Holiday photos: day 14

We were in the Basque country which I always say is green for a reason! The day after France’s triumph in the World Cup final, the heavens opened. It wasn’t cold, but it did pour down. We watched the rain battering the hotel, which is adjacent to the beach, from the warmth of the surprisingly quiet Thalasso Spa. Goodness knows where the other guests had gone.

On a day totally bereft of any sporting action, what were we to do? There’s only so long you can enjoy the Spa facilities before you wrinkle like a prune. Fortunately we were able to grab a few walks in between the showers for which we were fully prepared with umbrellas and anoraks. You can take the Brit out of Britain, but old habits die hard and all that………

Salvation came in the form of a report from Paris showing the incredible parade of the World Cup victors in their open top bus progressed along the Champs Elysees, before  a reception at the Elysee Palace with family, friends and M Le Pres. Wonderful scenes in the garden of the Palais as the players and Macron  mingled with hordes of children all eager for autographs and selfies. It’s been a wonderful three-day celebration for France.

Holiday photos: day 13

A veritable smoregasbord of sport on Sunday, but what to watch, when? Our dilemna was partly resolved when Rafa lost in the semi-final at Wimbledon. It was unlikely that the final would reach similar heights and we fully expected Djokovic to win his fourth title which he did.

We ate lunch at our hotel in Saint Jean de Luz before settling down to watch a mouth watering afternoon of sport starting with the German MotoGP from Sachsenring. Nine poles and nine victories for my chou chou Marc Marquez, who’s leading the World Championship. I was a happy bunny.

Next up the Tour de France’s cobbled stage finishing in Roubaix which started a bit earlier so as not to clash with the match. Sadly crashes and inopportune mechanicals either put paid to or severely dented the ambitions of a number of riders, but hey that’s cycling. You also had to feel for those nursing injuries from earlier stages, those cobbles must’ve been really painful. It was good to see former Paris-Roubaix winner John Degenkolb pick up his first win since recovering from a terrible accident.

Finally, the blue-riband event, the eagerly awaited World Cup final. The beach and streets emptied, as everyone tuned into the match. Finals are rarely great matches, although this one was exciting. Lady luck was wearing red, white and blue as pre-match favourites France showed flashes of both brilliance and stupidity to beat Croatia 4-2 and lift their second World Cup, twenty years after their last. I’ve become a huge fan of Kylian Mbappe who has enchanted everyone with his maturity and was rightly best young playet of the tournament.

Some of my favourite scenes were President Macron’s celebratory dance – don’t give up the day job! – and the mass huggging which followed the presentation of the trophy and medals. The hotel where we were staying broke out the bubbles to toast the team. It had been a great week-end for the French, though you had to feel for the Croats, and for anyone in France hoping for a good night’s sleep.

 

Bienvenue Patrick Vieira and Danilo

The season had barely finished before there was the usual speculation as to which players OGCN was going to lose. Having missed out on European football by a measly one-point, it was inevitable that some of our more talented players would be on the move. We already knew that after two very successful seasons our manager Lucien Favre would be moving to pastures new, back in Germany. However, we have already managed to secure his replacement, a certain Patrick Vieira who hails from just down the road in Cannes.

His appeal, particularly for OGCN, is his desire to play attractive football and his experience of working with youngsters, thanks to his time looking after them at Manchester City where his path would’ve crossed with that of Super Mario. Obviously, he’s played football at the highest level but has been involved in coaching for a number of years. OGCN are hoping he’ll be able to install that winning mentality in its players, particularly the younger ones. This means Vieira will leave his position as coach for MLS side New York City mid-way through the season.

I’m hoping that Vieira will convince Super Mario to stay. Allegedly, Olympique Marseille are the only team to have shown any interest in signing him. However, he should stay as his career has been revitalized at Nice where he scored 26 goals last season – his best ever strike rate. Vieira has revealed he’s spoken to the 27-year-old Italian and expects the forward to be present for pre-season training. He confirmed:

I called Mario Balotelli to wish him a happy holiday and also to tell him that we would see each other on 2nd July for the resumption of training.

Meanwhile, just one day after the transfer window opened, the club signed Danilo, a Brazilian who previously played for Portuguese side Braga. In line with its stated philosophy, the club had targeted a youngster with great potential whom it had been following for several seasons.

A defensive midfielder who is capable of driving forward and a member of the Brazilian international youth set-up, 22 year old Danilo came through the ranks at Vasco de Gama and has already acquired some solid experience of European football. He then signed for Braga and played a full season for them in 2014/2015 before being loaned to Valencia where he’s played in La Liga, the Champions League and the Europa League. Further loan spells ensued before he returned to Braga last season.

That’s two incoming but what about potential outgoings? It appears Manchester City is interested in our Ivory Coast midfielder Jean Michael Seri who comes with a €40mn. price tag though many other teams including Chelsea, Napoli, Arsenal and West Ham are also keen on the 26 year old. Though I don’t expect anything to happen until after the World Cup.  West Ham have also been eyeing up 21 year old Allan Saint-Maximin and Brazilian Marlon, on loan from FC Barcelona. However, there are more rumours about Alassane Plea who could follow Favre to Borussia Dortmund.

Of course, I might bemoan that our brightest and best may be off to pastures new at OGCN but don’t get me started on Aston Villa. My beloved boys in claret and blue are in all sorts of hot water since failing to gain promotion to the Premiership via the play-offs.

However, let’s put all that to one side and focus on the FIFA World Cup which kicks off today in Russia. Who’re you putting your money on? Obviously, I’d love France to win and I’ll be fluttering my tricolor flag, courtesy of having watched France v Italy at the Allianz Riviera stadium two weeks ago. However, it’s hard to look past the holders Germany and the mouth-watering array of talent on display from South America. Having the benefit of an enforced period of rest due to injury, I fancy Neymar for the golden boot as he’ll be fresher than most. Bring it on!