From World Cup winners to being on the brink of being knocked out of the World Cup at the group stages, the France squad certainly has undergone a dramatic change in recent years. Now with reports suggesting that some players might even refuse to play in today’s match against South Africa which could decide whether or not France progress past the group stage of the World Cup shows just how far the team has fallen. The big question on everyone’s mind is how a nation that was so revered for its talented players and success become an embarrassment to football?
In 1998 against all expectations France managed to lift the World Cup in their own country by beating Brazil 3-0 in the final. It proved to be a momentous occasion for the French and they would go on to reach even more success by winning Euro 2000 after defeating Italy in the final with a golden goal. They became the first side since West Germany in 1974 to hold both the World Cup and the Euro titles; however they would then go on to lose both in abysmal fashion. In the 2002 World Cup France crashed out of the group stages without scoring a single goal and finishing bottom of the group with only 1 point, a situation which threatens to repeat itself in 2010. In Euro 2004 they started strongly but went out in the quarter-finals by Greece. Despite them becoming the eventual tournament winners, with France’s superior quality they should have been able to deal with them.
For the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign France hired long-serving under 21 manager, Raymond Domenech to guide them through. His selection of players based on their star signs raised a lot of eyebrows, but nevertheless France were able to qualify for the tournament proper. After a slow start in the group stage Domenech was put under pressure but managed to get France into the World Cup final where they faced Italy. In a hard fought game against the Italians the match reached a turning point, with the scores level at 1-1 and the game deep into extra time, France captain Zinedine Zidane was sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi and ended the final match of his career in disgrace. France went on to lose the match 5-3 on penalties and arguably ever since Zidane’s red card the team has never been the same again.
Euro 2008 followed and France had an almost identical outcome to the 2002 World Cup, they finished bottom of the group with just a point, managing however to score a solitary goal. Italy proved to be their tormentors once again by defeating them in the final group game 2-0, which decided who would progress out of the group along with Holland. Immediately following the match Domenech bizarrely proposed to his girlfriend live on national television during his post-match interview! Somehow despite constant public pressure Domenech kept his job and lead France’s 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign. The campaign culminated in a play-off with France facing the Republic Of Ireland to determine who would be going to South Africa. The second-leg ended up going into extra time where controversially Thierry Henry handled the ball in the area before passing to William Gallas to score the match winner.
The result sparked mass outrage and there were calls for the game to be replayed but FIFA refused to let this happen and Raymond Domenech believed that his side had done nothing wrong. Now in the final game of the World Cup group stage France need to win against South Africa and hope that Mexico and Uruguay don’t end up drawing.
There has been a huge amount of turmoil in the last few days surrounding the France squad, the problems started when Nicolas Anelka was sent home from the squad after swearing at Raymond Domenech at half-time during France’s 2-0 defeat to Mexico for allegedly playing him out of position. The next day captain Patrice Evra got into a training ground confrontation with trainer Robert Duverne as he believed that he was the man responsible for leaking the Anelka story to the press. The team then refused to train for that day and it lead to the team’s managing director, Jean-Louis Valentin announcing his resignation short afterwards. Raymond Domenech has said that there is a possibility that some players could boycott the game against South Africa; the latest news is that Patrice Evra has been dropped from the team.
Even if France managed to pull together and progress from their group, you feel that their fans would rather see them eliminated as a result of this scandal. Clearly France are in complete disarray and all they can do now is look to the future and hope that they can put this whole escapade behind them and move on to a new era with impending manager Laurent Blanc.
What do you make of the problems surrounding France?