Ligue 1: ‘French Touch’ at the World Cup

by Etienne Michon

As the French national team is on its way to a painful and early trip back home, French football fans will have to find other teams to cheer for. A few familiar faces might help them doing so, as some Ligue 1 players and their team are getting closer and closer to the Second Round of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Looking at World Cup rosters might be the easiest (but not the most accurate) way to assess a League’s level. England remains by far the number one supplier of players for this 2010 FIFA World Cup (as 117 players are currently under contract with Premier League or lower level clubs), followed by Germany (84) and Italy (80). Surprisingly, Spain ‘only’ sent 54 players to South Africa, but this fact can be explained by the lower proportion of foreign players in Spain vs., say, England. France follows with 45 players, with as many as 41 of them playing in Ligue 1.

The French team has a real taste of Ligue 1 with 11 players, most of them being among the stars of the league, with Hugo Lloris, Jérémy Toulalan, Yoann Gourcuff or Ligue 1 winner Mathieu Valbuena. But, just like the rest of the team, they collapsed and failed to offer any quality on the pitch, except maybe for Lyon goalkeeper Lloris who, despite a shaky defense, managed to avoid an even bigger humiliation. Without a surprise, Ligue 1 is also well-represented in a majority of African teams, as 7 have been called up by Cameroon French coach Paul le Guen, and 4 are featured on Algeria’s roster. Except for France, Ligue 1 has brought more players to underdogs rather than to major teams, but Argentina’s Gabriel Heinze (Marseille) or Brazil’s Michel Bastos (Lyon), who both start at a left-back position for their country, might very well bring the trophy back home.

A few players to watch

Which Ligue 1 players should you watch in this World Cup? A few of them have already put their name close to the top of some recruiters’ watchlist, like speedy Rennes striker Gyan Asamoah, who has already scored twice (on PK) for Ghana. US captain and Gyan’s partner at Rennes Carlos Bocanegra has led a surprising US side to tie England and to stay alive after a spectacular 2-2 against Slovakia. He will face Algeria and its young and promising left-footed midfielder Ryad Boudebouz (Sochaux) in a decisive final game. Valter Birsa, who led Auxerre to the Champions’ League preliminary round this season, has impressed with Slovenia and had one of the World Cup’s most spectacular goal so far with a long-range blast against the US. His Auxerre teammate and central defender Stéphane Grichting has posted a strong performance for Switzerland as they managed to shut down Spain’s armada. Lille’s Gervinho, a fast and powerful winger with a love for dribbling, will do his best to save Ivory Coast and lead them to a goal-scoring feast as they face a rather desperate situation in Group G. Also, do not forget to keep an eye on André Ayew, Ghana’s young left midfielder. At just 20, he led surprising Ligue 2 side Arles-Avignon to Ligue 1, and has shown some interesting skills against Serbia and Australia.

Author Info

Etienne Michon

Etienne Michon

Biz. student from Lyon, France. I'm a French and US soccer fan, and an Olympique Lyonnais season ticket holder. Apart from Ligue 1, I follow the EPL, la Liga and the MLS. I'm also a Houston Dynamo, Atlético Madrid and Liverpool supporter. You can also listen to my Ligue 1 analyses on France 24's sports podcast. Follow me on Twitter @E_ten

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5 Responses

  1. Dave Trotter says:

    I like watching Bastos myself. Not only because he plays for Lyon, but it is interesting to watch him play at left-back, instead of the attacking position he plays at Lyon. Gives me a totally new dimension to the player.

    Is there nothing that this guy can’t do!

  2. OffsideSarah says:

    Etienne –

    First, welcome to blogging- I’m really glad to see more sites featuring Ligue 1 – though it has been called a “feeder” league for the EPL and La Liga to recruit from, the past few years have been really exciting! And with 2 Ligue 1 teams featuring in the Champions League quarters, I hope Ligue 1 begins to get the respect it deserves.

    Now, on to your list…

    I would normally complain its a little Lyon-heavy for my taste- but several of the OL players have been impressive this tournament. Particularly Bastos for Brazil and Toulalan for France. In my opinion, Toulalan was France’s best player this Cup….and its hard to fault Lloris for some of the defensive errors.

    Though Cameroon were not successful, I found Mbia to be a bright spot (particuarly game 1 with that power shot that hit the cross bar). Taiwo was very impressive for Nigeria in the first two games, both defending well and pushing the ball forward. I hope to see him do that at OM more next year (though I wont hold my breath as it sounds like hes out the door). I just hope neither of them are too damaged from their experience (neither the Cameroon or Nigeria camps are known for their calm environments).

    I guess I should congratulate Heinze for being OM’s first goal scorer in the tournament, but I just cant bring myself to do that. Argh- especially when his presence is pushing Taiwo out the door!

    And, am I the only one hoping that Ziani makes it back to L1? He was Algeria’s man of the tournament, no question!

  3. OffsideSarah says:

    Oh- how could I forget to mention Ayew – who was on loan to Arles-Avignon from Marseille! He’s been brilliant for Ghana!

    1. I’m really surprised by Ayew. He struggled for Marseille, and as I was expecting him to develop during his loan to Lorient, he failed to bring extra quality to the team. However, one must not forget that he’s still only 20. His season at Arles-Avignon has been very successful, and he obviously improved.

      But the most surprising fact is that he easily made the transition between Ligue 2 and the World Cup ! OM might want to keep him in the squad for this season… Or capitalize on his good World Cup and sell him at a good price.

      As far as Ziani is concerned, he had a tough season in Bundesliga. I don’t know if he is good enough to play for a top club, he wasn’t really consistent during his time at OM. But he’s got quality, he was great when he played for Sochaux. I really wanted OL to sign him at that time.

      I’m still surprised by Le Guen’s decision to play Mbia as a RB. He’s very powerful and good on 1-on-1s, so he brings more impact as a CB or a defensive midfielder than on the side, where his limited speed can hurt the team.

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