France suspend entire World Cup squad

New France coach Laurent Blanc has taken the decision to suspend the entire 23-man squad which took part in this summer's failed World Cup campaign for next month's friendly against Norway.

Les Bleus' campaign ended in failure and controversy, as they managed only one point and one goal from three games in Group A and were left in disarray when the squad refused to train two days before their final game against hosts South Africa.

A number of senior figures had called for sanctions against the perceived ringleaders of the protest - but Blanc proposed to exclude the whole party at a meeting today with the French Football Federation's federal council, who ratified the decision.

A statement on www.fff.fr today read: "Laurent Blanc met this Friday, July 23, with the federal council, to whom he presented his staff and his sporting project.

"He also proposed to the federal council, who accepted, not to retain for the friendly against Norway, on Wednesday August 11 in Oslo, any of the 23 players officially selected by the French Football Federation for the World Cup in South Africa.

"Laurent Blanc will release the list of players retained for this match against Norway on Thursday August 5 at 11.30."

The strike, on June 20, came after Chelsea forward Nicolas Anelka was sent home from the tournament following a heated exchange with then coach Raymond Domenech at half-time during the defeat to Mexico on June 17.

Captain Patrice Evra accused a "traitor" within the party of leaking details of Anelka's foul-mouthed rant to the media and of destabilising the squad, and was then seen arguing with fitness coach Robert Duverne at the start of the scheduled training session.

Duverne stormed off the training ground and the squad headed for their bus and refused to train, leaving Domenech to read a statement to the press on their behalf.

Former France defender Lilian Thuram and Marcel Desailly called for Evra to be banned from national team duty over his part in the insurrection, and departing federation president Jean-Pierre Escalettes took a similar stance on Anelka.

But Blanc said upon his unveiling as Domenech's successor: "It is not for me to decide on sanctions. I am not the bogeyman. If I consider they are the best players in their position, I will take them."

Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris admitted earlier today that the decision to strike was "completely stupid".

The Lyon star told L'Equipe: "We acted as a team. To strike was the decision of a squad who felt lonely, who believed that no-one had stood up for them and who had a message to convey.

"We went too far. It was a very awkward decision, a big mistake. It was completely stupid. But there were so many problems."

Lloris vowed to work with his team-mates to help repair the damage under Blanc, saying: "We all want to improve the image of Les Bleus.

"We must make all possible effort, give everything. It's important for us.

"We must go back to basics - respect for the jersey, of course, the team and the institution of France.

"We have a great desire that what happened in South Africa should not happen again, that there should be no self-destruction like that any more."

Club-mate Jeremy Toulalan previously called for any sanctions to be applied equally to all squad members, telling July 11's Journal du Dimanche: "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)."

Arsenal trio Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy and Abou Diaby, former club-mate William Gallas, Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery, Barcelona's Eric Abidal, Chelsea pair Anelka and Florent Malouda and Bordeaux playmaker Yoann Gourcuff are also among the notable players affected by Blanc's decision.

The opening qualifier for Euro 2012, at home to Belarus on September 3, thus represents the first opportunity for any of the 23 to feature in Blanc's line-up.

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