The day that most French fans have been waiting for has finally arrived. The France Football Federation (FFF) have named Laurent Blanc as the next manager of the French national team, though his tenure will not begin until after the World Cup. The FFF will confirm this decision in the upcoming week when they've had their general meeting.
It's not exactly a surprise. Blanc himself has been evasive on this matter since last winter, and the poor end to Bordeaux's season only affirmed the fact that he wouldn't be around Stade Chaban-Delmas next season. And then Didier Deschamps spilled the beans a few days ago when he announced that it was a "done deal." But nothing was ever official, so no one could be quite sure...
...Until today. However, like everything else involving the FFF, the timing of this announcement is completely off.
For most, this decision should have been announced months if not years ago (the aftermath of Euro 2008 springs to mind). But the FFF chose to retain their confidence in Domenech and would not entertain the possibility of replacing him. So their decision to announce Blanc's appointment now, while Domenech is preparing for the World Cup, is simply baffling.
Undoubtedly, Domenech was aware that the FFF would not extend his contract after the tournament. Barring France winning the World Cup (which seems an unlikely prospect even to the most optimistic of fans), there is little Domenech can do to silence his growing army of detractors. But expecting it is not the same as having it thrown in his face while he's still in charge. It's classless and needlessly cruel of the FFF, and it may end up being a big mistake because Les Bleus cannot afford any more blows to their confidence.
I point this out because while Domenech is a hated figure among fans, other managers, and exiled international players (I'm looking at you, Robert Pires), his relationship with his current squad is surprisingly good. Most of his players like him, and they appreciate that he deflects media criticism off of them with his own outrageous comments. The FFF's handling of this matter has annoyed mainstays like Thierry Henry and Jeremy Toulalan, and no doubt more players will express their unhappiness in the coming days.
But being liked by his players can't be the only reason to keep him in charge, and sadly, the NT's performances under Domenech's tenure have been extremely lackluster. While France can never play the attractive brand of football that Spain or Brazil employ (France simply don't have the same kinds of players), their inability to play dominant football is the problem. Too many times, France either wins by the skin of their teeth or barely manages a draw, even when playing against smaller and less skilled opponents.
The other great unhappiness is Domenech's player selections. While there will always be someone left out (it's bound to happen when a nation has so many gifted players that deserve to wear the France jersey), his stubborn dependence on defensive midfielders and his overly cautious approach in attack have made France one of the most boring teams to watch. I myself can't remember the last time France dazzled me on the pitch. And I've been watching them consistently for the last four years.
Which is why this move by the FFF has been expected for awhile now. Blanc's success as both a player and a manager, his happy history as part of the national team, and the simple fact that he's not Domenech made him an ideal candidate for the post. Indeed, this news is the first ray of light that fans of Les Bleus have had in a long time. And while it may have come too late for the upcoming World Cup...well, it's nice to dream about the next one, right?