France implodes while Anelka explodes
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
JOHANNESBURG -- The 2010 World Cup will be remembered as the ultimate embarrassment for France.
The 1998 world champions, 2000 European champions and 2006 World Cup finalists have imploded at the World Cup.
It seems that every day brings the French another controversy, another embarrassment.
And every one seems more ridiculous than the one before.
On Saturday, France treated striker Nicolas Anelka like a petulant child and sent him to his room. That room happens to be in France.
During the half of its 2-0 loss to Mexico, manager Raymond Domenech suggested Anelka change his positioning.
Anelka unleashed a verbal assault on his manager, including some choice obscenities. Anelka was pulled from the lineup.
When he was asked to apologize, he refused and the French football federation sent him home.
France has very little chance of advancing to the next round. It plays South Africa in its final game Tuesday.
"It's shocking, because if anyone has protected Anelka, it's Domenech," said FIFA vice-president Noel Le Graet. "Domenech has played Anelka throughout the past two years.
"There are of course divergences of opinion surrounding tactics and positioning, but it merits in any case friendlier conversations."
That is an understatement.
Anelka's outburst punctuated what has been the tournament from hell for the French.
The players and fans place most of the blame on the team's poor on-field performance on Domenench. Just before the World Cup began, it was announced Domenech would be replaced as the team's manager by Laurent Blanc.
But while Domenech is an easy scapegoat, the players needed to take a long look in the mirror.
They have acted like egotistical, self-centred brats.
It started with the assigning of a captain. When Domenech picked Patrice Evra, William Gallas went into a pout. When he opted to not start Thierry Henry, some players on the team made a public statement urging Domenech to reconsider,
There have been rumbings that midfielder Yoann Gourcuff is not liked within the team.
The team is also battling with the media. Franck Ribery, Henry and Gallas are among players not speaking with the media, earning a constant lashing in the press.
After the Mexico game when approached by a television reporter for an interview, Gallas gave the reporter the finger.
Midfielder Jeremy Toulalan, who is suspended for the game against South Africa, admitted there was tension and splits in the dressing room.
"We deserve the criticism," he said.
France have yet to score a goal at this World Cup and with just one point from two matches, it will be eliminated if Uruguay and Mexico draw with each other in the final group game Tuesday.
"He should not wear the France team shirt again," former French manager Michel Hidalgo told television station RTL.
This is a public relations nightmare for the French who have no way of putting any positive spin on what has happened. There isn't a lot of sympathy for the French in South Africa or among neutral football fans.
One country that is sitting back and enjoying the French foolishness and failure is Ireland. The Irish were prevented from qualifying from the World Cup when Henry used his hand to aid him in setting up the goal that eliminated Ireland.
The general opinion now is that justice is being served.