World Cup: le club de la dernière chance

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Impossible to believe that the country which gave the world such an attractive, skillful and competitive team in 1998 and 2000 has now produced a bunch of sulking, brattish prima donnas. France could yet grab salvation from the jaws of humiliation. But results today have to go especially well for them, plenty of goals against South Africa and the hope that no Jimmy Hill figure is in charge of the PA system to ensure Mexico and Uruguay play out a draw. The headline is the closest I can get to translating last chance saloon …

The piece I had in today’s edition of The National (Abu Dhabi) was written more in sadness than with any kind of frogbashing relish.

Not every reader of Salut! Sunderland will shed too many tears at the downfall and, let’s be honest if blunt, disgrace of the French World Cup squad. Perhaps some would snigger at my younger daughter’s Facebook status update: ” … being half French, half English does not make for good times in this World Cup!”

I do not wish France well in today’s decisive Group A games because I think the juvenile antics of the squad merit anything other than an early flight home to general opprobrium. For the sake of my French relatives and friends, and my own fond memories of better times for Les Bleus, I am – without much enthusiasm – hoping the results do go their way today, though it is difficult to believe in sportsmanship, dignity and respect and want them to go very far in the rest of the tournament.

Kids look up to footballers. The French team have, by and large, set an atrocious role model. They can start to redeem themselves by knocking in three or four against the World Cup hosts this afternoon.

I won’t reproduce the whole of my report in the National, but the start will tell you whether you wish to click the link and read on …

The day after Zinédine Zidane butted the Italian player Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final, his inevitable dismissal contributing to a French defeat, he joined teammates as a guest of Jacques Chirac, then president, at a homecoming reception at the Elysée.

If today’s results lead to France’s early departure from the 2010 tournament, it is difficult to imagine Nicolas Sarkozy throwing open the palace to a squad widely condemned for bringing disgrace on their country in South Africa.

Zidane’s gesture in Berlin was unprofessional and loutish, but France was quick to forgive, especially when it was reported that he had acted in response to a deeply offensive remark about his mother or sister. The Marseille-born son of Algerian immigrants, he has remained one of the country’s most popular celebrities.

Les Bleus of 2010 are in a league of their own, their disarray and indiscipline provoking indignation from politicians, outrage in the media and question marks about future commercial sponsorship.


The full article can be seen by clicking on this link. With thanks to Bill Taylor for the photo.

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31 thoughts on “World Cup: le club de la dernière chance”

  1. There’s something very wrong about it. The millions that have poured into South Africa which onlookers may have hoped to put food on the tables in the townships has simply filled the corporate pockets at Coca-Cola, Budweiser and McDonalds. The tournament has probably made a lot of already poor even worse off, and also more acutely aware of the injustices already being suffered. What purpose will the shiny new stadium at Nelspruit serve when the competition ends and the kids have no school to go to?

  2. I envy you. As for South Africa, it’s one of the last places on earth I’d want to be now. Every game will simply remind the masses of how much has been taken from them to provide a spectacle for the world.

  3. “Quel fromage. Ouvrez une autre bouteille de rouge.”

    That will be me in about four weeks time as well Bill.

  4. I’m very sad to think that Thierry Henry’s international career has probably ended in such dire circumstances as this. He has been one of the finest players to ever play in the English league and I still miss seeing him ply his trade for the Gunners. A wonderfully gifted player who like so many of his compatriots seems to have been unable to avoid controversy (handball against Ireland) in the autumn of his playing career. I can’t even imagine the mood in France right now.

  5. I’ve given up on the blackout for this game. If France get another in time then they will win it.

  6. I’ve been trying to do this every day since the tournament started. All of the games (due to the time difference; 5hrs to UK), coincide with being at work or getting there for most of us.

    People hitherto who have displayed no interest or knowledge of the beautiful game have suddenly developed an interest and desire to discuss the WC at every opportunity. I’ve record the games on the PVR in the hope that I will be able to watch them as live in the evening. I managed the blackout for the England game last Friday, rather surprisingly.

    The normally mild bloke that I am informed co-workers that further revelations of scores would give me the moral authority to choke the living excrement out of the perpetrator. All has been well since, although I’ve had few social calls in my office.

    It’s my own fault for coming on here of course! 🙂

  7. Sorry Bill – had no idea you might be staggering your viewing schedule for Group A.

    But even if France come back and win by enough to go through – can you see it happening? – there’ll STILL be no further updates from me.

  8. I fear, Luke, given the terrible depredations all the new and expensive World Cup infrastructure has inflicted on the South African underclasses, a national explosion might be in the works no matter what Bafana Bafana do.

  9. France are just lulling Bafana Bafana into a false sense of security. No score updates from me never no more, Jeremy. Right now I’m watching Mexico-Uruguay and, in spite of Colin’s spoiler, I’ll catch les Bleus at noon. I could watch them now on French CBC but I find the commentator’s inanities in a language I don’t understand terribly well even worse than in English.

  10. Ah well, disregard the above it seems. Now, if there’s a couple more goals in each game for the winning sides.. South Africa could get through to the second round and I’ll have correctly predicted something! Amazing.

    Unfortunately I’m not sure it will happen but wow, imagine what it’d be like be a South African having started the day joint bottom and then possibly going through. The nation would explode.

  11. It seems utterly incredible that Mexico and Uruguay are so content to do a Jimmy Hill and play out a safe draw here. Mexico seem perfectly happy to sit back and go on to face Argentina, which is just amazing when they could play either South Korea or Greece as an alternative.

    They should be fighting tooth and nail to get it, even if they were to lose the odds are they’d still be going through. First and second in this group could be the difference between second round knockout or getting to the quarter finals or further; so Mexico should really be trying to win this and finish first. Not just for them reasons either, but for the integrity of this competition too. They’ve hit the bar apparently, and Uruguay have come close too – but it seems like there an extended lulls of nothing happening quite frequently too.

  12. I really didn’t want to quote Arthur Dalay two days in succession Bill but there must be a lot of people in France thinking in those terms’ “Oh mah good Gawd, get me a Vera and Philharmonic will ya Dave?”

    Should they lose today it will receive the full French shrug of the shoulders, rather than just the half one.

    Back to reporting scores again eh Bill? 🙂

    I’ve foolishly picked Les Bleus to win in the ESPN Pick ’em all. Three correct yesterday, and it looks as if it could all come crashing down today.

  13. Oh dear (as Pete would say) .. 1-0 to Bafana Bafana and a typically threatening Cisse run followed by a typically greedy Cisse no-hope shot before Gourcuff forgets what can happen when you lead with your elbow, harsh as it may have been (that’s an after thought)

  14. Oh I am pleased. After working my way through all the genres, from folk to heavy metal and mathcore to jazz-funk, I may one day make a penny or two out of this writing malark.

    Sure beats this office and processing invoices, or at least I imagine so!

  15. I’m sure they just accidentally hit the downards pointing thumb Jeremy.

    Let me tell you, if I could pen something like that I might actually get paid for writing my football opinions. Perhaps one day, I haven’t quite made it to being paid in folk CD’s just yet so still a long way from the summit!

  16. Spot on Dan. The wheels have been coming off the French train for years as you say. Anyone looking at Domenech can see that he hasn’t got a clue. I’m sorry to see the reports coming out of France are suggesting that there is some divide on racial lines in this whole affair.

    The FFF have through their own stupidity and “loyalty” to Domenech have created the conditions under which something was bound to go horribly wrong. They reached the final last time around in spite of Domenech. With the talent they have they more or less organised themselves as a team. The talisman, Zidane helped to do that I’m sure but sadly of course he is long gone. My little lad went to school with his Zidane shirt on today which he was given by an Algerian friend who was fiercely proud that his father and Zidane grew up in the same place. I tried to persuade him not to wear it, because despite the ignominy of the great man’s exit from football, I just didn’t want to see his name associated with this distasteful mess. Ridiculous possibly, but that’s how much it’s made me squirm and I’m not even French!

  17. Anyone could tell that since the 2006 world cup, Domenech already lost control of the dressing room.

    Domenech had nothing to do with them getting to the final, Zidane was controlling player selection and tactics.

    This was exposed in 2008, when zidane was no longer there and domenech had control again.

    I am not excusing the football players for what they have done (it is a shambles), but I think the blame should fall equally on the FFF which is just a big a shambles as France’s world cup campaign.

  18. How can someone vote against the quote that Luke just posted? Bizarre. It’s a quotation from the French press!

    We will have to wait and see how things pan out today. I’m expecting France to be on the slow train home regardless of the outcome of the game against South Africa. They could yet qualify but somehow I doubt it.

    There can be little doubt that the current situation has deeper origins than Anelka’s comments about/to Domenech. The fact that Domenech remains in charge suggests that he does indeed have friends in high places as Dan says above. If he offered his services as a coach at Darlo I suspect he’d receive a polite letter of refusal.

  19. Tres ouchies;

    ‘Every day, Les Bleus push back the frontiers of the unacceptable. This band of spoilt children, left free to do what they like by their entire hierarchy, has no limit, no sense of duty so close to the match against South Africa. To have the worst football team at the World Cup was already unbearable. To also have the most stupid is intolerable…The mutiny at Knysna will forever remain the Waterloo of French football.’

    – Le Parisien

  20. You could say that if Domenech had been fired in a timely fashion, this would never have happened.
    You could say that the French team displayed admirable support for Anelka and exercised one of the few options open to them.
    And, if they do win today and, unthinkable as it may seem, go on to do well in the World Cup, that’s what WILL be said in France: Yes, the team and its management need rebuilding “and how do suggest we best go about it, you gentlemen who have played so magnificently in South Africa?”
    I’m not holding my breath for that to happen. All I’m really saying is: ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!!

  21. Well, I think its common knowledge that he was a nightmare in our dressing room, Pete.

    Dan: agreed on Domenech. A man so far out of his depth that you can no longer see his head. But for as long as he is the boss, and I know that is measured in anything from a few hours to a few weeks, that is how the team should treat him. I took the same view of the Keane/McCarthy spat, at a time when neither was involved with SAFC, and held to it even when Keane was rightly being lauded for his first season achievements. There can be only one boss of a football team (as opposed to the club) and, in France’s case, it is currently or should be Domenech, not Evra, Ribery, Anelka and the rest of them.

  22. I wonder how much of the stirring has been done by Lord Frodsham aks as Djibril Cisse? Just the kind of man you want in a dressing room full of over inflated egos!!

  23. Domenech lost the respect of the french players in 2008 (if not before). The French Football Federation should of sacked him (Domenech) then, but didnt cos Domenech is friends with the president of the FFF.

    This has been simmering for a while now, and myself and quite a few ppl i am friends with predicted this a while ago (though not as extreme a reaction from the players).

    The entire FFF needs to go, Leblanc needs to replace domenech, adn the entire team needs to be rebuit.

    BTW, I am English but live in France.

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