Anelka says France team were united over boycott

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The Independent Football

One might think Nicolas Anelka would want to keep his head down and his mouth shut following his expulsion from the France camp during the country's embarrassing World Cup campaign for insulting the manager, Raymond Domenech. But the striker was back on the attack yesterday, insisting that the whole camp had been united behind him and criticising the former player Bixente Lizarazu for speaking out.

The rest of the France squad opted to strike in support of Anelka after the Chelsea player was sent home from the tournament following a row with Domenech. The disruption was followed by Les Bleus losing their final group game 2-1 to South Africa and going out of the tournament.

Reports in the French media have suggested some members of the squad were coerced into taking part in the strike, but Anelka said that had not been the case. "Everyone, and I mean everyone, was united," the 31-year-old said. "If there were players who wanted to train, they should speak now. But I am 100 per cent certain that nobody will. If it was not from me that everything was precipitated, this would have happened with someone else. It had to explode."

His team-mate Jérémy Toulalan accepted the whole squad should be punished for boycotting training, saying: "I'm not proud of what I did but I accept responsibility. There were no ringleaders and no slaves, no good guys and no bad guys. We were all involved and we are all responsible because nobody said a word [against the boycott]."

Anelka appreciated the Lyons midfielder's stance. "It takes a form of courage and a strong mentality from Jérémy to take it. I am proud to have played with him and the team of France. Jérémy is a players' player."

Anelka was not so complimentary about former France full-back Lizarazu, who accused the forward of "strolling" and playing "in a selfish manner". Anelka responded by asking: "Lizarazu – who is he? When he speaks and we listen, we seem to hear a living legend. He's just a former player in lack of recognition, frustrated by the success of his mates [Zinedine] Zidane and [Christophe] Dugarry. Has he forgotten that he was at the 2002 World Cup? I was not included in the squad but I refrained from comment. He should stop talking about respect."

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