Salut! Sunderland was happy to report recently that Steed Malbranque, so often impressive for Sunderland, had ended his break from football and won a one-year deal at Lyon, one of France’s top three and the club where he started out.
Most attention in French football, providing welcome distraction from the elections, focuses today on the Premier-style movement at the top, where moneybags Paris Saint-Germain are again threatening to tear up the fairytale script that would have Montpellier as champions. And once-mighty Marseille’s first Ligue 1 win in centuries, Loic Remy grabbing the only goal at home to far-from-mighty Nancy.
I prefer to look forward to tonight’s game and hope for a Dijon victory over Auxerre.
STOP PRESS. Beaten two nil …
There hasn’t been a French Fancies for a while. But it has been a lively spell. There has been the stunning collapse of Olympique de Marseille, champions the season before last and creditable competitors in the Champions League even as their league and Coupe de France form has sunk to rare depths, with only this weekend’s league cup final against Lyon to offer hope from the season (Stop Press: and they won it; with the only goal of a grim game, dominated by lots of falling over, abundant feigning of injury, cards galore and precious little movement).
Beaten 3-1 at home by the Ligue 1 leaders Montpellier last night, they have now stretched their winless run to 12 games. Sessegnon’s rumoured next club, Paris Saint-Germain again, were meant to run away with the league thanks to all that Qatari money but it simply won’t – yet at any rate – run to script. And now Olympique Lyonnais are looking towards the Gulf for heavy investment. Or are they? The signals are contradictory. But even without desert gold, Lyon are gradually returning to something like the form that brought seven successive titles. If Montpellier get in PSG’s way this season, what price Lyon – a great city, by the way – doing the same next season? Assuming Francois Hollande’s bash-the-rich plans don’t drive all the top players out of France in any case …
Here’s a piece I wrote about the business of French football for today’s edition of The National*, published in Abu Dhabi, which the Lyon owner sees as a possible source of a big cash injection …
First Lewis Hamilton got himself into trouble with Formula 1 race stewards after his misfired gag – “maybe it’s because I’m black …That’s what Ali G says,” he said with a smile about being penalised in the Monaco Grand Prix – and then Monaco went down. And this, to the relief of those without the least interest in le football, is the last French Fancies of the season …
Well Patrice Carteron’s Dijon were already up, and yesterday Eric Roy’s Nice survived the dramatic final day of Ligue 1 despite losing at Valenciennes, so once-mighty Monaco joined once-mighty Nantes in France’s Championship equivalent, Ligue 2. There was nothing much at stake at the top, of course, because the title was already Lille’s.
Monaco’s fate was in their own hands, but the fixtures list left them a tough last game, against Lyon at home, and they lost 2-0. That meant they could stay up only if Nancy stumbled at home to already-relegated Lens. Nancy 4 Lens 0 soon snipped that lifeline.
Last but one edition of French Fancies for the season: saluting the ladies of Lyon, commiserating with Le Mans, wishing one former Sunderland man well for tomorrow, when Ligue 1 relegation is settled, while congratulating a second on winning promotion last night. And, for once, no digs at Bordeaux …
The French season is nearly over – the remaining Ligue 1 relegation issue, who goes down with Lens and Arles-Avignon, will be resolved tomorrow night. The Sunderland interest is Eric Roy, manager of Nice, who need a point at Valanciennes to be sure.
Nice could lose and still survive but would need Nancy (home to Lens) or Caen (home to Marseille) to lose, or Monaco only to draw at home to Lyon. Une histoire compliqué, as the French might say and Eric knows he’d be a fool to rely on one of the results elsewhere going his way.
Lille’s 2-2 draw at Paris Saint-Germain last night was enough to bring them the cup-and-league double – they had already beaten PSG in the final of the Coupe de France – and a promise by the club president Michel Seydoux to throw a “huge party in this marvellous city”.
That’s a great achievement for a relatively unfashionable club that will do well to hang on to its better players. It is only their third Ligue 1 title, though their second double (look back to 1946 for the first). I did help a little by predicting a comfy late cruise to the championship for Marseille but the record books are unlikely to acknowledge this contribution.
French women are doing OK, but there’s mixed news of the footballing men of Salut! Sunderland‘s choice. Here’s another of our looks at French football …
Since a lot of readers are coming this way from the Sunderland Women’s Football Club site, thanks to a terrific piece Rob Hutchison wrote here about a women’s game he attended and which has been flagged there, I ought to cross the Ts on the Arsenal v Lyon semi-final of the female equivalent of the Champions’ League.
No apologies for repeating the clip showing two beautifully taken goals by Lyon’s Lotta Schelin in the first leg at the Stade de Gerland. Two-nil up, they gave themselves a decent cushion for the return leg just outside London – and well as making me think Steve Bruce could do worse than sign Lotta on emergency loan to play alongside Asamoah Gyan for our remaining games.
Another review of the week gone by for the busy reader who appreciates a regular digest of what’s been going on here (and ps: see our FA Cup wishlist) …
Among Salut! Sunderland‘s pet hates, a weekend without football ranks high.
There are FA Cup 6th round ties this weekend, and important FA Youth Cup games (the FA’s own site originally had Liverpool and Man Utd having to play their 6th round tie before the winners beetled off down the M6 to London for the first leg of a semi final at Chelsea three hours later: the semi has now been put back to Wednesday).
And Sunderland’s ladies’ team carry our best wishes in their FA Women’s Cup 5th round game against Lincoln City.
Another instalment of French Fancies, Salut! Sunderland‘s occasional dip into football as it’s played on the other side of La Manche – with a comparison of tight competition in the top flights of both France and England and news of the latest phase of David Bellion’s footballing career …
It is time for M Salut to take another glance at the French Ligue 1. And there is one striking similarity between what is going on there and in our own Premier League season.
Look at ninth position in the PL and eighth in Ligue 1: our friends up the road at Newcastle United on 36 points in England, Lorient on 36 in France.
Nice, or Olympique Gymnaste Club Nice Côte d’Azur to give them their splendid full title, are – for the uninitiated – the team Salut! Sunderland looks out for in France. They had as good a weekend as the Tangerine-clad men from the slightly less sunny English seaside ….
Nota bene the two results. Rather a neat bit of alliteration to mark two minor causes for celebration at Salut!’s Nice Corner, our regular look at French football.
There isn’t too much of a French connection in Blackpool’s balloon-pricking win at St James’ Park.