France back Domenech 'until 2010'

Boost to World Cup hopes and 'enthusiasm' of players save coach from the sack
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The Independent Football

Raymond Domenech will continue as the France coach until 2010, French Football Federation president Jean-Pierre Escalettes said yesterday. All but one of the federation council's 20 members voted in favour of Domenech staying. "Raymond Domenech will remain in charge until 2010 under the terms of his contract," Escalettes told a news conference.

The same council decided in July that Domenech would carry on despite France's group stage elimination from Euro 2008 but the coach had been told then that he needed to improve results. The 56-year-old, who has had a difficult relationship with some of his players and the media, appeared in danger of being sacked after France started their qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup with a shock 3-1 defeat in Austria.

France then defeated Serbia 2-1 at home and fought back from two goals down for a 2-2 draw in Romania before convincingly beating Tunisia 3-1 in a friendly at Stade de France on Tuesday. "I saw enthusiasm and goals in a game played in the spirit we're looking for," said Domenech after the victory over Tunisia.

"There's always something happening with us at the moment. There are imperfections, and then a reaction. That team never give up and that's good. I only worry about what happens on the pitch and the only thing I feel like now is having a beer."

The World Cup runners-up, who are fourth in Group Seven two points behind leaders Serbia and Lithuania after three games, face a struggle to qualify for the finals in South Africa.

France still need to solve the defensive problems that led to them conceding seven goals in their last four outings. There has been some improvement in form lately, however, and Domenech, who was criticised by Escalettes for communicating poorly with the media, has kept a low profile recently.

The coach also received the backing of leading members of the team, including record goalscorer Thierry Henry, the captain in the absence of the injured Patrick Vieira.

"Something has happened and it would be criminal to change [the coach] now that we're on the right track," Escalettes said. "We believe that an important step has been taken towards rebuilding the team. Now Raymond must be left in peace. There is work to be done, notably in defence, but the players showed that they could play with enthusiasm and that's what we expected from them."

Escalettes then left the federation's headquarters for the Elysée palace, where the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, summoned him to talk about the atmosphere at the friendly against Tunisia.

The crowd clearly favoured the visitors, with fans from the country's large Tunisian population packing the Stade de France.

The French anthem was booed, as was Domenech's name when it was announced by the speaker before the game, and the France players were jeered every time they had possession of the ball.

Feeling Les Bleus: Gallic year to forget


12 September, Euro 2008 Qualifying: France 0 Scotland 1

13 October, Euro 2008 Qualifying: Faroe Islands 0 France 6

17 October, Euro 2008 Qualifying: France 2 Lithuania 0

21 November, Euro 2008 Qualifying: Ukraine 2 France 2


9 June, Euro 2008 finals: Romania 0 France 0

13 June, Euro 2008 Finals: Netherlands 4 France 1

17 June, Euro 2008 Finals: France 0 Italy 2

6 September, World Cup Qualifying: Austria 3 France 1

10 September, World Cup Qualifying: France 2 Serbia 1

11 October, World Cup Qualifying: Romania 2 France 2