This could be very amusing.
France took their place in these finals only after Thierry Henry’s handball allowed William Gallas to knock out the Republic of Ireland in a play-off game that will long be remembered. Now the 1998 world champions are again grabbing the attention for all the wrong reasons.
Rather than count their blessings that they are in this tournament at all and cherish an opportunity to make good the wrongs of a wretched qualification campaign, Raymond Domenech’s players approach Friday night’s opener against Uruguay bickering as only they can.
And Henry is again at the heart of it, for Domenech doesn’t intend to pick him. At least, he doesn’t want to. But player power has come to the fore with influential members of the squad making it clear that their one-time talisman should take his place in the starting XI.
The French have never trusted Domenech. His players have long felt they know better than a coach who always looks too downtrodden and travel-weary for a man with one of international football’s plum jobs.
And here in South Africa, the 58-year-old coach appears not to have the support of his squad.
Sources close to the French team suggested on Wednesday night that the majority of Domenech’s players would like to see Henry and Abou Diaby in Friday’s team at the expense of Yoann Gourcuff and Sidney Govou.
During their recent friendly against Costa Rica, it was suggested that Nicolas Anelka refused to pass to Gourcuff while Franck Ribery is also said to have been selective in his passing during the embarrassing recent defeat by China.
Domenech has not publicly acknowledged that these problems exist. It is, however, a familiar tale. He put up with similar waves of mutiny while guiding France to the final against Italy in Germany four years ago.
Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna said: ‘We can maybe give him some advice or help but even if we were to offer it I don’t think he would listen. The most important thing is the team.’
But Chelsea’s French striker Florent Malouda urged unity, saying: ‘We have to create links between players, we can’t just think, “I’m not interested in what others do”.
‘We are going to look ridiculous if, as we did at Euro 2008, each player stays in his comfort zone aiming only for good marks from the media to the detriment of the team.’ (Daily Mail)
There has been talk of a World Cup curse being placed on the competition as a whole, hence the mass injuries that have been suffered of late. However the French team could well be the beneficiary of their own curse following the manner in which they made it to South Africa, and by ‘manner’ we of course mean ‘cheat’.
It could prove to be a disastrous World Cup for the Raymond Domenech and his squad. They are expected to fail miserably, perhaps not even qualify from an average group, but hell if they take to the field and then refuse to pass to each other that would be the most hilarious sight ever seen. It will be even funnier than when that Zaire player forgot how free-kicks worked.
There are some who are suggesting that this bad build up, bad blood and fortuitous qualification (by ‘fortuitous’ we mean ‘cheat’) could actually help the 1998 World Cup Winners to romp to a successful campaign. Those people are wrong…and stupid.