2010 FIFA World Cup: What's Wrong with France?

Stefan Vasilev@https://twitter.com/GoonersLoungeAnalyst IJune 20, 2010

POLOKWANE, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 17:  Mathieu Valbuena of France reacts after a 2-0 loss to Mexico after the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group A match between France and Mexico at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on June 17, 2010 in Polokwane, South Africa.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Problems inside the French contingent continue to arise as they ostensibly edge towards failure in South Africa. Following two negative results and strife among the ranks, eventually resulting in the exclusion of striker Nicolas Anelka from the French squad, France is in a very unfavorable position to reach the final stages of the competition.

They are currently third in the group, trailing three points off Uruguay and Mexico, who are first and second, respectively.

The French national side is officially in a crisis. They have failed to perform anywhere near to the way they did in the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Cup when they became champions.

In 2004, the team led by Jacques Santini fell victim to a very defensive Greek side that eventually, and to the surprise of many, conquered Europe.

Santini was released and Raymond Domenech was brought in to replace him.

The new manager experienced some success in the 2006 World Cup. His move to bring Zinedine Zidane and Lilian Thuram out of retirement proved to be the right recipe for success. France reached the final, but lost to Italy by penalties. Zidane was picked for Best Player of the Tournament, leaving no doubt as to who was responsible for this success.

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Since that moment, France has all but had pleasurable times. Stumbling in the group stages of the 2008 European Cup championship and barely managing to qualify for this year’s World Cup is just the tip of the iceberg of trouble.

Many have come to recognize the controversial and bizarre techniques of Raymond Domenech. A keen admirer of astrology, the Lyon-born manager has refused to call on footballers under the star sign of Scorpio—Robert Pires springs to mind.

On more than one occasion, Domenech has stated that he considers astrology when forming the French national team. Now, while astrology is an entirely different topic of discussion, we have to take a look at the results to see whether it actually works.

Under the tenure of Raymond Domenech, France’s one and only success dates back to 2006, when they reached the final of the World Cup. But a further glimpse reveals that the real reason for that accomplishment lies in Zidane’s feet.

Undoubtedly, France still misses Zinedine Zidane. They lack the player who can lead and inspire them to victory with sheer class, breathtaking skill, and stable leadership.

The aging Thierry Henry and William Gallas have little left to provide, especially if they are not included in the first team on a regular basis. Even the presence of players who have potential to be match-winners does little at the moment. The young and talented Yoann Gourcuff is one of those players, as is Franck Ribery, but we have yet to see them put the full weight on their shoulders.

On top of it all, the rigid methods of Raymond Domenech do little to alleviate the difficulties in the team. His decision to overlook in-from Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri has brought him a hefty amount of criticism from everyone.

And the results are for all to see—a draw and a defeat puts them just one step away from flying back home in shame.

The drab atmosphere surrounding the team was further emphasized by the ejection of the Chelsea striker Nickolas Anelka. Reports claim that Anelka was angered by the manager’s decision to substitute him at half time during the clash with Mexico. The resulting verbal outburst brought him the axe.

But where does the problem lay, really? A look deeper would reveal that the worms had already started eating the rotting apple even before that incident.

The piling pressure has been as a result of inadequate decisions of the manager. His unwillingness to ameliorate the picture was overt during that match with Mexico. While his side was losing, all Domenech did was stay on the sideline and stare blankly. Being uninterested and inactive is hardly the best you can do to solve problems of a similar mould.

In truth, the French team has a problem. They lack inspiration.

It could be the conflicts or the stress; this can be only guessed. But in any case, if they don’t inspire themselves in their last match of the World Cup group stages, some radical changes will have to be made.

One of the first steps would be axing Raymond Domenech for a man with a better football mind—Laurent Blanc.

Things look gloomy at the moment in the French contingent and even though the host nation, South Africa, is not what one would call a football giant, I can see them snatching some points away from France.

In the best possible scenario for the French, someone will rise to the occasion to inspire his teammates.

But that would hardly save Raymond Domenech’s place at the driving seat of the French national team. His peculiar reign is inevitably coming to its logical end.

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