Domenech lays into 'imbeciles' and prepares to drop ringleaders
Preview: France v South Africa, 3pm, Bloemfontein, ITV1
Tuesday 22 June 2010
After the mutiny, the backlash as the France players who had gone on strike and humiliated their own manager were turned upon by their fans, their sponsors and their coach.
Raymond Domenech, who was called "a son of a whore" by Nicolas Anelka during France's defeat to Mexico on Thursday, and was then forced by his own players to read out a statement condemning the decision to send him home, last night accused his own footballers of being "imbeciles". Zinedine Zidane, for many still the spiritual leader of French football, also attacked the refusal of the players to train on Sunday in support of Anelka while two advertising campaigns featuring the team were cancelled.
Needing to overcome a South Africa side that is scarcely more united to have any chance of taking a group of players – a team they are not – to the last 16 of the World Cup, Domenech is likely to axe some of the leading rebels, including the captain, Patrice Evra. The Manchester United defender was notably absent from the press conference in Bloemfontein yesterday and he, with Franck Ribéry, is likely to be dropped. Thierry Henry, for whom this is almost certainly his final match, may not be given a chance for a proper farewell since he was also among the ringleaders. Henry's international career began against South Africa in 1997 and now it is likely to fade away on the bench in a rugby stadium in the republic.
"On Sunday, I spent 45 minutes with them trying to convince the players of the idiocy, the imbecility and the unparalleled stupidity of what they were about to do," said Domenech last night. "With my staff and members of the French Football Federation, we tried to convince them that they could not be permitted to go on strike.
"Then I decided I had to stop this masquerade there and then and I took the piece of paper they had prepared and went out to speak to the press. I completely support the decision to send Nicolas Anelka home. Nobody can be allowed to act like this, whether it is in the dressing room or anywhere else. High-level sportsmen have a duty to set an example.
"To say the least, this game has been difficult to prepare and I am sorry. People back home no longer expect words from these players, they expect action. I have always chosen the team and I will continue to do so – and nobody will tell me how to prepare the team or who to pick."
Following the resignation of the French Football Federation's director, Jean-Louis Valentin, the support structure of the national team continued to unravel. Two of the team's leading sponsors, Credit Agricole and the Quick fast-food chain, yesterday dropped advertising campaigns featuring the players while a survey by the French sport's daily L'Equipe suggested that 81 per cent of its readers were opposed to the strike action.
You wonder how Sir Alex Ferguson, his club manager, would have dealt with Evra's mutiny, although speaking to a New York radio station, Sirius XM, the Manchester United manager said its origins lay in the loss of Domenech's authority when it was confirmed he would be replaced by Laurent Blanc after the tournament.
"France have been terrible," said Ferguson. "I think it was bad preparations for the players to know Domenech was leaving and Laurent Blanc coming in. They should have brought Blanc along as an overseer or assistant."
What to watch out for: South Africa also on the defensive
The South Africa captain Aaron Mokoena insists there is no dissent in the ranks ahead of today's vital Group A match against France. There have been reports of favouritism in Carlos Alberto Parreira's squad. But the Portsmouth defender said: "Some people are so disappointed there have not been any problems in the group. The atmosphere is the camp is incredible. I am certainly not aware of any rifts."
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