Another tournament, another ignominious exit for France. Bitterness and recrimination have come to lie as squarely at the heart of the French tournament experience these days as talk of the panacea of the youth academy at Clairefontaine did 12 years ago. It wasn't quite as bad as the World Cup – no strike action this time, no embarrassing footage of sulky millionaires huddled motionless on training pitches – but the sense of rancour was just the same.
Not surprisingly, patience has long since expired. "The levels of intellect and talent in that team are catastrophic," the former France captain Jean-Michel Larqué commented. "Les Bleus are rubbish and stupid."
There was something insipid, almost timid about their approach against Spain, but that isn't the biggest problem. It's a question of attitude, the sense of a team of egos and individuals who care nothing for France or its values, for whom the national team has, perhaps, become a chore.
The worst offender, of course, was Samir Nasri, who responded to a simple question in the post-match mixed zone by hissing at the reporter: "You are looking for s**t. You are looking for trouble."
The reporter shrugged and, relatively politely, told Nasri to get lost. Nasri turned back, shouted "F**k you", and, amid a stream of further abuse, suggested he and the journalist have what Oleg Blokhin would call a "man talk" before being led away by French media relations staff.
"There, now you'll be able to say I've been badly brought up," Nasri added, a pretty explicit reference to the theory posited after the World Cup farrago that a generation of players had grown up with no sense of respect for the structures and traditions of France and French football. Given the volatility of the banlieues and the emotions raised in France by the subject of immigration, it's a sensitive topic.
France manager Laurent Blanc described the opening Xabi Alonso goal as "infuriating" but the real problem was France's reactive strategy once they had gone behind. There was a flatness to them and Spain looked assured of their place in Wednesday's semi-final against Portugal even before Alonso's late penalty made it 2-0.Reuse content