While surfing around on Wikipedia tonight, I stumbled across the following tidbit on Raymond Domenech's entry.
"Although it was expected that he would lose his position, in July 2008 it was announced Domenech had retained his job.
He continues to be a knobhead and lives in a magic castle in the sky."
I doubt that the last sentence will be allowed to stay on the page for too long, but it sums up all of the frustration that fans of the French squad have been feeling for the past few years.
I bring up Domenech because Les Bleus were thumped by Austria 3-1 on the weekend. Despite reaching the finals of the 2006 World Cup, Domenech's record is not very impressive. His squad selection policy and tactics have long been suspect, and now things are finally starting to catch up to him.
Domenech is a notorious student of astrology. He doesn't like selecting Scorpios in his squad and thus had a falling out with Robert Pires in 2004, which led to Pires' international retirement. This hardly seems like a reasonable way to let go of a player who had won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 with the French team.
Washed-up goalkeeper Fabien Barthez was also selected to start instead of Lyon keeper Gregory Coupet, who had at that point collected five straight Ligue 1 titles. Coupet actually left the team for a short while because of the snub, but came back to be France's number two goalkeeper.
Domenech also created a great deal of controversy when he called Chelsea midfielder Claude Makelele up for Euro 2008 qualifiers. Jose Mourinho said that Makelele was being treated like a "slave", which was perhaps not the best choice of words.
This wouldn't have been a controversy except for the fact that Makelele had tried to retire from international football after the 2006 World Cup, and Domenech still insisted on selecting him.
Despite the inclusion of an experienced holding midfielder in Makelele, France managed to lose to Scotland twice and barely make their way into Euro 2008. Once in the tournament, France proceeded to embarrass themselves by only managing a single point in a goalless draw with Romania.
This performance was their worst performance in the group stage of a major tournament since...World Cup 2006! After draws to Switzerland and South Korea, France needed to beat Emmanuel Adebayor and Togo in order to advance. They did manage to beat Togo and advance, but given their status among the world's footballing elite, qualification should not have been such a chore.
It's also worth mentioning that France might not have even qualified for World Cup 2006 had it not been for Makelele, Lilian Thuram and Zinedine Zidane coming out of international retirement to aid the French in qualifying.
Had they not managed to qualify, Domenech surely would have been out of a job then, and the French might be in better shape today.
Which brings me back to the match against Austria on Saturday. It was the first time Austria had beaten France since 1970. The Austrians were handily outshot, but won the possession battle, and quality possession football is something that the French are known for.
When a country gets beat at its own game, and when a manager alienates some of the best players available to him, perhaps its time to move on. Raymond Domenech shouldn't be in charge when World Cup 2010 rolls around if the French hope to win anything.
Don't worry Raymond, I hear there's a job opening at West Ham.
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