Let me preface my article by saying I have difficulty calling this team "France," as I am certain all of France right now is having difficulty understanding just what is going on with their national team down in South Africa; how a team as talented as theirs is having difficulty just keeping their composure off the field and has not scored a goal in two passion-less games against Uruguay and Mexico (0-0 and 2-0 performances respectively).
However, the team is representing France, and even I feel sorry for French football supporters to have to go through a disaster as big as this, a team which clearly does not deserve to be in this competition for several reasons, they haven't earned the right to be called "France."
I simply am just baffled at how the French team collectively has decided to act outside of the football pitch, with disgraceful displays that have certainly brought them shame and, I assume, has brought the French public some sleepless nights.
It is not how professionals of any sport should act, and it is not how players who are playing in what is the world's top sporting tournament should act. It simply brings nothing but shame to French football, especially the 23 members of France's squad.
Everyone knows the incident between Chelsea striker and disgraced French striker Nicolas Anelka, and an equally disgraced French coach Raymond Domenech, during France's 2-0 defeat at the hands of Mexico; where, during half-time, a frustrated Anelka lashed out at Domenech, calling him some bad names, which I am sure can't be posted on a family-friendly site such as this.
That incident, which occured in France's dugout, was then leaked out to the media by what France captain Patrice Evra called a "traitor" in France's locker room, and Anelka was then sent home by the French Football Federation (FFF), and then announced his retirement from international football.
The incident then led to Evra calling out France's fitness coach Robert Duverne, whom according to sources out of France, was accused by Evra of being the "traitor." The two had to be broken up by Domenech.
That incident was followed by the sudden resignation of team director Jean-Louis Valentin, who immediately went off to his car, threw his badge to the ground, and left France's training ground.
Said Valentin: "It's a scandal for the French, for the young people here. It's a scandal for the federation and the French team. They don't want to train. It's unacceptable.
"As for me, it's over. I'm leaving the federation. I'm sickened and disgusted."
Evra then handed a letter to Domenech after the incident, which essentially stated the squad's displeasure witsh the sending home of Anelka, and that the team as a whole would refuse to train during that day's training session.
Here was what the letter said: "The French Football Federation did not at any time try to protect the group. They took a decision uniquely based on facts reported by the press. As a consequence and to show our opposition to the decision taken by officials of the federation, all the players decided not to take part in today's training session."
These are just the latest in what has been a string of disgraceful displays from French football ever since making it to the World Cup final in 2006. Despite having arguably the best collection of talent of all of the 32 nations represented in the World Cup, Evra's assessment that France has become a "small footballing nation" sounds accurate to a degree.
These displays by the 23 members of the France football squad is just the latest black eye in French international football. Of course, Olympique Lyonnais made the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, and provided a saving grace for French football, but the French international football has just been an absolute mess ever since 2006.
Of course, France finished last in a group which featured Italy, Holland, and Romania in EURO 2008, earning only one point in the three games against those three nations. Everyone thought that it would mean the end of Domenech's tenure as France's manager, but instead the FFF decided to retain Domenech.
And then France struggled in World Cup qualifying, finishing behind Serbia in group-play, needing a playoff against a solid Republic of Ireland squad just to qualify for South Africa—a far cry from the days of Zinedine Zidane, Marcel Desailly and Didier Deschamps, when France was easily the best footballing nation in the world.
What followed in the playoff against the Republic of Ireland gave French football a black eye that will take a long time to recover from.
After a 1-0 win in Dublin, France quickly fell behind to Ireland after a goal from Robbie Keane in the 32nd minute of the game. There were no goals for the rest of the 90-minutes of the 2nd leg, and with the teams tied 1-1 with both teams scoring away goals, extra-time was needed to decide who would qualify.
What happened next will never be forgotten by football fans. French player Florent Malouda took a free kick just outside the center circle in the Irish half. He lofted it toward French captain Thierry Henry, who was making a run in the penalty area to Irish goalkeeper Shay Given's right hand side.
The ball bounced once to Henry, now inside the six yard box to the left of the goal. As it bounced upwards, Henry handled the ball twice with his left hand, stopping it from going out-of-play and bringing the ball under control, before tapping the ball with the outside of his right foot past Given standing at the near goal post. The ball travelled the short distance to William Gallas arriving in the middle of the goal, who headed the ball into the Irish net.
There was no scoring for the rest of the extra-time period, and France went through thanks to Henry's handball.
The Irish FA called for a replay of the game, but those calls were given the cold shoulder by FIFA. As a result, France pretty much only went through thanks to an illegal action/play by Henry.
Had Ireland gone through instead of the French, certainly the Irish would have conducted themselves with more class than the French so far, and would certainly have displayed more passion in the first two games than the French.
The fact of the matter, France's 23 squad members have clearly displayed no class and no sense of professionalism during their current World Cup run. Obviously, we all know Domenech is a bad coach, and a coach who shouldn't be managing as talented a side as France, but for Anelka to bad-mouth his coach thanks to his frustrations at how he is being positioned by Domenech, it's a disgraceful incident, and Anelka should reserve some respect for his coach, regardless of how bad Domenech is at coaching football.
I don't care what your rationale is, or who your coach is, a coach should always be respected by the player, and a coach will always be the authoritative figure in the locker room, not a player. For Anelka to just go out there and call out his coach in that fashion, he clearly deserved to be sent home by the FFF, and for France's squad members to support an unprofessional figure in Anelka, well they may have just one-upped Anelka in terms of unprofessionalism and classlessness.
For France to just refuse to train, and to make a stand such as that in what is the world's top sporting tournament, France has effectively disgraced both their nation and the tournament itself. It's a disrespect to the World Cup and what it stands for, and it shows that France's 23 squad members do not have passion for the game, and do not have respect for the game of football.
France faces an uphill battle just to even qualify for the knockout stages. They face host nation South Africa in their group stage finale, who also face an uphill battle of their own to avoid becoming the first host nation to not reach the knockout stages of the World Cup.
France will have to defeat South Africa, preferably by as big of a margain to settle goal difference issues, and hope for both Mexico and Uruguay to not play for a draw. Regardless, if France defeats South Africa, as long as Mexico and Uruguay draw, France will be eliminated, and it will be a disgraceful return home to Paris—more disgraceful than the first round exits in both the 2002 World Cup and EURO 2008.
At least France had the excuse of not having a healthy Zidane in the 2002 World Cup and the misfortune of playing in the Group of Death in EURO 2008. This time, only the disgusting lack of class and lack of professionalism from France will be remembered.
Playing in the World Cup is the goal for many football-playing children all over the world, and for France to act in this manner and disgrace the name of their nation, the World Cup, and the sport of football, shows just how much class and professionalism they have—absolutely nothing.
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