No French club has reached the quarterfinals of the European Cup competitions. Germany has only Schalke 04 left in the Champions League, facing the holder Inter in the next round. Lyon were the last one in last year’s semifinal and one would think with Gourcuff they might achieve another European run this season. After a desastrous World Cup in South Africa, the French clubs don’t look in much better health, when it comes to playing among Europe’s best. Despite formidable performances it just was not enough for the four remaining clubs to overcome their respective opponents.
It seems the French have to go back to the drawing board and revise their strategies in order t become a force to be reckoned with again. Clubs as well as the national team. But Laurent Blanc does appear to know what he is doing as France top the table of their EURO 2012 qualifier group. Recently he recalled Ribery and Evra to the team, the former certainly due to his recent performances for Bayern München, whereas Evra had a good season so far at ManU. Sadly, Olympique Marseille did not manage a draw against Alex Ferguson’s side despite playing good football. If that had happened there would have inevitably been talk of a crisis at ManU. PSG, despite scoring at the Stadium of Light in Lissabon, were held to a draw at home by Benfica. It proved not enough. Benfica were the cleverer team but PSG did not give up and all credit to them, the last half hour clearly belonged to them last night, only the goal that would have meant extra time was not to come.
This year the Europa League looks firmly in the hands of Portugal, three of their clubs have reached the quarters: Benfica outmanoevered PSG, Braga by beating Liverpool and Porto beat ZSKA Moscow. There is no Italian, German or English club left in the competition. The ‘secondary’ European Cup is therefore without a club from the strongest leagues in Europe, except for Spain who have Villareal still competing, has thus become a field to play. Except that Benfica, Eindhoven Dynamo Kiew are not particular minnows. Last season Diego Forlan and Athletico had a fantastic tournament and Forlan proved to be one of the best players at the World Cup. Fulham had a magnificent match against no other than Juve on their way to the final in Hamburg last May. So it is not fair to dismiss the Europa League that easily as a second rate competition.