Sunday, June 18, 2006

Park Ji-Sung for South Korea (vs France), 18th June 2006

[The A-Z of football starts here]

You might remember that France and South Korea had somewhat contrasting fortunes in the last World Cup: the Koreans performed well above expectations to reach the semi-finals and the French - defending champions, lest we forget - were eliminated in the first phase without scoring a single goal. No one outside of the Korean peninsular seriously expected the Koreans to do as well in 2006, but the French were once again amongst the four or five sides thought to have a serious chance of winning the tournament.

The total failure of the French to turn up for their opening group game against the Swiss meant that all eyes were on them to see if their campaign would be a repeat of 1998 or 2002. France vs Korea is something of a grudge match in my family: my partner is French and my elder brother's wife is Korean.

The French scored a goal (so an improvement on 2002 whatever happens) and were robbed of another when the Korean goalkeeper clearly carried the ball over the line from a Patrick Viera header.... and then they tried to swagger their way through the game and it all went wrong.

But you don't come here to read match reports, do you? I want to talk about Frank Ribery.

I first clapped eyes on Ribery when I was in France a few weeks ago and the national side was playing their last warm-up game at the Stade de France in Paris. I sat with C's father in front of the telly in Orleans and watched with the smug detachment of the neutral as the French made rather hard work of a 1-0 win against Mexico. Neither side was especially impressive, but France looked sluggish. On the occasion of his 100th cap and his last appearance as a player in France, Zidane looked well off the place and was subsituted early.... and you have to worry about a side that takes off Gallas and Thuram and brings on Silvestre and Boumsong into the heart of their defence.

Thierry Henry wasn't playing, but he was at the ground looking very relaxed and mucking about with the substitutes. Just after half-time, as the teams were coming back out onto the pitch, Henry began to hug and playfully ruffle the hair of some poor chap. This guy looked a bit simple and looked a little like he had been in a terrible accident. I seriously thought that he was handicapped and being given the day of a lifetime with the French squad. Either that or he was a competition winner of some kind. Imagine my surprise then when this guy stripped off and came on to replace Zidane. That's some prize.

Turns out he was Frank Ribery. Apparently he's some hotshot player from Marseilles who is touted as being the new Zidane.


He played a bit like a competition winner, mind you - both in that game against Mexico AND in both games he's played in the World Cup so far (most notably when he incurred the wrath of Thierry Henry when he fluffed a simple looking chance against the Swiss by opting to take what looked the harder option of trying to find Henry with a pass in the box).

The French may still qualify but they certainly don't look like anything to be scared of. We might be critical of Sven, but England have got 6 points and are definitely through to the next round.... I think Raymond Domenech is in for a hammering in the French press tomorrow.

You also should have heard the scream in our house when Park Ji-Sung popped in the equaliser this evening. Bloodcurdling.


weenie said...

Was in a hotel bar watching this game...rooting for South Korea of course (quietly) as wasn't sure of the allegiance of the other people who filled the bar.

When Park Ji-Sung scored, the whole bar erupted - guess the people supporting France but you know, you can't tell and I didn't want to start any trouble...

Won't have that problem on Tuesday when we will overcome Sverige...Come On England!

adem said...

I guess France have had their time when they won the World Cup and the European Championships.

El Tel said...

In a peculiar kind of way it was reassuring to see an 'English style of play' played by teams that I could see England beating, with a bit of luck. Special respect to the Koreans for pushing it right until the end.

Question: Fabien Barthez - what the ****?

Lord Bargain said...

Ribery does have a face like a gunshot wound, tis true. Apparently United are after him - having seen him twice I hope that's not true. He's (a) rubbish and (b) not likely to sell many duvets