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Category: France

World Cup: French president sets meetings to discuss debacle

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will meet Thierry Henry at the presidential palace to discuss France's meltdown at the World Cup.

Government spokesman Franck Louvrier told the Associated Press that the country's all-time leading scorer and former captain asked Sarkozy for the meeting, to take place Thursday.

France was eliminated from the first round of the World Cup on Tuesday after the team went on strike, failed to win a match and had striker Nicolas Anelka expelled for insulting the coach.That caused an uproar back home, with major companies shelving advertising campaigns featuring the team and Sarkozy and other politicians criticizing the players.

Government spokesman Luc Chatel says Sarkozy has scheduled a work meeting with ministers on Wednesday to discuss how to reform French soccer.

-- Kevin Baxter in Pretoria, South Africa

World Cup: France's Anelka joins Hall of Shame

When the French team sent petulant striker Nicolas Anelka back to France over the weekend after his profane rant against Coach Raymond Domenech, he joined a list of shamed participants who have been sent home from the World Cup over the years. Eight unmemorable moments from the last nine World Cups, courtesy of the South African newspaper The Times:

WorldCuplogo 1. William Mokoena and Brendan Augustine, South Africa, 1998: The two Bafana Bafana players were sent packing after returning to the team hotel at 6 a.m. The pair had been visiting a French nightclub when they apparently lost track of the time. Could happen to anyone, right? Coach Philippe Troussier was not amused. "They are just tourists," he said when asked of the players' status.

2. Diego Maradona, Argentina, 1994: The current Argentine coach, then a player, was sent home from the U.S. World Cup after testing positive for ephedrine.

3. Roy Keane, Ireland, 2002: Manchester United, Keane's club team, sent a private plane to Japan to fetch the hard-nosed Irish captain after he had a heated row with Coach Mick McCarthy over the choice of training facilities for the team.

4. Faustino Asprilla, Colombia, 1998: Asprilla got a free ride to the airport after criticizing Colombia's coach during a live radio broadcast after the coach had substituted him out of a game with Romania.

5. Graham Poll, England, 2006: England's best referee fouled up when he booked Croatia's Jospi Simunic three times -- or one more than the allowable limit -- during a match against Australia.

6. Pablo Larios, France, 1982: The French midfielder was kicked off the team when it was revealed he was having an affair with the wife of teammate Michel Platini. Larios still may not be welcome back at the World Cup since Platini, a UEFA bigwig, is a close friend of FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

7. Willie Johnston, Scotland, 1978: For the controversial Scottish winger, this proved one controversy too many. When he was found guilty of using a banned substance in the opening match with Peru, his international career was over.

8. Ernest Jean-Joseph, Haiti, 1974: He became Haiti's most famous soccer player after becoming the first to fail a doping test. Let's hope painkillers weren't on the banned list because Jean-Joseph was beaten up by embarrassed team officials before being sent home.

By the way, even though the warring French team meets winless South Africa in Tuesday's Group A finale, the South African papers have shown little patience with Anelka's antics or those of the team. One paper ran a picture of the French striker below the headline "The Incredible Sulk" and quoted Domenech as suggesting that Anelka could have stayed with the team if he had only apologized for his antics.

Another daily's headline read, "Adieu, now just go." It appeared over a story that said the French shouldn't have been at the World Cup in the first place.

-- Kevin Baxter in Johannesburg, South Africa

World Cup: French soap opera takes another turn

The soap opera swirling around the French World Cup team took another bizarre turn -- if that's even possible -- when Coach Raymond Domenech appeared alone at a news conference Monday to say some of his players may not want to play in Tuesday's Group A finale against the host South Africans.

WorldCuplogo "It is a possibility," said Domenech, who has faced a player rebellion over the last 48 hours. "We will have to take it into account when I compose the team with my staff."

The mutiny started shortly after Thursday's 2-0 loss to Mexico when striker Nicolas Anelka insulted the coach in a profane tirade. The French Football Federation responded by expelling Anelka, and the players responded to that by boycotting practice Sunday during a tumultuous period in which a fitness coach stormed off the field and the managing director of the French federation said he was resigning.

The team returned to the practice field Monday, but with the players' workout uniforms stripped of all sponsor logos. In addition, a fast-food restaurant in France has pulled its ads featuring Anelka while a prominent bank has canceled an advertising campaign featuring the team.

One of the players missing from Domenech's starting lineup could be captain Patrice Evra, who did not attend the prematch news conference that normally features both the coach and the captain.

That could be an indication that Evra, who led the players' protest, might not play Tuesday.

"The sanction was absolutely justified and I fully support the Federation's decision" to send Anelka home, Domenech said Monday. "Nobody can allow himself to behave that way."

Domenech had harsh words to denounce the players' decision not to train: "It was an aberration, an imbecility, a stupidity with no name," he said.

Still, the coach urged his players to show pride against South Africa.

"The reputation of the France team is at stake in that next match," Domenech said. "The image we will leave behind much depends on what will happen [Tuesday] on the pitch."

France, a World Cup finalist four years ago, has frustrated its fans with uninspired performances since a Euro 2008 flop. It needed a controversial playoff win over Ireland to win a ticket to South Africa, and the French are in great danger of making another early exit.

Only if they score a big win against the hosts Tuesday -- and if Mexico and Uruguay do not draw -- will they stand a chance of reaching the knockout stages.

-- Kevin Baxter in Johannesburg, South Africa

World Cup: French stripped of their sponsors

Credit Agricole SA, one of France's largest banks, wasn't the only sponsor to bail on France after the team bailed on its coach Sunday.

When the team -- their word, not ours -- resumed training Monday at its practice facility east of Cape Town, South Africa, it did so only after the names of all of its sponsors had been removed from its practice kits. So instead of wearing more decals than a NASCAR racer, the French players practiced in plain blue kits, with only the manufacturer's label visible.

Other than that, though, the session went ahead without any of the drama of Sunday, when captain Patrice Evra had an altercation with the team's physical trainer, one French soccer federation official resigned and Coach Raymond Domenech was put in the embarrassing position of having to explain why the players were on strike.

France, the World Cup champion in 1998 and a finalist in 2006, may be eliminated from the World Cup on Tuesday if it doesn't win with a big score against South Africa. And as if the circus wasn't big enough already, another clown joined up when Zinedine Zidane, whose inexplicable head butt late in the last World Cup final arguably cost his team the title, says he is disappointed by France's on-field performances at the World Cup and doesn't agree with the team's actions off of it.

Zidane said France's players should have trained Sunday instead of boycotting practice in protest of Nicolas Anelka being thrown off the squad. While Zidane calls France's situation "sad," he does believe a victory Tuesday will help it get past its current predicament.

"This team has the possibility to get over this obstacle with this match. Everything can change for them," Zidane said Monday, adding that France remains in contention for the title. "I hope they can still get out of this group. There is hope even if everything that has been said to now is the opposite."

Zidane also denied reports he advised France before its 2-0 loss to Mexico.

"To think that I could call the players and tell them how to play -- I mean, you have to be kidding me," Zidane said before explaining his relationship with Domenech. "I never had a problem with this coach, but I never had a good feeling for him. But I respected him in his position as coach. I was on the ship, I was captain of the team [in 2006].

"Yes, I'm sad like a lot of people who support this team. Yes, I'm sad because we talk about everything but football. We're all disappointed, me firstly, because I wore this jersey for a long time and the nicest thing I could have was to wear it."

-- Kevin Baxter in Johannesburg, South Africa




World Cup: Bank pulls ads featuring France's team

More fallout from the French soccer team's World Cup mutiny Sunday.

Credit Agricole SA, France's largest bank by branches, ended its advertising campaign featuring members of the national team as the team's World Cup fate hung in the balance heading into Tuesday's group-play finale with South Africa in Bloemfontein.

"Looking at the situation, Credit Agricole decided to suspend its current ad campaign," the bank said in a statement. A spokeswoman for the Paris-based bank said the situation was "disappointing." She declined to be named.

Players on the French team refused to train Sunday to protest a decision by Coach Raymond Domenech and the French soccer federation to expel striker Nicolas Anelka after the team's 2-0 loss to Mexico. The turmoil within the group has caused uproar in France.

France, the World Cup champion in 1998 and a finalist in 2006, may be eliminated from the World Cup on Tuesday if it doesn't win with a big score against South Africa.

-- Kevin Baxter, in Johannesburg, South Africa


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