Paris: Former players and the French media were united today in their condemnation of the France football team and coach Raymond Domenech after their 2-0 World Cup defeat by Mexico left them on the verge of an early exit.
“Imposters” screamed the headline on the front page of sports daily L’Equipe which does not hold back in its virulent criticism, even harking back to 1998 where it was equally critical of Aime Jacquet, the coach who eventually led the country to its first ever World Cup triumph.
“This morning France surveys a ruin: its national team,” read the editorial.
“There should be no sadness, no despair, and above all noanger at the result. That would be too much to give to men who offer nothing.”
The paper does not hold back in its savaging of several of the senior players and the much-disliked Domenech, whose popularity has plummeted since the high of the unexpected qualification for the 2006 final where down to 10 men they lost to Italy on penalties.
“The ‘I don’t care attitude’ is the only flag that the players can unite under.
“Therefore we will take it to its logical conclusion: We mock these ‘Blues’ and profit from these moments to educate the young in the relativity of seriousness sport has in life.
“We taunt Raymond Domenech suffocated by his ego, only surpassed by those of his players.
“We mock him for his selection, in overlooking Thierry Henry, the record scorer in French football history. We laugh at his fellow senior players, like Franck Ribery, William Gallas or Nicolas Anelka, who believe themselves to be superior.
“We laugh at their supreme arrogance coupled by their equal measures of ignorance.”
‘Lamentable!’ roared the headline in popular daily newspaper Le Parisien on its front page with the team being described as ‘pathetic’and on the inside page pleading ‘On Tuesday we have to win and pray’ referring to beating hosts South Africa by a clear margin and that Uruguay and Mexico don’t draw.
One player especially gets singled out for opprobrium all through the press and that is Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka.
Anelka, a member of the Euro 2000 winning team but only in his first World Cup finals having been omitted from the previous two finals squads, he received a paltry three out of 10 from L’Equipe and a derisory 2/10 from Le Parisien.
“Ridiculous? Mediocre? Demoralising?” We do not know what term to use for the 45 minutes that Nicolas Anelka spent on the pitch.
“Once again Anelka gave the impression of operating alone in his own bubble. It was that of a player who believes he is right and everybody else is wrong, that all the other must allow him to play his own game. This misunderstanding cost France dearly on Thursday.”
Another French daily Liberation put things probably into a more realistic context in terms of its historical importance - the effect of the defeat on people’s lives and a previous event which occurred 70 years ago to the day.
Its front page was dominated by a photograph of General Charles de Gaulle and his rousing radio appeal from London to his compatriots to resist the Nazi occupation of France.
The French defeat to Mexico did make the front page but by contrast was a minuscule photograph of a bemused Domenech and the headline ‘Blue nightmare’.