France winger Florent Malouda apologized to his nation and its fans after the team's disastrous World Cup, saying that restoring its battered reputation is now the priority.
Coach Raymond Domenech and his players were expected to return home Wednesday to a hostile reception from a nation shocked by their behavior during the tournament.
Striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home after verbally abusing Domenech, causing the rest of the players to refuse to practice two days before France's 2-1 upset loss to South Africa that left the team in last place in Group A.
...France striker Thierry Henry will meet President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday to discuss the debacle. Government spokesman Luc Chatel said Sarkozy also is holding a meeting with ministers later Wednesday on how to reform French soccer.
...Whether it was Domenech's failure to manage the team, the attitude of Evra and other players or an interfering French soccer federation, the answers promise to be more entertaining than the team's performances.
"The End of a world," read the dramatic headline on the front page of sports daily L'Equipe on Wednesday.
Not only did France go out in the group stage for the second consecutive major tournament without a single win, but Domenech's handling of the team and the extraordinary player strike added to the problems on the field.
Last Sunday, the squad refused to train over the FFF's decision to expel Anelka from the team after details of his expletive-filled rant were printed in L'Equipe. Anelka had insulted Domenech at halftime during France's 2-0 loss to Mexico.
The extraordinary scenes from France's practice field as Domenech broke up an altercation between Evra and a fitness coach were beamed live back to the nation. One FFF official stormed off, shouting "I'm ashamed" before resigning on the spot. Domenech was left alone to explain why his players were not training and sitting on a bus.
...Many observers, including former France stars like Zinedine Zidane and Bixente Lizarazu, blamed Domenech for letting the situation spiral out of control and the FFF for retaining him after the team failed to make it out of the group stage at Euro 2008.
Domenech ended his six-year tenure without a trophy and in contentious style, refusing to shake the hand of South Africa's coach.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
You stay classy, French World Cup team
France is in the headlines for stinking up the pitch and acting awfully, well, French, in this year's World Cup: