INTERNATIONALS: AFFANE IN JUNIOR SWEDEN WIN

Amin Affane became the latest member of last season’s FA Youth Cup-winning side to take part in an Under-19 European Championship qualifier this week, as he helped Sweden to a 3-1 win over Wales.

The match was the first in a four-team tournament played in Hungary with Affane, who is currently on loan at Dutch club Roda JC, playing on the left of midfield and wearing no. 8.

As can be seen in the video below, it was his ball back in after a corner is cleared that led to Sweden’s equaliser, Wales having taken the lead from the penalty spot. Affane played the first 73 minutes.

WORDS WITH: LUCAS PIAZON

With the 18-year-old prospect having made his debut a fortnight ago, it is high time he sat down for his first full interview with the official Chelsea website…

Last month for Lucas Piazon began with his participation in an Under-21 league match at Stamford Bridge – a 5-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers. Twenty-four days later the young Brazilian made his Chelsea first team debut at Stamford Bridge, this time in a 6-0 win with Wolves again the opposition.

Similarities between the two occasions are clear, and one of the biggest complements that can be paid to Piazon about his senior bow is he looked as comfortable in a team containing John Terry, Gary Cahill, Ramires, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres, as well as fellow full debutants Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses, as he did in the more junior line-up three weeks earlier.

If there was one difference it was that he couldn’t match his two goals in the Under-21 outing, one scored from a rebound and the other from the penalty spot, but that is a small detail as he had every reason to be pleased with his first 90 minutes in the senior side, even if he does admit to having felt some disappointment that one of the goals hadn’t been his.

‘But I was happy because of the other parts of the game and then after, Robbie [Di Matteo] spoke to me and Steve [Holland] spoke to me and I realised that it was really good,’ Piazon tells the official Chelsea website.

The 18-year-old is naturally pleased when it is suggested he looked like he belonged on the night and reveals a confident approach to making the step-up. His was the pass that Ryan Bertrand hammered into the net for the second out of the six goals.

Piazon

‘You don’t need to be nervous, nor too excited when you are playing in the first team. You need to be calm because if you are here it is because you can play. You just need to do your job and play your game.

‘The match was good, the team played very well and the start was very important. In 20 minutes we were 3-0 up and it was good for the players who were not playing so often to get minutes.’

Piazon’s debut game came one year after he arrived to begin life at Chelsea. It was first announced in March 2011 that a pre-contract agreement was finalised for the transfer from Sao Paulo FC of a player at the time impressing for Brazil at the South American Under-17 Championships.He had previously been topscorer at the equivalent Under-15 tournament.

After moving to England in September 2011, it was a steady acclimatisation – his first competitive youth and reserve games both coming in November, one playing on the left flank and one on the right. By December he was ready for a full role in the march towards lifting the FA Youth Cup, playing all eight games, scoring three times in open play and twice in penalty shoot-outs.

Included in the goals was a strike against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge that proved to be the winner in the two-legged semi-final and is one of Piazon’s favourites so far. Another was in an away reserve win against Arsenal. They can be seen in the video above.

He played 13 youth games in total and made 10 reserve appearances, scoring four times for the second string. The performances were sufficient to win the Chelsea Young Player of the Year award, and a place on the first team’s summer tour of the USA during which he scored against Paris St-Germain in New York.

Chelsea v PSG

‘When I arrived I started in the reserve squad and I was playing so many games in the youth team to get adapted to English football,’ he says, ‘and I think this was very important for me. Now I have been playing with the first team, the most important moment in my career, so the youth team and the reserves helped me a lot to be where I am now.

‘In America I could score a goal which was nice and this pre-season is important for the youngsters to get a chance to play, and for Chelsea to be able to give us a chance. I really enjoyed the tour and it was a great experience in my life.’

A month ago Piazon was told he is now a full member of the first team squad, using the changing room in the main building at Cobham and training every day with the senior players, although on occasions he is playing for our Under-19 and Under-21 teams, such as last Friday at Brentford. He welcomes such match action.

He is now at the stage in his development he would have been wishing to reach quickly when he decided to leave the fertile football land of Brazil for England.

‘Every boy that is born there, the first sport that he plays is football,’ he says. ‘I was born in Sao Paulo but when I went to school there I was very small so I didn’t play football, but then I moved down to the south of the country when I was six years old and at my first school in the south I started playing. I used to also play at night with the players who were older than me. Every day I was playing football.

‘We play at school, we play in the clubs and then when we go back home we mix with people who play in the street and put down two cones and play freely and have fun. In some buildings they have a small pitch with five against five and you are always playing football.’

Futsal, to give the organised, indoor five-a-side game its formal title, is played with a slightly smaller ball than regular football and develops characteristic skills. Former Chelsea midfielder Deco explained that due to his futsal upbringing, he controlled the ball by stepping down on it rather than using his instep throughout his illustrious career.

‘Every boy in Brazil started in futsal – me, Oscar, David Luiz, Ramires, Neymar, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Robinho – everyone!’ lists Piazon.

‘When we move to the big pitch it is hard because we do the first touch like this so we get a bit confused, but now I never do this anymore, just the normal way. I still use some of the futsal techniques a bit and it is good because futsal is in a small space and that helps you when play football and there are a lot of players in a small space.’

Piazon was fortunate to come from a family background where a good education was possible as well as encouragement on a sporting front. When football started to become important in his life he was told as long as he continued to do well at school his parents would always support his playing. Fortunately the good grades kept coming, with his favourite subjects geography and Portuguese.

‘When I was very young I used to like maths but that got too hard. When it was just numbers I was very good!’ he recalls with a smile. His English can’t have been bad either if his current, articulate use of the language is anything to go by.

He started to play for the junior side of local club Coritiba and then Atletico Paranaense, where he would also go with friends to watch the first team play. And then came a move to Sao Paulo FC, back in his native city and the club that developed former Chelsea man Juliano Belletti, as well as Brazilian legends Kaka and Cafu, and more recently Oscar.

‘The difference between the academy at Chelsea and the one at Sao Paulo and the other academies in Brazil is we have many more players in Brazil,’ points out Piazon. ‘At Sao Paulo in the Under-15s you have 25 players, the Under-17s you have 25, the Under 20s, 20.

‘But I think the quality doesn’t change too much. The players in Brazil they like to pass more, here they are more strong so it is hard to compare because it is a different way to play – but if you played Chelsea v Sao Paulo at Under-15s or Under-17s it would be a very good game.’

Piazon

The support from his parents extended to them moving to live in England a few months after he joined Chelsea and they are there at any game he might possibly play. But he was unlikely to lack Brazilian company at the club anyway. It could be a lazy assumption to think all our Brazilians like to spend time together but in this case that conviviality appears genuine.

‘When I came there were three Brazilians already here and when Oscar came there were three as well and I think it was good for him, how it was for me,’ says Piazon.

‘It helps you to adapt and to get closer to the people in the club and that is really important. We are always together, in each other’s houses, in David’s house, in Rami’s house, and it is good to be like this.’

Settled in England and moving forward at Chelsea (in January he signed a contract extension until 2017), Piazon fits well with the style of football being developed at the club.

‘I think I can play right wing, left wing or no. 10, or as a last option striker as well. I think my best position is left wing but if I need to play any of the others then that is no problem.’

Nothing of course is to be taken for granted when it comes to team selection, but he must be looking at the Capital One Cup date with Manchester United at the end of the month, hoping to make another step forward in his promising, young career.

BLUES IN UNDER-19 INTERNATIONAL ACTION

Two members of the Chelsea team that won the FA Youth Cup last season were in international action on Tuesday, as qualification tournaments began ahead of next summer’s European Under-19 Championship in Lithuania.

Nathan Ake (pictured), who was also part of the Netherlands Under-17 side that won the European Championships for that age group back in May, played 72 minutes for the Dutch U-19s and scored the second goal in a comprehensive 5-0 win over Malta in Poland.

Striker Islam Feruz played the whole match but didn’t score in Scotland U-19s’ 4-0 win over Armenia but he played a major part in creating the second goal. The Scots have the advantage of playing their tournament at home. Alex Davey, who is also part of the Scotland squad, didn’t take part due to a hamstring injury.

DINE WITH LEGENDS AT THE ANNUAL LUNCH

Tickets for this year’s Annual Lunch are on sale and selling fast, with more than 40 ex-Chelsea players already confirmed to attend.

The parade of former Blues include members of teams from the past six decades, all descending on Stamford Bridge on Friday, November 30 to celebrate more than 100 years of your favourite club. Last year Frank Lampard dropped in to discuss his Chelsea career with host Jonny Gould, and there will be plenty to talk about once again at the home of the European champions.

Raising money for the Chelsea Foundation and Past Players Trust, the Lunch returns for its 17th year, where guests will receive a drinks reception, three-course lunch and complimentary beer, wine and soft drinks, as well as entertainment provided over the course of the afternoon.

Tickets are priced at £140 + VAT. To find out more and order, click here.

This is one of the most popular social events of the year, and seats are sold on a first come, first serve basis, so please ensure you book early to avoid disappointment.

PAT NEVIN: POPULARITY STAKES

Former Chelsea winger turned media man Pat Nevin has been casting his eye over events this week, and would rather focus on the excellent football the side is presently playing than off-field distractions…


Another testing week has passed for the club, and that is before you even think about the football. Ashley Cole became embroiled in a Twitter commotion, which he quickly sent out an apology for and of course there was the fallout from the case against John Terry rumbling on.

I think we have heard plenty about the case against the captain without going into detail here. As it isn’t often stated however, it is worth remembering that while being found guilty by the FA and heavily punished, he still claims to be not guilty, was found not guilty by a court of law and it was stressed by the FA that even within their harsh condemnation they in no way thought he was or is a racist.

Whatever your position, one thing is crystal clear from the midst of the disagreement and confusion, and that is that Chelsea are not particularly liked by many fans of other Premier League clubs right now, so nothing new there then I guess.

Being successful and being disliked go hand in hand in English football. Leeds United were abhorred in their heyday and Liverpool (pictured below) were not greatly loved during the 70s and 80s outside their own following while Manchester United similarly went through a phase of being only grudgingly accepted as a great side during their most successful time. Man City will also have to start getting used to it as well, particularly as they will always be hit by the comment: ‘You only bought your success.’ Have a look at the others who have been hugely successful however and you will find that they too spent more than the vast majority of the rest, even if the sums are much higher now.

It is not a peculiarly English attitude; apart from Celtic and Rangers supporters in Scotland you will be hard pushed to find many fans who give them credit for their flying the flag for the country on the biggest stages over the years. It is simply a cultural attitude and there is little or no point in complaining about it. For all the failings of these individual clubs while being successful, in short would you rather your team was patronisingly loved while losing or passionately disliked while collecting a barrel load of trophies?

1982


So while the media storm blew around Stamford Bridge and the manager had to deal with it continually, somehow the superb start to the season carried on regardless. Maybe it is too much to hope that Chelsea will be admired for the current style in the short term, but maybe if there are more and more performances of skill, attacking and attractive football with plenty of goals and chances being created then eventually there will be a little more acknowledgement as the season progresses.

I was at the Newcastle v Manchester United game on Sunday after closely studying City on Saturday and it would seem that at last, the top teams are now all slipping rather effortlessly into gear and what is more they are doing that with a certain élan. Arsenal can be added to that group which means that the top clubs are now all worth watching even for the neutral, if there is such a thing in the modern football world.

Be it Cazorla, David Silva, Wayne Rooney or our own Eden Hazard you get the feeling someone every week will do something totally exceptional. Last month Oscar scored one of the great goals of the modern era but equally Tom Cleverey pitched in with a world-class strike at Newcastle at the weekend.

I mention all this because even though I openly want Chelsea to win every game they play I am quick to applaud and celebrate greatness anywhere else in the game. I wish that was a more prevalent attitude because after all even though it is tribal at times surely at heart the beautiful game is an entertainment to be enjoyed and its genius moments celebrated.

Sadly the great goals will always get less coverage than the negative stories, but of course they sell more newspapers and stir up more heated debate. Without ever wanting to brush misdemeanours under the carpet, I actually applaud the FA for taking the subject of racism as seriously as it does, I just wish someone had come up to me at some point in the past few weeks to talk about the moments of greatness as well as those events that are less endearing.

Last week’s question was to tell me the name of a player who had starred for both Chelsea and MK Dons. The clue was in the article in that I had mentioned Tore Andre Flo during the piece. Other names were suggested but the likes of Vinnie Jones and Dennis Wise were of course Wimbledon players, the former incarnation of the club, so they didn’t count. There are also a few other suggestions mentioning non-first team ex-Chelsea players such as Carl Magnay, Filipe Morais, Stuart Searle, Joe Tillen and Danny Woodards.

So from a huge number of correct entries the randomly chosen winner was Akash Dhargalkar from Goa, India. Congratulations and the prize will be on its way very soon.

This week to stand a chance of being the lucky winner of a Juan Mata-signed Champions League Review DVD, could you tell me the name of any player who has played and scored for the first teams of both Chelsea and Newcastle United? Answers as ever to me at [email protected]

Enjoy the international break this week and good luck to your chosen country unless of course you are from Wales on Friday and from Belgium next week! (Even I am openly a little biased when it comes to my own country, Scotland!)