Domenech hits back at 'foolhardy brats' in French World Cup squad

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The Independent Online

Former France coach Raymond Domenech has branded members of the national team "foolhardy brats" after speaking out for the first time about their World Cup debacle.

Domenech admitted he made mistakes in South Africa last summer, but insisted he has been unfairly blamed for the players refusing to train as his authority crumbled at the tournament.

France recorded only one point – from a 0-0 draw in the opening game with Uruguay – as they crashed out of the competition in the group stages, but the summer is already remembered for members of the team going on strike after Nicolas Anelka was sent home for criticising Domenech.

The coach, who stood down as planned following the tournament, has taken the blame for the incident but is now coming out fighting with a forthright interview due to be published in full in today's L'Express.

"Everyone is talking instead of me," he said in extracts that appeared on the newspaper's website. "I want to restore the truth. I'm not the moron that people are describing me as. Let's be clear: I got it wrong, I mustn't have chosen the right players nor found the words that were needed. I do not accept the criticism of politicians, nor that of former players who have turned to journalism, but that does not prevent me from drawing my own evaluation."

It was during the 2-0 defeat to Mexico in France's second game of the tournament that Anelka confronted Domenech, ultimately leading to the striker's dismissal from the team. The players protested by refusing to train the following day, and the situation escalated further when the captain Patrice Evra and the fitness coach Robert Duverne became embroiled in a furious row. The players then returned to the team bus for a meeting and closed the curtains.

Describing the day, and his attempts to talk his players around, Domenech said: "It was more than an hour that we had been there. It was really necessary that someone take responsibility and stop that charade. All the cameras were focused on the bus, hundreds of kids were waiting on the sidelines. We were the laughing stock of the world."

Following the tournament, Evra, Franck Ribéry, Jérémy Toulalan and Eric Abidal took the bulk of the blame – and suspensions – for their role in the incident, but Domenech said all the players acted together.

"If there were any [leaders], I did not see them. Every time I went up [into the bus], there was no one," he said. "At this point, I told myself that they went crazy and they don't realise. Now I know I was wrong: they knew very well what they were doing.

"They even closed the curtains of the bus to hide themselves from cameras. With hindsight, I see them mainly as a bunch of foolhardy brats."

Domenech, whose time in charge was filled with moments of eccentricity, revealed he has received all manner of offers outside football since the summer, but he has so far turned them all down. "Above all, I do not want controversy. I have had offers for the theatre, for the cinema... Nothing on TV, no. Honestly, how can we imagine me in a reality television show?" he said.

"I still need to brush aside certain memories before being able to start a new adventure. It's like love: you have to have forgotten a woman to be able to love another."

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