2013 11 19 Allez les bleus – France v Ukraine

 

World Cup Qualifiers are hard work, but nice hard work. Quite often league fixtures are mundane, it does not matter really if a team wins, draws or loses as there is always next week. Of course there is something to play for but it’s not as epic as qualifying for a World Cup AND via a play off second leg – is often quite something. Spain, Holland, England – they all topped their groups and there was not the intensity in any of their games like this one.

I still don’t think that the lights have been changed in the Stade de France since the FIFA World Cup Final in 1998! 15 years seems like last week. But after a quick manual white balance the grass on the pitch on my pictures actually looks green and I’m good to go.

The self-presented brief for today is simple : Running stock pictures of every player, a complete set of every player with the ball, head shots and team group and of course winning goal, celebrations and dejection and anything else artistic or which will sell. Fingers crossed for nice backgrounds, frame in the camera, no shoddy cropping and shooting like I was on film.

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Ukraine 2-0 after the first leg. The French press have been slaughtering their team. Absolutely no one gives them any hope. Not even my French photographer chums. Even though the stadium announcer did an amazing job in whipping up the vibe before the game, I still feel that the French will go home crying. My back up plan is that it’s easier to get to Paris than Kiev if I have to come back for more material.

So I opt to do Ukraine head shots – on the positive side the mascots are small. There should be some regulation on the size of them!

Compared to the Belgian mascots standing in front of the Colombians, it was happy days in Paris.

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The only negative was that the French powers that be did not let photographers cross from one dug out / technical area to another so I used my time wisely and came back with a complete set of Ukraine substitute headshots – using my best Ukrainian “Pryvit” – Hello – to get their attention. None of these guys were prima donnas and all looked directly into my lens. “Spasybo” – Thank you… and they even smile back.

Ukraine team shot, manager, coaches, starting 11, subs – job done. All very simple to look at but actually quite difficult to achieve, my only issue is the French brass band in the background.

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I already about 30 pics suitable for the library and to hopefully sell when Ukraine qualify for next years tournament in Brazil….

ALLEZ LES BLEUS

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Basically the French need to get three goals to qualify for Brazil.

Great, intense, positive football – cheering isn’t the word to describe it more utterly encouraging, with no sign of any booing or negative vibes at all – when things go wrong the volume gets even more intense.

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One of the worst games in living memory for me was Ukraine 0-0 England in Kiev a couple of months ago. Ukraine parked the bus and stopped England from playing.

The Ukraine team are actually quite hard to photograph. I love the Italian style of football and even the Japanese, it’s so nice and easy to capture. The Ukraine however just don’t turn on the ball as much or run off the ball in an athletic way so to make nice pictures.

The French give their all and just attack and attack – no fancy Spanish type passing, no Wenger style trying to score the perfect goal – just heaps of crosses, shots, headers all in one direction – towards the Ukraine goal. Nearly 70% possession tells the story.

Then quite quickly – GOAL or BUT! and again!!

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At half time it was 2-0.

The second 45 was a little less intense, Ukraine had a player sent off, lots of rolling around pretending to have broken legs by the French but the winner came with a roar that was as epic as when France won the World Cup in 1998.

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Doing my job, I normally switch off. I try not to take in what is happening around me emotionally. I shoot at my best when I’m almost numb, listening to the radio helps! But today was one of those days I will use when English people have their head in the sand proclaiming English football is brilliant etc and when on the odd occasion I know that I was at a great game which actually enthused me.

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Obvious dejection for the Ukraine team. Dejection for me – who wants a complete set of Ukraine heads now?!

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The French go wild.

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One of those games where I wish I could cut myself into two or three – there is so much going on. Back in the Photo room I look at a French Freelance’s work and crumble with pain as I see some amazing pictures that I have missed during the celebrations. Equally however the Frenchman has his eyes wide open at my pictures of the French team stealing the stadium announcers microphone and singing the French National Anthem.

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As everyone is packing up their equipment – I am still on the hunt for pictures and snap away at Ribery having a TV interview. Finally all the player’s head down the tunnel.

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There is a divide in the Photo Room. Economics takes its toll. Some are happy. Very happy.. “Nous allons au Bresil!” Screams one of the girls! I chat to a chap who covers lots of PSG – he states regardless of what his wife thinks, says, bank says, he IS going to Rio!

Others quietly edit their images, some have gone home as they prefer to do it with a glass of wine with the oh so great attitude of that their clients will have the pictures when they feel it is right.

We talk for a long time about the logistical challenges of Brazil.

I leave the stadium and return to my car parked in the underground car park at the Stade de France. Perfect for the working media – though I suspect that they go on strike if they don’t get their way. The Football League make photographers go on the tube or pay the crazy £25-30 car park fees and get their cars broken in to at Wembley Stadium. Here is it nothing but fantastique.

TalkSport is boring me – the English attitude after losing 1-0 to Germany is getting me down. I leave Paris for my next stop Holland playing some old songs and some new songs.

I have this on repeat for quite literally 300km. It seems to be a good road trip track.

Is my work finished? Certainly not – I have about three hours editing to do yet, let alone all the other stuff I failed to do yesterday!

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