Tension high in French camp

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:49 PM ET

JOHANNESBURG - First they crumbled on the pitch. Now they've crumbled off it.

Upon further review, the French are a real mess.

In what is being referred to as one of the darkest days in France's soccer history, national team players Sunday refused to practise at the team's scheduled afternoon session, a direct response to the French Football Federation's decision to send home disgruntled striker Nicolas Anelka.

Anelka drew the ire of the FFF when he reportedly told French manager Raymond Domenech to "Go (bleep) yourself, you son of a (bleep)" during a halftime dustup of a 2-0 loss to Mexico on Friday. While captain Patrice Evra disputed Anelka's supposed comments, the FFF gave him the heave ho anyway.

On Sunday, tensions heightened when Evra, having finished signing autographs, began arguing with the team's fitness coach. After Domenech separated the two, the French players fled to the team bus and closed the curtains.

Evra then presented his manager a statement from the players alleging attempts by Anelka to discuss the incident with the FFF were ignored, causing the team to refuse to practise.

The France team director, Jean-Louis Valentin, subsequently resigned, calling the entire incident scandalous and saying he was "sickened and disgusted."

For its part, the FFF said the players actions were "unacceptable" and apologized "to the country for the unacceptable conduct of the players that are representing our country."

While the players claim they will practise Monday in preparation for their game Tuesday against South Africa, the FFF nonetheless plan to put together a task force to review the incident after the tournament.

The French have yet to record a goal or a win in the tournament, registering a loss and a draw.

Domenech will leave his post after the World Cup, to be replaced by Laurent Blanc.

What an embarrassing implosion.

Had the players shown this much energy on the pitch, they might still be contenders instead of looking so ridiculous in front of the entire world.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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