not “hot” right now, there are other players that could have been picked. Matthieu Valbuena is hot. Marc Planus is hot. Anthony Reveillere is hot. There, three players that just came off the top of my head. Now, if you don’t watch Ligue 1 at all (which I assume that Mr. Ubha doesn’t) then these three players wouldn’t pop into your head. And, because Americans don’t know them, ESPN doesn’t mention them. Honestly, I highly doubt Mr. Ubha watched any of these players outside of European play.

So, ESPN decided to go with a player that “everyone knows” who is far from hot now. The only hot part of Ribery right now is from the pink, embarrassing blushing on his cheeks while he slips another $20 bill in the garter belt of another prostitute. Ok, maybe I went to far there, but I thought it was damn funny!

Then he has “three questions” that the French team needs to answer. And, actually, he mentions three good points. Still, all the points he mentioned are off the field. First he mentions if the French egos could be put in check. Second, he mentions the prostitution scandal (which he really seems to be fasinated with in his preview) and third in regards to Gallas’ health.

First of all, one would assume that Gallas will play since he has played in all the friendlies up to this point.

Second, I was looking at something that might talk about the actual team on the pitch. Sure, anyone who doesn’t know a damn thing about French football can say that these other things could cause problems. But what about what is happening on the field. Nothing!

Finally, they talk about the starting line up. And, while in L’Equipe today they mention that Diaby could replace Gourcuff, ESPN has favored Diaby over Malouda in the line up. Really. Now, if they want to use a more defensive player of the left because they are running a 4-3-3, I can understand. But, as of right now, everyone pretty much has Malouda starting on the left.

In addition, they have Henry starting over Sidney Govou. And, again, L’Equipe says that this change might actually happen. But if this preview was written before the last two friendlies, it would be insane to pick Henry over Govou.

Also, Sebastien Squillaci is picked over William Gallas. Again, maybe (for some reason) the writer doesn’t expect Gallas to play because of injury. But it is pretty much a given that Gallas will play with Abidal in the middle, as Domenech has been extremely reluctant to break up these two players, even if the communications between the two isn’t always the best.

And that, my friends, was only the article. The responses to the article deserve even a bigger “LOL” moment (and I don’t mean L’OL either). One guy said that Sagna plays on the left and Evra on the right. One says that Gignac should play on the left, where he has never played. Almost all pick Diaby over Malouda. Only a few people had the slightest idea what is going on, and gave intelligent responses.

So, after all is said and done, here is my point. If you don’t know a damn thing about French football (or any subject, really) don’t write about it. In addition, I think this shows that Americans, who people always say are “soccer savy”, are very very very far from soccer savy. In addition to this site, I do another site dealing with American soccer. While that site might get the “quantity” of posts, this one easily gets the best “quality” of posts. Hell, one person didn’t even know who Jose Mourinho was! Wow!

While there are some Americans that actually do know the game, I am starting to learn that a vast majority “act” like they know the game, but really have no clue what the hell is going on. Americans watch a sport every four years and we think we are experts. Like the Olympics…we don’t know a damn thing about curling, but once the Olympics start, every American watching NBC thinks they are a curling expert.

So, ESPN, next time you get a so-called “expert” to do you World Cup previews, please, actually do some research and don’t just peak your head out the door at your Bristol HQ and just pick whoever is standing there on their smoke break. Please, just stick to the USMNT and women’s soccer, because that is what you are good at!

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8 Responses

  1. Lot of good points. A lot of people dont like ESPN and think its garbage so Im not really surprised what they wrote there.

    As for Americans and soccer, well I for one don’t watch, care about or follow the EPL that closely and that is very strange or rare if your’e a soccer fan in this country. I thought I was the only one like that but its nice to know Dave you dont watch the EPL either.

    For example, Arsenal are loved and worshipped by so many American soccer fans but to me when I look at that team and I see so many non British players, that is a major turnoff for me. I guess you could say why would someone from Texas for example care where the players are from when that person has no attarchment at all to London but for me I do care and I guess I’m weird that way. As a French fan you’d think I’d love seeing all the French players at Arsenal but as a real fan of football and tradition thats a turnoff for me and would rather see them with mostly British players.

    • But the EPL needs all those foreign players, or their league would go to shit overnight. The last good, almost-pure British team was Man Utd back in the mid and late 90s, and they even had some foreign players.

  2. Sportboy, my impression is that Man United has a FAR FAR larger fanbase in the US than Arsenal. Hell, I think Chelsea have a larger fanbase here than Arsenal.

    Great article. Never a good idea to go to ESPN to inform yourself about anything re football — and I mean anything.

    I assume you don’t know Spanish. The best English-language blog I know about for South American football is Tim Vickery’s on the BBC website. Here’s a piece from him on Uruguay from March:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/timvickery/2010/03/vickery_12.html

    Here’s his most recent piece on Uruguay (2 days ago): http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/timvickery/

    Here’s more on Uruguay from the BBC:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/world_cup_2010/8675939.stm

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/world_cup_2010/8714809.stm

    Then there’s the Uruguay page of worldcupblog.org:

    http://uruguay.worldcupblog.org/

    • Thanks for the reading 🙂 At least I have another day to get it up 🙂

  3. Just one more thing, I’m Brazilian and have followed S. American football since I was a child. Uruguay are to be taken seriously. They’re very physical (every time we play them, I worry about injuries to our players), very good on the ball and not easy to beat.

    At the 2007 Copa America, we beat them in the semifinal only on penalties. And the penalty save from our keeper was controversial. Uruguay were by far the better team in that game.

  4. I agree that ESPN is a horrible place to get info on football b/c 1) it is not informative, and 2) even worse, it’s poorly written. goal.com is much better, and the football further blog is the most incisive i know of (other than this one, naturally) (also, i’m sure there are excellent french-language sites, but i read french very slowly).

  5. Couldn’t agree more…..they rarely update their sites…Fox is only moderately better…the search for better news ended me up here….

  6. ESPN could just pay me a lot less and I could do the damn French preview 🙂

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