France defender Bacary Sagna laments 'avoidable' infighting at Euro 2012


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The Independent Football

Defender Bacary Sagna has lamented the "avoidable" infighting that he believes "wasted" France's hopes of glory at Euro 2012.

France had arrived in Poland and Ukraine on the back of a long unbeaten run but meekly exited the tournament following a 2-0 quarter-final defeat to Spain on Saturday.

Following that loss reports of unrest in Laurent Blanc's squad intensified, with reports in France today suggesting the national association will meet on Tuesday to mete out punishments.

Manchester City Samir Nasri has been at the centre of the controversies with L'Equipe reporting the midfielder could be banned for two years after he was alleged to have confronted a journalist.

Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa was also reported to have clashed with Blanc after the 2-0 defeat against Sweden, while Arsenal target Yann M'Vila and Jeremy Menez have also been embroiled.

The unsavoury claims have brought back memories of France's disastrous 2010 World Cup, when Les Bleus crashed out at the group stage after the players refused to train following the expulsion of Nicolas Anelka.

"It's a shame. We had the potential to go further," said Sagna, who did not travel to Euro 2012 after breaking his leg for Arsenal in May.

"People would take me for a madman for saying that, but I saw a team that could go to the final. I had faith in them.

"I was especially annoyed to hear the stories going around. That's regrettable - in the end it gives a bad image of us, the team. It's a waste of a competition. Everything was avoidable.

"It's a shame that this never leaves the team alone."

Sagna refused to condemn his former Arsenal team-mate Nasri, who he did admit "speaks his mind", after the midfielder had been at the centre of media criticism before the alleged incident.

"This is a sensitive issue and I was not there but I know when something does not please Samir he speaks his mind," Sagna, who was part of the last World cup squad, told L'Equipe.

"He can have a violent reaction but you have to share your responsibilities. When someone attacks the press it will not go away.

"With the excitement of the game and everything that was written about him it was perhaps not the right time to respond. He should have kept his cool but it weighed on him.

"The Euros had not even started and the press had already criticised him. Everyone is human."

Blanc was drafted in to replace Raymond Domenech following France's inglorious World Cup exit and had seemingly turned fortunes around.

The former World Cup and European Championship winner's future at France's helm has now been left in doubt though, with his contract set to expire soon, but Sagna thinks he should remain.

"Everyone is in agreement when they say that he did a good job," he said.

"What we need is more games together to create a real team atmosphere.

"We need to ignore what is being said and create our own bubble to concentrate on football and ourselves."

Former boss Domenech hit out at the current group of players and claimed they lacked leadership.

"[Euro 2012] showed the full extent of our weaknesses," he told French newspaper Ouest-France.

"A major tournament reveals the strength of a group, a generation.

"The most glaring [weakness is] their inability to see anything other than their navel."

"Nasri has been the visible symbol. Karim Benzema - requires support in the penalty area. For France, he is alone. He wanted to be the saviour - it was mission impossible.

"The case of Franck Ribery is symptomatic of the mood. Franck has been affected by his desire to live up to his image."

On the lack of leadership, he pointed at the fact skipper Patrice Evra played just one group game, saying: "The leaders have disappeared.

"Patrice Evra remained on the bench. Florent Malouda, spokesman for the team, finished the Euros without further impact.

"There were those that were expected [to perform]. They disappointed, and others who have had no reaction, which is equally inexcusable."