Why You’ll Like Him
One of the smarter and smoother defenders in the tournament, Gallas gallops around the field with ease Derided for his clumsy tackles and harsh play, often overlooked is the ease with which William Gallas moves around the field. Seemingly a thoroughbred, Gallas reads plays well and is quick to the spot for a tackle. He intervenes well and helps to put the plug in the opposing teams’ attack. He plays the ball out of the back competently and shows no rush to get the ball off of his feet. Gallas can rise to meet the ball or play with the ball with his feet. He can go up and back as well as side-to-side. He’s played at the highest levels of the game and never looked out of place. His temper may indicate otherwise, but from a pure movement perspective, Gallas is as smooth as they come.
Why You’ll Hate Him
France is in the World Cup because of his controversial goal. In a World Cup playoff versus Ireland with a spot in this summer’s tournament on the line, Thierry Henry got away with a handball that led to the winning goal. The replay of Henry’s handball has been replayed time and time again across the globe, but many forget that it was Gallas who got on the end of the Henry pass, following the handball. Without Gallas to get his head on the cross that followed the handball, France may not have gotten the win and be playing this summer.
Age: 32 (8/17/1977)
Position: Center back
Club Teams: Arsenal (2006-present), Chelsea (2001-2006), Marseille (1997-2001), Caen (1995-1997)
National Team Debut: October 12, 2002 vs. Slovenia Caps: 81
World Cups: 2006
After developing at the French Football Academy, Gallas went to Caen to begin his professional career. There, Gallas led Caen to promotion as second division champions and as the club was moving up, so was Gallas, who went to Olympique Marseille. With Marseille, Gallas played in the central defense not just in Ligue 1, but also in the club’s Champions League matches. His reputation grew and after four years with Marseille, Gallas caught the eye on English Premier League side, Chelsea. Across the Channel, Gallas thrived. Quickly earning a starting spot, Gallas spent five years with the London club. He won consecutive Premier League titles with the club and a League Cup. Gallas also played a key role in Chelsea’s run to the Champions League semifinals, where the Blues were eliminated when a Liverpool goal was deemed good despite replays showing that Gallas had cleared the ball off the line. Following the 2006 World Cup, Gallas expressed a desire to move from Chelsea and their overcrowded backline. The Blues agreed to his request and the center back found a new London address with Arsenal. After a season with the club, Gallas was handed the captain’s armband and while he never won a trophy with the club, he was a regular Champions League participants and played in over 100 matches for Arsenal.
Gallas’ career in the French shirt began as a youth player and he had immediate success. Debuting with the U-18 side, Gallas was a part of the team that won the U-18 European Championship. He also took part in the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship (now U-20 World Cup) and was a member of the France team that went to the Quarterfinals. Following his success with the youth teams, Gallas struggled to find a spot in the senior team because of the veteran presence that helped lead the team to a 1998 World Cup title. When the core of the 1998 team failed to make it out of the group stage in 2002, it was clear that France needed to move forward with young blood and that included Gallas. Months after the 2002 World Cup ended, Gallas was featured in the qualifying for Euro 2004. From that point on, Gallas has been a centerpiece in the France team. He was a member of the 2003 Confederations Cup winning side and then played in the 2006 World Cup Final. With 81 caps, Gallas has made himself comfortable in a French shirt and at the center of the defense is looked upon to lead the team to the success it experienced in 1998 and 2006.
What to Look For
Having qualified under controversy and recently suffered a loss to lowly China, France is one of the more criticized teams in the tournament. There are rumors of unrest in the France team and whether the team can play together is unknown. If the team is to find the success that their talent indicates is possible, it will be up to the experienced players on the team to keep everyone together. At 32 and as a veteran of a World Cup, Gallas will be looked upon to do that. In addition to what he must do to keep the team together, Gallas must also organize the back line. Sometimes slow and without cohesion, the French defense is never a sure thing. With some uncertainty up top and in the midfield, France will need Gallas to hold the back line together so they have one unit to lean upon. For all his positive attributes, Gallas has been known to make rash challenges and lose his temper. While talented, this France team is not good enough to withstand playing a man down. Gallas will need to keep a calm head on his shoulders and keep himself out of bad situations if they are to advance from Group A and beyond.