Wass the danger to OL
By D. Crossan
When Olympique Lyonnais travel to Evian-Thonon-Gaillard FC on Sunday lunchtime they will have to watch out for Evian's free-kick specialist Daniel Wass.
Evian Thonon-Gaillard FC - Olympique Lyonnais (kick-off 14:00CET)
The Danish international has become such a specialist in the discipline that his ability has drawn comparisons with former OL great Juninho, who terrorised Ligue 1 goalkepers throughout the club's halcyon days in the noughties.
Three of Wass' seven Ligue 1 strikes have been free-kicks, including a sublime strike in the 2-1 midweek win at Bastia, Evian's third maximum haul in a row. Wass has scored eight free-kicks from 42 attempts since 2011, three more than the next best in Ligue 1 in that time, Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint-Germain.
Evian coach Pascal Dupraz said after the Bastia game: "Daniel is walking on water, not in open play because I thought he was disappointing again this evening, but he has exceptional quality in his feet from set-pieces."
Back-up goalkeeper Benjamin Leroy added: "At Bastia you could sense their fans falling silent at every free-kick. Even away from home fans are expectant because it's so spectacular. As a goalkeeper it's a bit like coming up against a player taking penalties. I'd say he scores one in three in training and you really feel like he's capable of scoring from every kick."
Wass is getting the reward for the hard work he puts in on the training ground, as he stays behind after the organised sessions to attempt 15 or so free-kicks. Leroy said: "He tries all sorts of kicks. Sometimes ones that bounce, some that don't, some at mid-height. He places the ball at variable distances and tries out all the trajectories, sometimes dependent on the advice he gets. What's great is that he can put it where he wants even when generating effect on the ball."
OL got back to winning ways on Thursday in bizarre circumstances as Reims goalkeeper Johny Placide scored an own goal in stoppage time to allow Hubert Fournier to complete a 2-1 victory over his former club. It was a much-needed win after the 3-0 humbling to local rivals Saint-Etienne the previous Sunday.
Fournier is well aware of Wass' threat: "His quality gives his team-mates confidence because he can make the difference at any given time. We have to avoid giving away free-kicks around the box. The players know the danger and the coaching staff do too, but we're not going to develop a complex about it."
OL have the best home record in L1, but only the 13th-best away form, picking up six points from seven away games. Fournier said: "We need to play further up the pitch away from home. We need to try to impose our style of play. If the creative attacking players are available to me then I won't hesitate to use them. We haven't always been able to send out the ideal team.
Fournier would love to be able to incorporate Yoann Gourcuff and Clément Grenier's wily playmaking skills into the midfield diamond, but both French internationals are still short of match fitness and no chances will be taken with either player in order to avoid an injury relapse.