Jacquet has no regrets over team

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The Independent Online
France reacted to shoot-out elimination from Euro 96 with a collective disappointed shrug of the shoulders and regretful acceptance that a team who had gone 27 matches without defeat and were tipped for victory had not done themselves justice.

No cars were burned along the Champs-Elysees and there were no reports of outbreaks of violence in provincial towns.

Newspapers could not resist front-page headlines referring to "Czech- mate" (a pun that actually works better in English than French) but pointed out that after four hours of normal play in the quarter and semi-finals without managing a goal - two hours each against the Netherlands and the Czech Republic - France had not established any great moral claim to the trophy.

"You didn't deserve to go to Wembley," the sports daily, l'Equipe, said, asking French players "not to forget the lesson" as they look ahead to the 1998 World Cup which France is hosting.

L'Equipe said the coach, Aime Jacquet, had laid the foundations for the World Cup by creating a solid defence, but criticised the team's lack of firepower. It also attacked the French playmaker Zinedine Zidane. "He was dubbed a new Platini before Euro 96. He is at best a would-be Platini," it said.

Liberation said: "The overcautious French have only themselves to blame - they chose to wait and see and it proved a fatal choice."

France Soir commented: "The shadow of Eric Cantona hung over Old Trafford. Cantona was axed by Jacquet for fear that his overwhelming personality may hamper France's solidarity. Cantona disturbs. He is a troublemaker, but he scores goals."

The papers also noted that it was at Old Trafford, home of the great philosopher, that France were eliminated.

Jacquet went on the defensive, saying the Championship had helped France take a "big step" forward. "I have absolutely no regrets," he said about his squad. "I had total conviction [about my selection], although afterwards one can say anything."

The rancid chauvinism of the English tabloids was not echoed here except on the lips of Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the extreme right National Front, and his criticism was directed not at the team's opponents but at several of its players.

He complained that some of the squad either did not or could not sing the words of the Marseillaise and claimed that there were too few true Frenchmen in it, though in fact all bar one were born in metropolitan France or its overseas territories.

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