African Cup of Nations: the crazy team of the Comoros

They are there and it’s amazing: the players of the Comoros, with the gratin of continental football for this African Cup of Nations in Cameroon, representing for the first time their small archipelago of 850,000 inhabitants, a real feat. Defeated by Gabon for their entry into the competition (1-0), they face Morocco this Friday, January 14 with the firm intention of showing that they are not “not here by chance”, insists their coach Amir Abdou.

→ REREAD. CAN 2022: figures of African football denounce the contempt of which the competition would be the victim

He knows well, the master at playing, what they went through to be able to jump into the big leagues. An incredible outfit combining determination, consistency, friendships and the fervor of an entire people. A rare story, written out of nothingness and with uncertain ink.

The incredible energy of coach Amir Abdou

Because what are the Comoros on the football planet, when the adventure begins in 2014? The microstate vaguely has a national team recognized by the International Federation (Fifa) only in 2005, and at the bottom of the hole in the early 2010s. Due to lack of money, the team cannot participate in the playoffs of the CAN 2013. For two years, the Comoros therefore disappear from the international circuit.

To rebuild on this nothing, the local Federation hopes to recruit Henri Stambouli, ex-trainer of Marseille in the 1990s. Except that the negotiations fall apart at the last moment. And so here is on the track the one who was to play the assistants, Amir Abdou. A former amateur player forced to put away his crampons due to injuries, the Franco-Comorian, who lives in the south-west of France, converted to an educator, and then coaches an honorary division team (sixth level national). At the same time, he exercises his profession as a territorial civil servant in the youth service of his small town of Bon-Encontre, near Agen (Lot-et-Garonne).

Amir Abdou therefore finds himself almost by default embarked on a project which he will completely take over, with mad energy. To rebuild the selection from A to Z, he is betting on the French diaspora and the very large community, established mainly in the Marseille region. It is still necessary to convince these dual nationals to try the adventure. But he knows how to find the words, and make the conquered troops stay.

Crazy proportions

The results help, the selection going from 193and at 127and world rank in three years. Corn “It’s a permanent fight”, says the coach. And with inevitably reduced means in one of the poorest countries in the world. He himself is only employed by the Federation from 2017. He must struggle to structure a framework worthy of players accustomed to European standing, even if it is that of the lower divisions. The Federation does not have an equipment supplier? A local brand is created, Maana Sport, which supplies free of charge, without a real contract.

And the case progresses, with ups and downs. On the archipelago, the enthusiasm for breeding is taking on crazy proportions. For the worse sometimes. During the CAN 2017 qualifying campaign, after missing the equalizing penalty against Uganda, the players left the stadium under stones. “Hell, summarizes Amir Abdou in an interview with the Bal des productions press agency. But we hung on. »

So comes the best, often. On the second day of qualifying for the current CAN, the Comoros won, in their new Malouzini stadium in Moroni financed by Chinese capital, an unexpected 0-0 draw against the Egyptian giant. The crowd massed in the stands, filled to double the capacity of the enclosure, surges onto the lawn. The announcer screams to ask for the evacuation, arguing for a possible cancellation of the result. In less than three minutes, the supporters wisely resume their place in the stands!

popular fervor

Above all, we must not hinder the march of national heroes who will qualify a few months later, triggering incredible popular jubilation. The team pleases all the more that it does not crown any star. Bonus to the collective, with 17 players out of 28 playing in France. “This group is above all a family before being a football team”, underlined the sports director Djamal Mohamed before the start of the CAN. The subject is not overused.

And the team, which has reached maturity (28 years on average), hopes to establish itself in the landscape. After two years without an equipment supplier, a new Italian partner (Macron Sports) is at its side for four years, and a new federal management is thinking about a more sustainable development, allowing to convince even more dual nationals to join the “Cœlacanthes”, the nickname of the selection. They are there, and maybe for a long time.


The Gambia, the other novice

In 2019, Burundi, Mauritania and Madagascar discovered the event, with happiness for Madagascar which climbed for its first until the quarter-finals (eliminated by Tunisia 3-0). This year, alongside the Comoros, it is Gambia which also plays the novices. Like the Coelacanths, the Scorpions owe their qualification to the patient work of recruiting a workforce, of which 27 of the 28 players play abroad, entrusted since 2018 to Belgian technician Tom Saintfiet, a frequent traveler on the continent (passed through Namibia, Ethiopia, Malawi and Togo). Winner of the first match against Mauritania (1-0) this Wednesday, January 12, Gambia, 150and in the FIFA rankings, will have a lot to do to qualify against Mali (January 16) and Tunisia (January 20).



League of Nations: the Blues revive the beautiful color of victory

When two great teams live up to their talent, football can provide a dazzling spectacle. France and Spain played at a very high level in the final of the League of Nations, this Sunday, October 10 in Milan. And a meeting without major stake in a competition with blunt relief made a duel with daggers drawn, ended with a stunning scenario and a magnificent victory of the Blues (2-1).

→ ANALYSIS. Football: French and Belgians in place for the 2018 revenge

After a first half full of tension and tactical movements leaving little room for the expression of the artists, each engaged in efficient but grueling pressing, everything was packed after the hour of play. crazy, in just two minutes, started with a lightning attack from the Blues ended with a strike from Theo Hernandez which crashed into the Spanish crossbar. The best opportunity for the Blues, but the opposite goes very quickly to give an additional hand to the Spaniards. Who, in the same minute, open the scoring.

Jet Blues

The Blues can be knocked out, but no. It is quite the opposite which occurs, and immediately the men of Didier Deschamps retort with their rebel in chief: Karim Benzema. With a curled shot, the attacker finds the Spanish skylight, and as in the semi-final against Belgium (3-2), sounds the tricolor revolt. The rest is a feast of Kylian Mbappé passing his legs, the Spaniards who do not abdicate, two decisive stops by Hugo Lloris, and the Blues who take the trophy for the second edition of the event.

They thus end a very chaotic year. After the astonishing return of the ban Karim Benzema in the spring, an extremely disappointing Euro with the Blues often well below their potential and their claimed ambition, the start of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign revealing at the return of the Blues as emptied of all substance, Didier Deschamps’ men attacked this week dedicated to the last four of the League of Nations in an atmosphere where absolute confidence was not hovering.

Apparently lost players, a coach weighing much less than in the past, perhaps seeming at the end of the line: after 45 catastrophic minutes of the first duel of this Nations League against Belgium, with a scathing 0-2 in the table of ‘display, all the commentators were already sharpening their pens to tell the doldrums in which the France team was bathed. And the shadow of Zinédine Zidane already hovering above the Blues, because it needed at least that, a providential man, to raise the bar tomorrow.

An attack finally effective

Except that words were exchanged in the locker room between these Blues who were only a shadow of themselves. Didier Deschamps, Paul Pogba, Hugo Lloris, in turn, spoke hard, but fair. They whipped up common pride, and the same suddenly found themselves so different to offer a staggering turnaround.

The final against Spain did not obey the same scenario, but it was once again the Blues in reaction who provided the show. As if this team had to be stung before asserting its character. Victory undoubtedly does not solve everything and does not offer total guarantees for the continuation of the 2022 adventure. The offensive capacities of the famous Mbappé-Benzema-Griezmann trio are finally expressed, even if Antoine Griezmann still appears a tone below these two teammates.

For the first time since the epic on the roof of the world in Russia in 2018, something really emerges from this French team. Something that looks like a newfound confidence, a truly shared involvement. The angry fist, then the big smile of Didier Deschamps at the end of the meeting speak well of the relief of the man. He too must be fully revitalized, before attacking what should be his last year in office until the World Cup in Qatar. Strongly the continuation.



Football: stunning, the Blues eliminate Belgium from the League of Nations

Resilient and stunning, the French football team signed a breathtaking last half hour to overcome a revengeful Belgium (3-2) and validate its qualification for the final of the League of Nations, thanks to the heroism of its youngster international Théo Hernandez.

Dominant for 60 minutes, Belgium has long believed to be able to soften the bitter memory of the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But the world number 1 selection sank against the world champions, once again, in a much more miraculous scenario than in St. Petersburg three years ago (1-0 for the Blues) … A revenge that risks to further establish the rivalry between these two neighboring nations.

Patience, revolt and madness

“Winning this match compared to the scenario, it proves once again the strength of character of this team”, reacted the French coach Didier Deschamps on TF1.

The Blues have built their success with patience, revolt and madness. Karim Benzema reduced the score (62e), Kylian Mbappé smiled again from the penalty spot (69e), and Théo Hernandez, for his second selection, illuminated Juventus stadium with a clear shot at the far post (90e), piercing a destitute Thibaut Courtois.

→ ANALYSIS. Football: French and Belgians in place for the 2018 revenge

Spain-France will therefore be the prestigious poster for the final of the second edition of the League of Nations, Sunday (8:45 p.m.) in Milan, with a second trophy within reach of Deschamps since taking office in 2012. He will not be able to not replace, nor erase, the missed Euro of the Blues, but it could allow to approach the path to the World Cup 2022 with hope.

Total intensity

Belgium and its golden generation of Hazard, Lukaku and De Bruyne, is experiencing a new disillusionment in its quest for an international title: the team led by Roberto Martinez postpones its dreams for a year, to Qatar.

The 20,000 tickets on sale had not all found a taker on Thursday evening, but the 12,400 fans who came to Juventus stadium will not forget this crazy meeting: the few hundred French supporters stayed for nearly half an hour to sing after the final whistle.

→ EXPLANATION. Football: Fifa consults to better impose its biennial World Cup

From the start of the match, a few boos rustled during hymns on both sides, and the total intensity of the first moments, marked by a high-class save signed by Hugo Lloris in front of Kevin De Bruyne (4e), showed that the two selections were not there to make up the figure.

Mbappé extinguished De Bruyne

The Mancunien was going to be the man of this first period: constantly found between the lines, ingenious in his passes, “KDB” has long eclipsed the 50e selection of Kylian Mbappé, a record in Blue at only 22 years old, with his two assists, for Yannick Carrasco (37e) and the impressive Romelu Lukaku (41e). The Chelsea striker even believed, at the very end of the match, to offer the victory to his people but he was signaled out of play (87e).

It was not until the hour of play, when the Belgians finally retreated, that Kylian Mbappé found the loophole. A decisive pass for Karim Benzema, scorer against his teammate Thibaut Courtois, then a penalty obtained by Antoine Griezmann and transformed with authority by the PSG striker, who had only scored once in Blue in the last eleven games.

Mbappé had offered the first goal to Benzema, Benzema offered the second to Mbappé by giving the ball of the penalty to his young partner.

This shock of neighbors was also a match between brothers: the brothers Lucas and Théo Hernandez, holders, wore the blue jersey together for the first time, unheard of since the Revellis, in 1974. The siblings will remember this first for a long time. association, and Theo now has an appointment at San Siro Sunday, the stadium of his daily life.



Six Nations tournament: an emotional XV of France

” Unbelievable ! “ Hot, he keeps repeating, Fabien Galthié. The coach of the XV of France can not find other words to describe what his players have just made him experience, this Saturday, March 20 to mark a milestone at the Stade de France. So he remains breathless, at the microphone of France 2, and repeats it again: “This scenario is incredible. Unbelievable ! “. With a newfound energy, a pride undoubtedly too tickled, an unexpected lucidity, the Blues actually went to seek an improbable, insane victory, on a test snatched in the last seconds from the Welsh suddenly all dazed. Who could believe such a reversal of the situation?

Red dragons all on fire

There are matches that are impossible to lose. There are others that are impossible to win. This France-Wales seems for a long time to belong to this second category. Even if the first twenty minutes of the game augur a common level of excellence, the two teams surrendering blow for blow (two tries each), it appears quickly enough that the debates will not necessarily remain balanced. Flaming red dragons indeed light fires everywhere on the blue ramparts, creating breaches with insane regularity.

→ ANALYSIS. Rugby: despite the defeat against England, nothing is lost for the XV of France

One wave after another, they approach the tricolor in-goal, and the punishment seems inevitable. The Blues certainly arrive at half-time with a score of parity (17-17), but by retreating most often, and deprived of balls. Difficult to express oneself in these conditions. On resumption, these Welsh devils resume their assaults with the same ardor, rolling the blue defense, this same defense which seemed so aggressive and solid in previous meetings, but which there must suffer until necessarily breaking. At 30-20 per hour of play, the case seems over.

Especially since the Blues first take a yellow card (to the pillar Mohamed Haouas), thus forced to play 14. Worse: nine minutes later, when they have just scored the try of the resurgent hope, they must cash the refusal of the referee and the sanction for a dangerous clearing at the start of the action of Paul Willemse, punished by a red card. Double trouble, and morale in the socks. To recover from such a stroke of fate? The Blues were hardly used to it in recent years. But these Blues seem decidedly of a different caliber.

On the wire

The last ten minutes are therefore completely implausible. The Blues do not abdicate. Quite the contrary. They’re putting the pressure on. And the Welsh, until then very in control furious, suddenly lose their nerves. In turn, they take a yellow card, then another. They are playing 13. It is time: the French captain Charles Ollivon sounds the charge and succeeds in testing, re-inflating the sails of the France boat that was seen running aground. There are three minutes left, and that would be too good. It becomes. The Blues do not get carried away, do not mess up, and the back Brice Dulin after a long movement crosses the line. General issuance.

The Welsh are leaving Paris without their Grand Slam. To win this 2021 Tournament, the Blues must still win Friday March 26 against Scotland, by obtaining the offensive bonus, and by winning with more than 20 points in advance to overtake the Welsh.

Nothing is done. But the Blues hold their reference match after this whirlwind against the Welsh. They know it and fully intended Saturday night to savor it fully. “I am overcome with happiness. It’s a pool of happiness ”, Fabien Galthié let go again in a post-match press conference. “We left everything on the ground, summarized Charles Ollivon, it allows emotions like that “. Strong, very strong.



Six Nations Tournament: Act II of the XV of France starts well

It is not so distant, the time when the prospect of a weekend in Rome for the XV of France was not synonymous with dolce vita. It was barely two years ago, when the Blues concluded a very sluggish tournament in Italy, with a team in search of untraceable certainties. They had certainly won, the Blues of coach Jacques Brunel, but against the course of the game and after having suffered a long Italian domination. A hold-up (24-15), which clearly indicated the state of bewilderment of these Blues, a few months before a World Cup that some predicted grim.

Serious and efficient

Was this memory present in the mind of Antoine Dupont, Paul Willemse or Gregory Alldritt this Saturday, February 6? These three were admittedly holders in 2019, but have undoubtedly erased this time of painful and repeated mistakes a long time ago. The Blues are not at all the same, renewed workforce and good morale after a year of revolution led by new coach Fabien Galthié.

For this 2021 Tournament, the Blues therefore came to Rome by conquering, sure of their new strength. They aroused the greatest hopes last year, winning over England, Wales and Ireland. They had to confirm them. Flawless execution. Act II of their new play, which should culminate in the climax of the world title in 2023, has started perfectly. The Blues scored three tries in the first half, four in the second for a final result (50-10) that the France team had not known in Italy for 12 years (50-8 in 2009).

A well-framed domination

So certainly, the Italians have long been nothing but small fry in the deep end of the oval, now accumulating 28 defeats in the Tournament (last victory in 2015 against Scotland, 22-19). But it was still necessary not to get embarked on a trap match. Very seriously, the Blues let the Italians come to better punish them with formidable efficiency. When they practice this way, the Blues of rugby look like their football cousins, leaving control of the game to the opponent but able to punish him against by exploiting the slightest loophole.

A first half to this yardstick, a second suddenly more in control and unfolding their domination: here is the Blues in accordance with the copy written by their master to play Fabien Galthié. The technician and his team of experts worked to establish a framework, a style of play, with a speech to share the method. All that could not be put in place for many years with their predecessors. Confidence finally returned last year, in a perfectly receptive group because without complex: the Blues now aim high and dare to say it.

Confidence and ambition

We could even speak of elements of language, as the speeches are so similar. Antoine Dupont, the flamboyant scrum half of the Blues: “What stands out are the titles, so we’ll have to win something this year. “ Paul Willemse, rampart of the second line: “Our next step is to win the Tournament. Now we want to win titles, that’s our goal. “ Charles Ollivon, the captain and valiant third line: “Now that we are performing well at European level, we would like to win titles. “ Clearly, the time for the defeatist spiral is over. And this is undoubtedly the fundamental change driven by Fabien Galthié.

It remains to confront this state of mind with a reality much more solid than the meager transalpine opposition. Next Sunday, the Blues will assert their new appetite at the Dublin table against Ireland. “This match will be capital”, already announces Charles Ollivon. The real entry into the Tournament, for these Blues now considered favorites of the event and expected as such.

A status to be assessed against Ireland on February 14, but perhaps even more against Scotland on February 28 at the Stade de France. The Scots, the only winners of the Blues in the Tournament last year in Edinburgh (28-17), offered themselves the luxury of showering England in the rain of Twickenham on Saturday: 11-6, the chef’s surprise. The last victory of the Scots over the Blues in Paris dates back to the last century, in 1999, again the era of the V nations: they had won 36-22 and the XV of France had finished in last place in the standings. Most of today’s Blues were still not very sure on their legs. So this kind of memory …



Rugby: the Six Nations Tournament cut off from its female and young versions

After the European Rugby Cups suspended at least until the beginning of February, it is the turn of the Six Nations Tournament to be affected by the epidemic rebound caused by the famous “variant” of Covid-19. Or at least part of the Tournament: the matches of the under-20s and those of the women. The six-nation committee, organizer of the competition, announced Wednesday, January 13 the postponement of the meetings due to the pandemic.

The French government had previously worried about the reception conditions of the XV of France in Ireland (February 14) and England (March 13), the two countries having to face for weeks a very worrying increase in cases of coronavirus. The decision of the partial postponement was recorded Tuesday evening after meeting. His main motivation is to ensure the running of the Men’s Tournament on the scheduled dates.

All attention focused on the boys

Bernard Laporte, the president of the French Rugby Federation, did not hide it, reports the daily. South West : “That way, we’ll just have to take care of the boys. It will only be one health bubble per federation. “ Make sure these gentlemen are healthy, okay. These ladies and young people, that was too much, so we’ll see later. In spring or summer, the program will not be stopped until the end of January. ” In a later window we will be in a better position to host two fantastic Tournaments ”, more diplomatically estimated Ben Morel, the director general of the committee of the six nations. Women’s rugby, which is organizing its World Cup next September in New Zealand (September 18-October 16), is therefore reduced to swallowing the bitter potion.

The Men’s Tournament is hanging by a thread, but the organizers wanted to continue to dispel doubts. A new protocol should be presented to the French government in the coming days, more rigorous than that in force last fall during the Nations Cup. In particular, players should undergo an additional test, not only before matches, but also before returning to their clubs to avoid possible contamination in their Top 14 clubs.



Football: the Blues hit hard in Portugal and qualify for the “Final 4” of the League of Nations

We found the France team. Three days after an improbable defeat at home in a friendly against Finland (0-2), the Blues, without Kylian Mbappé but with N’Golo Kanté, improbable scorer, marked the spirits among the Portuguese European champions (0- 1) Saturday 14 November, in Lisbon. They thus offer themselves a ticket for the “Final 4” of the League of Nations and gain an ascendancy over Portugal before the reunion of the next Euro.

→ ANALYSIS. When the camera spoils the sporting spectacle

In the Estadio da Luz behind closed doors, the Covid-19 crisis requires, the French world champions have eclipsed the giant Cristiano Ronaldo at the same time as the doubts that followed their indigent Finnish defeat. Three days later, with a team in World 2018 mode, they bulged their torso against the Lusitanian cador, kicked out of a League of Nations of which he was the defending champion.

The players proved that the France team is still a great team “, Greeted the coach Didier Deschamps, at the microphone of TF1. Blocked by the Seleçao in the first leg (0-0), his men will play in October 2021 the final phase (“Final 4”) of the friendly competition of UEFA. But above all, they sent a strong message to Portugal before the duel expected on June 23 in the first round of the Euro.

→ IN 2018. N’Golo Kanté, the big-little Blue who worries the Reds

On Saturday, the France team had largely donned its clothes from the last World Cup, with seven holders of the final lined up at kickoff, mainly in defense and in midfield. Only the attack line has undergone a facelift due to the absences of Mbappé, not recovered from a muscle discomfort in a thigh, and Olivier Giroud, left on the bench at kickoff. The indestructible Antoine Griezmann was in charge of the animation with Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman, back in a stadium in Lisbon where he offered the Champions League to Bayern Munich this summer against Paris-SG.

Kanté eclipses Cristiano Ronaldo

This team, which is as new as it is attractive, has given new life to an enterprising French team, capable of delivering rapid and varied sequences of play in the wake of a rediscovered Paul Pogba.

Football: the Blues hit hard in Portugal and qualify for the

If the spotlight has long been on Martial, the light has come from the feet of Kanté, the discreet pocket midfielder converted for the occasion into a fox of surfaces. The Chelsea player improved a ball released by Patricio in the 53e minute on a powerful shot from Rabiot, offering himself at 29 years only the second goal of his rich international career.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s counter has many more (102 goals in 169 international matches), but the five-time Golden Ball has still not managed to score against the Blues. The Juventus striker tried his luck with a long shot, free kicks and a header passed very close to Hugo Lloris’ cage. And Presnel Kimpembe deprived him of a goal on a superb save.

In a breathless second period, the Blues were also saved by their post on a head from Lille José Fonte and by their goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, impeccable on a strike from João Moutinho. Talent and luck, the Blues were varnished on Saturday in Lisbon.