Monday, July 27, 2009

Thoughts on the Trophée des Champions

I had a good time at the Trophée des Champions in Montreal. My seat was behind the net, which made is really confusing when an offside was called as we had no clue what had happened. The game unfolded much as you would expect, it was all Bordeaux. Guingamp had some early chances but they became few and far between as the match wore on. There was a good crowd at the match, actually it set a record for attendance for Le Trophée des Champions at just over 34,000. Unfortunately Bordeaux didn't seem that bothered about entertaining the fans. They played a cautious slow possession game that lulled both the Guingamp defense and the fans to sleep before finding a through ball. It was an effective technique that resulted in four or five great opportunities. However it reminded me a lot of watching a power play in hockey where a team will just pass around the outside and the crowd wants them to shoot. Guingamp didn't seem up for much entertaining either as any time Bordeaux star Yoann Gourcuff started to dribble he was cut down, apparently they had no intention of winding up like PSG's defenders that are all over youtube getting burned. Which is a shame as Gourcuff's quality was noticeable, and he was unlucky to not be on the score sheet as his free kick (that led to the second goal) bounced off the post.

I tried to keep an eye out for Marouane Chamakh as he is linked with a number of premier league clubs. He seemed to be a decent striker, he scored a goal with a cheeky chip that was disallowed for offside. He was able to get into good positions, however the aspect of his game that most caught my were his dives. A strong breeze could draw a dive from Chamakh, when ever he felt the slightest contact he flopped, it was embarrassing. I was at the match with some friends some of whom were new to football and they started making fun of how easily he went down, it was that obvious. If Chamakh does move to England, he may well score more goals than Johan Elmander, however he will not be a popular player unless he learns how to stay on his feet.

Credit needs to be given to the Guingamp fans as they were out in large number and there were a plethora of Brittany flags in the crowd. There was also a group of about 30 supporters that seemed to have made the trip from France, and kept singing for their team throughout the match. There were some Bordeaux supporters that also came from France but there were not in as good a voice as the Guingamp fans. That said the largely neutral crowd at the Olympic stadium cheered loudly for both goals. As I mentioned above the patience of the Bordeaux attack lulled everyone to sleep including the fans, this was immensely obvious as the wave started, and then made four or five complete laps of the stadium. While it was nice to hear a lot of noise, I suspect that a good number of the fans enjoyed the wave more than the second half.

Just a quick mention of the "turf" where the match was played. To call it an inch thick would be generous, it basically looked like that fake grass that comes with an indoor putting kit laid directly over top of concrete. As a result any ball in the air took quite a large bounce when it landed on the "turf". Which may have contributed to the possession style we saw from Bordeaux. While being fully aware of the climate restrictions that are placed on matches played in Canada, this is a sport that really needs to be played on grass. Admittedly there is nothing short of buying a few hundred thousand dollars worth of sod, that could be done when you are playing a one off match in an indoor facility, but for clubs in Canada just go and get grass.

All things considered I would say that Le Trophée des Champions 2009 in Montreal was a success, and hopefully more of these sort of matches will come to Canada. Montreal did an excellent job as host, both teams received so much support from the crowd that would have thought they were from Honduras... It is matches like these that can help football grow as a sport in Canada, I am hopeful that as a new attendance record was set this time that perhaps Le Trophée des Champions could become a Montreal fixture.

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