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Posted by Rabeeta Farooque on 06/10/2010

Despite having a month to prepare for the World Cup, France are still pretty much clueless. Everything from the captaincy (is this really something that should be changed right before the biggest tournament ever?) to the starting lineup is marked with uncertainty. All we really know for sure is that come Friday, Domenech will still have a unibrow and Franck Ribery will be somewhere on the pitch.

That's about it though. I wish I were kidding, but when it comes to Les Bleus, stability is a foreign concept these days.

Lassana Diarra's sudden withdrawal from the World Cup squad was the first sign that things were not going as planned. Diarra was diagnosed with an intestinal disorder that renders him unable to compete, at least for the time being. Though Diarra's absence will be ably deputized by Jeremy Toulalan, Domenech has hinted that Toulalan may play in central defense. That would leave Abou Diaby and Alou Diarra as France's DMs.

Raise your hand if you are comfortable with this. No one? Yeah, I thought so.

The recent warm up matches haven't been very inspiring either. The point of these games was for the team to get into the right physical and mental mindset before the World Cup, but having watched the games, it's safe to say that the friendlies didn't help. In fact, if "meh" were an actual word in the dictionary, it would be found next to a picture of the French National Team.

The results themselves - a 2-1 win over Costa Rica, a 1-1 draw against Tunisia, and a 0-1 loss against China - don't seem that bad on paper. But France beat Costa Rica thanks to an own goal, they had to come from behind to snatch a draw against Tunisia, and they couldn't score at all against China.

The lackluster performances can be partially attributed to France's changed midfield. Whereas before, Domenech stubbornly clung to a setup featuring two defensive midfielders, he's finally decided to shift to a more attacking 4-3-3. Though this change is helping alleviate fears of the dull play that has characterized Les Bleus in recent years, the unfamiliarity of this new formation is resulting in defensive frailties.

The other reason for France's increasingly poor form is due to the latest bout of infighting within the team. To summarize, the senior players are once again demanding to have a say in selection and tactics (did I miss something or did the France NT become a democracy?). Specifically, they are unhappy at Domenech's decision to leave Thierry Henry on the bench. The senior players, who are believed to be Franck Ribery and Nicolas Anelka, want to see Sidney Govou and Yoann Gourcuff dropped for Henry and Abou Diaby.

Naturally, Domenech is ignoring them, which in turn has caused Anelka and Ribery to further fracture the squad by refusing the pass to Gourcuff in practice. This elementary school behavior (no doubt Anelka and Gourcuff now sit at different lunch tables and fight over playground space) is causing serious disharmony among the players, and what little confidence the team had is now withering away on the eve of their first group stage match.

Not that Domenech is entirely blameless. Though he is not responsible for the actions of Anelka and Ribery, his decision to hand over the captaincy of France to Patrice Evra a mere week before the World Cup has many people upset, and with good reason. Though Henry is the team captain, his place on the bench means that it is Gallas who usually wears the armband. Domenech and Gallas don't have the best of relationships, and Gallas has had problems with his teammates in the past. However, it was Domenech's decision to make him vice-captain, and it was also his decision to keep Gallas as vice-captain despite his antics within the squad.

Which is why Domenech's decision to strip Gallas of the captaincy now is baffling. If Domenech didn't want him as captain, this is something he should have dealt with long before, as opposed to a few days before the start of the tournament. Gallas is so upset that he has sworn not to speak with the media until after the World Cup, and given the way things are going, he'll probably stop passing the ball to Evra.

The first group stage match is less than 36 hours away. Can France put their high school drama behind them and focus on their match against Uruguay? Or will be it first round failure once again? I certainly hope it's the former.

Comments

Posted by Anon on 06/10/2010

Excellent article. One little typo I noticed: you meant to say 1-0 loss against China (1-1 would've been a much more satisfactory draw!).

Otherwise, keep up the good work.

Posted by kudzani on 06/10/2010

the problem is with the coach, he should be in a position to control his players and instil discipline

Posted by CONAN on 06/10/2010

THERE IS ONE SOLUTION FOR THIS. FIND ANOTHER PERSON TO MANAGE DOMENECH. HE CAN'T CONTROL HIS TEAM WHICH IS WHY PEOPLE THINK LAST WORLD CUP SUCCESS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH HIM AND ALL CREDIT GOES TO ZIDANE. I ALSO BY THIS THEORY. THEY SHOULD HAVE REMOVE HIM FROM THIS LONG AGO.

Posted by Gilles on 06/10/2010

Well let's say that in every walk of life mixing people from different backgrounds and educations can be quite tricky.
Gourcuff isn't liked by everybody as he is well-spoken and had good education (dad was a maths teacher)as opposed to an Anelka or a Ribery who are not exactly the sharpest tools in the box. A bit like an Eton boy mixing it with chavs (I might get some stick for that, but I tell you as it is)
Domenech seems out of his breath too, like you said, changing captains just only now isn't that clever. As for Henry, he has proven time and again how much of a trouble maker he can be, and whilst publicly accepting his fate as a supersub, a little bird tells me he had a few chats with some of his mates to try to reinstate him in the starting 11.
I tell you what, Laurent Blanc cannot come early enough, he has the authority the experience as a France player and the medals to back it up, plus he is quite a disciplinarian, that will be a shock to the system for some! Adieu Ray!

Posted by kayarash on 06/10/2010

This article says "Not that Domenech is entirely blameless" but honestly for all childish facts such as passing the ball and so on the manager is the blameworthy person who is not able to manage and organize the team. The main fact is the entire famous and experienced players rule the team; all the stupid coaches and even some idiots like me know that!!! In general most managers (except some such as Capello or Ferguson) are not in a position to order and do whatever they want in favor of themselves. Do you guys really believe that domenech was in charge and pole position during the last world cup by having some great players like Zidane, Makelele and Thuram. I think Domenech is a silly person in terms of behavior and prestige, although he is such a good technician. Moreover, I like the new formation 4-3-3 because France has the skilled and gifted players for this system at this time. Good wingers and perfect center forwards make it easy for France to adopt them to this formation. Their real problem is Domenech attitude and his approach for picking the best line up. As Viera said Domenech’s lack of class plus lack of leader such as Zidane, Dechamps and Blanc is so crucial. By the way, we should react and judge after the first game because the first match is the decider one.

Posted by jay on 06/11/2010

players want gourcuff dropped for diaby??? are they not turning the ball over enough or something...

Posted by Rabeeta on 06/11/2010

I've always thought that French players seem to have a bigger say than players of other teams. Domenech is frequently challenged by the same clique of senior players who are still living in the glory days of the Zidane era.

Of course as coach he should control his players better, but when he does sanction one of them for running their mouths in the press, it ends up causing squad upheaval, a media uproar, and a horde of upset fans. Domenech's latest tactic of just ignoring these demands isn't working much better either.

The problem is that ever since Zidane forced Domenech to play Barthez during the last WC, his senior players don't take him seriously. Part of me wishes that Domenech had stuck to his guns back then, but with Zidane threatening to walk out and leave, I can see why Domenech caved. It's just unfortunate that the incident has grown to epic proportions.

Posted by Gilles on 06/11/2010

Henry was against the return of Zidane in 2005, he was a trouble maker towards the end of his Arsenal career, so I like to believe he still is one of the worst offenders in terms of non-discipline as of today. Love Arsenal, love Les Bleus, but I still can't stand the sight of smug Henry.
Gourcuff is our new Zidane (yes, he can be THAT good I believe) and not playing him because of politics would be criminal.

As for tonight, I see a 2-2 draw (even though I'm hoping for a victory)

Bon match a tous, et allez les bleus!

Posted by Anonymous on 06/11/2010

Today is the first day of the World Cup. Paraguay and France will be in the final.
France will win the Cup.

Posted by kayarash on 06/12/2010

As I said the 4-3-3 formation was better but silly coach changed the system before match because he is such a conservative coach. On the other hand, he was awful for picking his line up aw well as changing the subs.He was so late for changing his tactics and moreover the change was funny becase France needed to win but his changing style was something for draw. He just change the players not the formation and style!!!!!!!!!! If the silly coach didn't want to play with 4-3-3 atleast he could have two forwards up front;Henry along with Anelka not changing this two with eachother!!!!!!!

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