The French football team was finalist in the world cup ’06. Since then, nothing seems to work at all. The players are publicly striking; the manager withdraws because he could not get the job done. A result of sporting failure would be the first and easiest explanation. Even tough, it is wrong. The decline of French football is headlined by a coach, who cares neither for his players nor for his country, he is worried, first and foremost, about himself.
But to begin with, let us start going into the FIFA World Cup 2006:
After a mediocre qualification in a bad group and a returning Zinedine Zidane there were not too much certainties for France going into the World Cup. And as the squad began the tournament with two draws, some even were reminded of the dismal performance at the WC in 2002, as “Les Bleus” were eliminated in the first round.
Nevertheless, after a win over the struggling squad of Togo France advanced to the last 16 without losing a single game. But still, most observers said, that the France’s team chemistry in was poor, and the coach, Raymond Domenech was not respected at all by the players. Some even said, Thierry Henry, a world-class striker at that time, was not talking to the coach.
In said round of last 16, France faced highly favored Spain, which came of a first round in which they won all their games in convincing fashion. The assumption about the favouritee seemed to be dead on as David Villa scored the 1-0 on France 28 minutes into the game. But rising star Franck Ribery tied the game four minutes before the halftime. And as the game was still tied at one eighty minutes into it, it was time for Zidane to take center stage. After his free kick Patrick Viera, another respected veteran, scored and in the 92nd minute it was “Zizou” himself to put the game away. The French squad beat Spain in an athletically and mentally outstanding way and Zidane finally found his spot.
In the quarters France faced another highly favored team in Brazil, which was said to have the best offense in the world. The French defense seemed not to care about that too much, and Zinedine Zidane assisted another goal. This time it was on Thierry Henry to score. The game ended 1-0, and over those two games 5 players had risen to the leaders of the squad. Zidane was the undoubted leader, and in Henry, Vierra, Lilian Thuram and William Gallas the squad had another four experienced, besides Gallas all of them had already won a WC and the Euro, players at the top of their game.
No more talk about a team, battling with dispute from within or a disrespected coach.
The raise of world-class defending, veteran leadership and Zidane brought France into the finals, a game they lost in dramatic fashion, with “Zizou” loosing his cool.
Shortly thereafter, Zidane and Thuram retired and the following Euro Championship turned out to be a catastrophe. After gaining only one point in the tournament, change and hatred were in the air, but the excuses were just too good, and once again, the troubles were overlooked.
Speaking of excuses: In the Euro Championship, the French squad was in the same group as Italy and the Netherlands and lost their key-player, Franck Ribery, to injury and another one to a red card in the critical game against the Italians.
Even though the poor performance in the Euro, the qualification for the World Cup 2010 was considered a no-brainer. In the end, and after Henry playing hand in the PlayOff against the Irish France actually qualified for the tournament, but it really became obvious that “les Bleus” would run into some serious troubles if they would not get their game on before the actual tournament started.
Then some developments took place right before the World Cup. It was publicly declared that the journey to South Africa would be the last for Raymond Domenech as the head coach. Speaking of Domenech, he announced that Thierry Henry, the Nation’s top scorer and someone who always played extremely well in the blue jersey, was benched. Furthermore the coach changed the captain. William Gallas was discharged, and Patrice Evra became his successor. But not just that, as always, Domenech surprised with the nomination of his squad. Some gifted players were left out, including young and promising talents like Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema or Arsenal’s Samir Nasri. A former superstar, Patrick Viera, was not taken into account, either.
It was mentioned earlier, that the team leaders at the time of 2006’ success were Lilian Thuram, Thierry Henry, Patrick Viera, William Gallas and Zinedina Zidane. All of who were at the beginning of the tournament in South Africa either retired or got publicly disrespected.
Change and youth movement is not a too bad of an idea in football. But the time in which Domenech started such development was chosen interestingly and some might say purposely wrong. In a situation, full of controversy and disappointment about the bad playing team, the coach degrades his most credited and experienced players, is at least a not-so-mainstream approach.
Over the last years, French football lost loads of talent to retirement. But first and foremost they lost veteran leadership. Honestly, it was not just lost; it was in main parts purposely destroyed. Now, as France is finally exposed to inexcusable defeat, you see the results.