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France coach Blanc drops all 23 World Cup players
The French federation said Friday in a statement it had granted Blanc permission to suspend the players at the coach’s request.
France was eliminated in the group stage at the World Cup, failing to win a game. The players also refused to train as a protest after Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home following an expletive-laced tirade at then-coach Raymond Domenech.
Blanc refused to speak to reporters when he left the federation’s headquarters Friday.
The French team endured days of chaos at the World Cup after L’Equipe newspaper published a rant by Anelka aimed toward Domenech at halftime of a 2-0 loss against Mexico, prompting the French federation to send him home.
The next day, the entire squad refused to train in protest and captain Patrice Evra had a lively altercation with the team’s fitness coach that was captured on TV.
The events caused an outcry in France, with politicians harshly criticizing the players’ attitude, legislators in parliament questioning the coach and even President Nicolas Sarkozy weighing in on the mess.
Earlier Friday, France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris criticized the squad for being “totally stupid” for going on strike and said he is desperate to “restore the image” that was so badly damaged in South Africa.
“Going on strike was the decision of a group that felt isolated, that felt no one had protected it, and that wanted to get a message across,” Lloris said in an interview with L’Equipe. “We went way too far. It was a clumsy decision, a big mistake. It was totally stupid.”
Lloris, who has 14 international appearances and is expected to stay the No. 1 goalkeeper, accepts the players have an obligation “to make sure what happened in South Africa never happens again, that we don’t self-destruct in that way ever again.”
“We acted more like a team in the bus than on the pitch,” the 23-year-old Lloris said.
“We all want to restore the image of Les Bleus. I’m not asking for us to win everything, just that we all make an effort, that we give everything,” he added. “We need to get back to basics, respect for the jersey, for ourselves, our teammates and the institution that is the France team.”
Federation president Jean-Pierre Escalettes handed in his resignation earlier this month and the federal council unanimously appointed Fernand Duchaussoy as caretaker president Friday.
By Bob Dole
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