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Soccer: France's new coach suspends the team


Laurent Blanc, France's new soccer coach, has suspended the 23-man team during next month's friendly against Norway as punishment for their strike during the World Cup.

The team refused to practice on June 20, two days before their game against South Africa. The strike was in protest to former coach Raymond Domenech's decision to send home forward Nicolas Anelka after their heated exchange during the team's game against Mexico on June 17.

In retrospect, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said, the strike was "completely stupid."

''We acted as a team,'' Lloris told L'Equipe. ''To strike was the decision of a squad who felt lonely, who believed that no one had stood up for them and who had a message to convey. We went too far. It was a very awkward decision, a big mistake. It was completely stupid. But there were so many problems.''

Lloris said the players will do everything in their power to repent.

''We all want to improve the image of Les Bleus,'' he said. ''We must make all possible effort, give everything. It's important for us. We must go back to basics -- respect for the jersey, of course, the team and the institution of France.

-- Melissa Rohlin

Photo: France's national soccer team. Credit: Charles Platiau / Reuters.

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