Sports minister attacks France squad

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The Independent Football

Sports minister Roselyne Bachelot has told France's World Cup players they are no longer heroes in the eyes of children.

The squad returned to training yesterday after they boycotted Sunday's training session in protest.

They were outraged at Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka being banished by the French Football Federation after his row with coach Raymond Domenech became public knowledge.

Acting on the instructions of France president Nicolas Sarkozi, Bachelot confronted the players and then held an impromptu media briefing at the Free State Stadium.

She said: "I told the players they had tarnished the image of France. It is a morale disaster for French football.

"I told them they could no longer be heroes for our children. They have destroyed the dreams of their countrymen, their friends and supporters."

Bachelot confirmed an official investigation would be conducted after the tournament and added: "The government has to intervene as the reputation of France is at stake in this case."

France face South Africa today in danger of making an early exit after taking one point from two games but Domenech backed the decision to expel Anelka.

He said: "The sanction is justified and I support the federation. Nobody should behave in such a way. High level sportsmen have to lead by example."

Explaining why he had read out a statement last night on behalf of the players after they refused to train, Domenech said: "It was an aberration. We had to do something. The French people had a right to know.

"What I should have said at the end of the message was that I did not support this action."

Asked if some players might not want to play, Domenech avoided the question and said: "I will pick the players who are mentally and physically in the best shape to win the game."

Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira will make five changes to the side that lost to Uruguay, two of them enforced, as Kagisho Dikgacoi and goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune are both suspended.

Even a win for his side would not be enough if Mexico and Uruguay play out a draw.

Parreira is convinced the top two teams will play fair and said: "I'm sure the players will not make a deal and say let's draw this game.

"Maybe one of the two teams do not want to play Argentina and they will go for a win. So we will never know what's going on in their minds.

"The reality is that is it out of our hands but that will not affect our motivation for the game."