first team / During the break

O for… Olympique(s)

Published on the 20 June 2007 à 10:00 by BV

The summer break will be punctuated by one letter and one word per day. Today’s instalment is brought to you by… the letter O… for Olympique.

For 111 years, every fourth summer, the world’s finest athletes come together for the world’s most important sporting event, the Olympic Games. So, since 1896, years divisible by 4 have been called “Olympic”. Not even the 2 world wars got in the way of this logic, with the 1916, 1940 and 1944 editions simply not taking place. This makes it tough to qualify the year 2007 as “Olympic”.

But it hasn’t been through lack of trying. It must be said that 2006 did little to bring French football (winner of the 1984 Olympic football gold medal) and the world’s most-watched sporting event together. On October 11 and 14, the France U-21 side saw their dream of reaching Peking in 2008 vanish, bundled out of the qualifiers by Israel (1-1 and then 0-1).
And it made little difference that the Baron Pierre de Coubertin himself said that participation is more important than winning. The 2 Lyonnais Jérémy Berthod and Karim Benzema will remember for years, with regret, the trip to Herzliya and Taga’s stoppage-time goal. The French once again missed out on qualifying for the Olympics… something becoming a very nasty habit…

2007 on the other hand was an excellent year for the Olympic football clubs. The 2 Olympiques of Ligue 1 claimed the top 2 spots and most of the awards. As in the past 5 years, Olympique Lyonnais found itself on the top step of the podium, and this time Olympique de Marseille will accompany them into the Champions League thanks to its 2nd-place finish. Even though OM’s finishing spot was only decided in the 2nd-last round, the 2 clubs pretty much dominated the scene statistically. Finishing top of the table, the Lyonnais were the best team in the first half of the season and had the best away for. They also boasted the best attack and defence. The Marseillais were the best team of the second half of the season and boasted the best home record.
The Vélodrome wasn’t, however, an impregnable fortress. OL won a strident victory there on October 22 2006 (4-1). On the night, Juninho and co gave what was arguably their most masterful display of the season. 3 months later, on January 31 2007, in the last 16 of the Coupe de France, OM took its revenge, coming from behind to win it in the last 3 minutes (2-1). 2 top-shelf masterpiece matches offered as gifts to the French footballing public. Indeed, the 2 Olympiques lit up the season like few other teams.

So will 2007 be an Olympic year or not? With the victory in Greece of Olympiakos and the first-ever title for Olympic Club Khouribga in Morocco… there’s a good chance…