France send Anelka packing after bust-up with Domenech

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The Independent Football

Nicolas Anelka left the World Cup in disgrace yesterday after insulting the France coach, Raymond Domen-ech, and refusing to apologise. Anelka launched into an expletive-ridden tirade at Domenech at half-time during the 2-0 defeat by Mexico on Thursday after the coach had criticised the player's attitude on the pitch and decided to substitute him.

"The comments made by Nicolas Anelka are totally unacceptable and it was normal for us to take such a decision," the French Football Federation (FFF) president, Jean-Pierre Escalettes, told a news conference at France's base in Knysna.

The fact that Anelka's brutal words were printed on the front page by French sports daily L'Equipe on Saturday was not the reason why the FFF acted the way they did, Escalettes insisted. "We did our little inquiry and Raymond Domenech confirmed to us what was said."

Anelka, Escalettes said, muttered the words in a corner after Dom-enech's remarks and the coach heard them. The player refused to apologise, the FFF president added. The striker reacted by saying he had words with Domenech but denied having said the foul-mouthed comments attributed to him by L'Equipe.

"I have a lot of respect for France and for all my team-mates, I insist on that," Anelka told the French daily France Soir. "I wish to state that the words printed in the press were not my words."

"I did have a heated conversation with the coach in the secrecy of the locker room, between the coach and myself, in front of my team-mates and the staff. It should never have come out of the locker room."

France's captain, Patrice Evra, said he felt sorry for Anelka, who was playing in his first World Cup for the 1998 winners and 2006 runners-up and wasted a chance to show off his talent on the biggest stage of all.

"It's another hard blow to the France team," Evra said. "I'm hurt and he is hurt. He's sad to leave us because he loves that France team, unlike what is being said here and there."

Evra deplored that L'Equipe had printed Anelka's words, and also that somebody inside the team had told the newspaper what the player had said. "The problem is not Anelka, it's the traitor among us, who told the press what was said," the left-back said. "There's somebody in our group that wants to harm the France team."

The French sports minister, Roselyne Bachelot, urged the France players to show dignity. "The very high pressure weighing on Les Bleus does not authorise any form of slip-up," she said. "The players must keep in mind that they're wearing France's colours and are considered as role models by many youngsters. This obliges them to show restraint and dignity."

Jose Mourinho has written off his country's hopes of winning the World Cup, saying: "They are not candidates". Portugal endured a disappointing 0-0 draw with the Ivory Coast in their opening game of Group G.

The former Chelsea manager backs England as one of the candidates to win the World Cup. "Plus Spain with Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta," he added. "Argentina and Brazil are powerful. Italy have talented players."