French minister attacks team over luxury hotel

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The Independent Online

France have picked a World Cup hotel which is far too flashy and will have to account for it if the team make an early exit, the country's junior sports minister said yesterday.

The French squad, whose popularity at home has hit a depressing low after a string of uninspired performances including losing to China last week, arrived at the Pezula Resort, a luxury hotel at Knysna on the scenic Western Cape coastline on Saturday.

"Personally I would not have chosen that hotel," Rama Yade told French radio. "I had asked the football authorities to show decency. In times of crisis, you need to think about it."

And she warned: "If the team's results do not meet our expectations, the [French Football] Federation will have to account for this."

Describing itself as "a sanctuary of privacy and indulgence", the Pezula Resort boasts a secluded beach and stunning views of the Indian Ocean and the Knysna Lagoon. "It's a very nice hotel," France's playmaker Yoann Gourcuff told reporters. "We can prepare in ideal conditions. I'm very happy to be here but I didn't choose it."

The midfielder Alou Diarra sounded irritated by the junior minister's comments. "Many people must be jealous," he said. "We're very well looked after, but that's not a secret. The minister has her opinion but we must not worry about such things. We are here to prepare and we must focus on that."

France, who made an early exit from Euro 2008, are hoping for a repeat of their surprise run to the 2006 World Cup final in Germany and Diarra said he could see a likeness in the two squads. "There are similarities," he said. "We're in the same state of mind."

France open their Group A campaign against Uruguay on Friday in Cape Town but Diarra admitted they still had work to do after a surprise 1-0 defeat by China in their final warm-up match on Friday. "We have a bit of time left to fine-tune everything," he said. "We'll be ready."

The coach Raymond Domenech also accepted there was cause for concern after Friday capped a disappointing lead-in that saw France drawing 1-1 with Tunisia and coming from behind to edge Costa Rica 2-1. "There are always reasons to worry when you lose a match and when you don't score a goal," he said. "No one's going to say that's a joy, a pleasure. There are days like that ... we lacked freshness and spontaneity. With regard to all the chances which were created, there was something missing, that was obvious."

Against China, ranked 84th in the world, France dominated possession but all too often lacked the final ball. The French press have laid in to the team, whereas the ecstatic Chinese media are hailing a historic night. Domenech was left to accentuate the positives, saying ruefully: "Look at the match and the number of chances we had. It's true that once again we're asking ourselves how we could have missed them, but it's also the match where we created the most of them. That's the positive side.

"We just lacked the last touch, the dangerous positioning. I don't say that it's perfect, but it's better."