It used to be early exits of England, after embarrassing outbreaks of hooliganism, that people most wanted to happen at the major international football events.
Now, it’s the turn of the French. And that’s just how the French themselves see it.
The cartoon from today’s L’Equipe, the big sports daily, echoes my own comment here yesterday, after the 2-1 defeat to South Africa confirmed France’s elimination. Good riddance, cry the South Africans bidding their unfond farewell to the overpaid, overblown and ultimately hopeless French entourage.
The captain Patrice Evra, excluded by the tactically challenged Raymond Domenech from the final game of Group A, says sorry to the French people and promises to tell the unadorned truth within days. Thierry Henry calls the Elysee to demand, and be granted, an audience with the president (I have seen reports that Sarko summoned Henry, but the palace insists the player called to seek the audience).
It is difficult to think of anything they or the others could say to remove the thought that the French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot, having reportedly reduced some of the squad to quivering wrecks as she lectured them on their national duty of the eve of the game, was guilty of understatement when she accused them of causing a “moral disaster”.
The refusal to train two days before a decisive game, in which France again underperformed, was unpardonable unless Henry and Evra can somehow conjure some explosive new evidence (such as “we uncovered a plot by Domenech to fire Exocets at us if we did train”).
The immediate remedies?
Domenech will be gone soon enough and should be followed by the oafs of the French Football federation who played their own parts in the farce.
Whoever leaked Anelka’s alleged remark – Va te faire ecnouler, sale fils de pute! , or gan’n f*** yersel, yer dirty son of a whore, though M Anelka, a gentle man according to friends, disputes the precise wording – should be boiled in oil. And every member of the playing squad should go back to their millionaire club roles having been politely informed that they will never play for France again.