Sarkozy steps in to end the farce of French failure

President has agreed to Henry's request for a tête-à-tête today as Evra says squad must apologise
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The Independent Online

Thierry Henry will meet French president Nicolas Sarkozy today to discuss the country's failure in the World Cup after it emerged that the striker had called the leader during the tournament.

France's campaign, marred by infighting, the boycott of a training session and the sending home of striker Nicolas Anelka for insulting coach Raymond Domenech, ended on Tuesday with a 2-1 defeat by hosts South Africa that left them bottom of Group A without a win. "Thierry Henry called the president from South Africa and told him he wanted to see him as soon as possible after his return to France," government spokesman Luc Chatel said yesterday.

Sarkozy held a summit yesterday with the prime minister, François Fillon, sports minister Roselyne Bachelot and junior sports minister Rama Yade to discuss the country's dire performance.

The Manchester United full-back Patrice Evra, who lost his captain's armband and his place in the starting line-up for leading the players' rebellion, yesterday said that the squad should say sorry to the people of France.

"It's time for us to apologise," he said. "I promise to tell the truth about every minute of what I went through. French people need to know the truth because the France team belongs to them and nobody else. We lost our chance to qualify long ago. It has been difficult within the squad."

Florent Malouda said he feared the French players may always have to live with the shame of their chaotic campaign. "We are not proud of what we have done. I do not know what we will have to do to earn forgiveness."

Malouda indicated there were divisions in the group. "Given what happened before the match, it would have been a miracle if we had won," he said. "We did not have the right attitude to get beyond the group stage. I'd like to apologise on behalf of all the players. We'll be discussing things among ourselves. There's a lot of tension in the squad, which is not ideal when preparing for an important game."

Sports minister Bachelot said: "Those responsible for this disaster must accept the consequences, first the players, then the team management and after them the football federation."

French Football Federation president Jean-Pierre Escalettes will also host a meeting next month to investigate the campaign. He said: "Everyone will go before the federal council, the president, the players, the coach, the medical staff, to see who is responsible. There will probably be sanctions but I can't pre-empt what the council will decide. What upsets me the most is the drama of last weekend. For me 50 years of values crumbled."

Fifa said yesterday that no decision had been taken to act against coach Domenech for refusing to shake hands with South Africa's Carlos Alberto Parreira after the loss on Tuesday. Domenech appeared to breach Fifa guidelines on fair play when he snubbed his counterpart.

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