Maybe the best expression of the entente cordiale is England and France agreeing to do as badly as each other out in South Africa. Jeremy Robson tries to make some sense of the goings-on in the camps of two national teams seemingly going nowhere, except home …
Within the next few days, both the English and French national sides both face expulsion rather earlier than expected from the 2010 World Cup.
Controversy and the occasional spat are largely what make up a World Cup as much as the football. The nature of the controversy often tells you a great deal about the nation that is involved in it, although sometimes there are surprises.
For the first time in countless tournaments we have a dressing room revolt which doesn’t involve the Dutch. The French love a strike, and while today’s refusal to train may technically fall short of “withdrawal of labour”, it has caused consternation in French football with officials throwing down badges and handing in their resignations.
The comments made by Nicolas Anelka were highly insulting to the coach Raymond Domenech, who probably didn’t deserve to be on the end of such fruity terminology.
That said, the only real surprise in all of this, is that it’s taken so long to ignite. Domenech’s cluelessness in terms of tactics, selection and general man management has been apparent for years.
Les Bleus reached the final of the last tournament in spite of his leadership, and not because of it. Sadly for la France, even an astonishing reaction to the defeat at the hand of Mexico would probably be just too little, too late to prevent them going home early.
We can only wait and see if the Mexicans and Uruguayans feel that avoiding Argentina is worth a fight over 90 minutes.
In stark contrast to this, the England camp is the embodiment of unity and harmony despite the precarious nature of the team’s tenure in the competition.
The major news story has been Wayne Rooney’s well reported complaints about fans booing, and of a lad from London who found himself in the England dressing room after the goalless draw with Algeria.
According to David Beckham, Pavlos Joseph, a 32 year old mortgage advisory from London walked into the dressing room when he was looking for a toilet. It can only have been the scent wafting from the dressing room that suggested to Mr Joseph that he was in the right place.
According to Beckam, Mr Joseph said: “David, we’ve spent a lot of money coming out here. That was a disgrace and what are you going to do about it?” … At which point a FIFA official arrived asking who he was, to which Mr Joseph replied: “my name is Pavos, and I’m looking for a toilet.”
It’s unfortunate that Nicolas Anelka hadn’t come up with a similar response when accused of being somewhere he shouldn’t have been by Raymond Domenech.
The intervening FIFA official then kindly showed Mr Joseph to the nearest toilet. There is no truth in the rumour that the official pointed to Wayne Rooney, and told him “there’s a shit house”.
Interesting to see that Capello has sent out his captain John Terry to face the media while the bruised and psychologically battered Raymond Domenech has had to explain unsavoury proceedings to the French press.
Capello is nowhere to be seen. It’s one of those rare moments when you really wish Spitting Image was still going strong. They would have had a field day with this.
Consider the stiff upper lip of the English fan at the door of the team’s dressing room in search of a lavatory. I don’t wish to resort to any sort of stereotyping here but I can imagine a frustrated French fan simply relieving himself there on the sport and soaking the ex-captain’s shoes.
It’s a shame that we didn’t get to hear David Beckam’s explanation. No less than 28 miles apart at the closest points but a galaxy away in terms of outlook a lot of the time. Evra the shop steward may be leading the French squad to industrial action, Messrs Rooney, Heskey and co look as if they’ve been on strike since they arrived in the Cape.