After being eliminated from another international tournament, finishing with 10 men against Italy, a cull of the ageing French squad looks likely. Hollywood has taught us that remakes are rarely as enthralling as originals, and France v Italy 2008 was not quite the contest that France v Italy 2006 was. 60m French citizens must be feeling much the same way I felt when I paid £8 to watch ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’. Deep down they knew what would happen, but they kidded themselves along the way.
For starters, the BBC commentators were already speculating about whether Didier Deschamps will be able to bring the glory back as Raymond Domenech’s successor before the game had even finished. It is no secret that Deschamps is touting himself around Europe, and Domenech has no chance of keeping his job after his senseless tinkering during the group phase. He was foolish to persist with Thuram and Malouda for the first two games, when neither had found any form for their clubs all year.
Domenech was brave to leave out Henry initially against Romania in favour of Benzema, then lost his bottle and dropped the Lyon star against Holland. Benzema was one of the few bright sparks against the Azzurri, whilst Henry looked desperate, like a man who realised his time was up. Nicolas Anelka was already looking forward to soaking up the sun on Mr. Abramovich’s yacht. Bafetimbi Gomis’ only chance of getting near the Chelsea owner will be serving drinks in the Chelsea club bar… cue a ludicrous £10m bid from Newcastle or West Ham.
In truth, Euro 2008 comes at an awkward time for France. They needed this failure to permit a ruthless new coach to axe the tired legs of Thuram, Makelele, Viera and Henry and mould a new team around the likes of Benzema, Nasri and Toulalan. The wine world now looks to the up-and-coming vineyards of Australia, Chile and New Zealand and similarly, with a shift away from the 2002-2006 vintage, les Bleus could give players with more hunger like Philip Mexes, Mathieu Flamini, Bacary Sagna and Jeremy Menez a taste of international football.
So is there a bright future on the horizon for France? Should they call time on the old guard or stick with what they know? Are you a man for experience, or exuberance?