• World Cup

Domenech blasts 'unspeakably stupid' French players

ESPN staff
June 22, 2010

Raymond Domenech described France's decision to strike on Sunday as "unspeakably stupid" and said he believed the French Football Federation (FFF) was correct to send Nicolas Anelka home following his outburst. He also expressed concerns some players might refuse to play in France's final group match against South Africa.

Rumours circulated in France on Monday that captain Patrice Evra might be considering his position ahead of the game at the Free State Stadium. Asked if some players would refuse to play, Domenech admitted: "It is a possibility" before urging the team to try and restore some of the national side's dignity.

"All I expect of the players and what the French people are expecting of them is not excuses and more words but behaviour and results on the pitch," he said. "My responsibility is to prepare them for tomorrow's game and that's all that counts. They will have to play their hearts out tomorrow on the pitch and we can still dream at this stage."

France's World Cup campaign descended into farce at the weekend when the players, led by captain Evra, refused to train ahead of Tuesday's crunch tie with South Africa. The squad took the controversial move in protest at the expulsion of Anelka.

The striker was sent home after details of his attack on Domenech - in which he called the national coach a "dirty son of a whore" at half-time of the country's 2-0 defeat to Mexico - were leaked to L'Equipe, forcing the federation to act. It was a decision that Domenech agreed with.

The coach said in a press conference on Monday: "First of all I would like to say that the sanction against Nicolas Anelka is justified. I support the federation in this decision. Nobody can behave in such a way in the dressing room or elsewhere and high-level sportsmen and women have to lead by example through football."

Sunday's events have cast a dark shadow over French football. As the French squad refused to take to the training pitch, Evra was also filmed having a heated row with fitness coach Robert Duverne and team director Jean-Louis Valentin resigned, saying he was "sickened and disgusted" by the developments.

In bizarre scenes, Domenech read out a statement from the squad in which they expressed their solidarity with Anelka and explained the strike was an attempt to "mark the opposition to those at the highest level of French football". Domenech now admits he should have distanced himself from the statement.

"It was an aberration," Domenech said. "We had to do something. The French people had a right to know. What I should have said at the end of the message was that I did not support this action.

"With the FFF president [Jean-Pierre Escalettes] and staff members we tried to convince them it was stupid. I disagreed with the document. What they were doing was unthinkable. We've wasted a lot of energy. There are no words to explain what has happened. I'm hoping we will now have action on the pitch rather than off it."

France need to beat South Africa on Tuesday and hope that Uruguay and Mexico do not draw if they are to reach the second round of the World Cup.

French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot confronted the players on Monday and later revealed to the media: "I told the players they had tarnished the image of France. It is a morale disaster for French football. I told them they could no longer be heroes for our children. They have destroyed the dreams of their countrymen, their friends and supporters."

An official investigation will now be conducted after the tournament has come to an end. Bachelot added: "The government has to intervene as the reputation at France is at stake in this case."

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