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The problem with 'les Bleus'

Text by Nicolas DE SCITIVAUX

Latest update : 2010-06-21

France’s loss against Mexico (0-2) is a disappointment for French football fans. But is the poor performance by “les Bleus” really a surprise? France24.com examines the issue with Joachim Barbier, journalist for the French magazine "So Foot".

France24.com: What were the first signs of Raymond Domenech’s inefficiency?

Joachim Barbier: When he began, Domenech made a clean start, moving aside the veterans, but we saw that the approach did not work very well when we nearly failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2006.

After Zidane, Thuram, and Makelele retired, we had a pathetic showing in Euro 2008. Yet despite that, the FFF (French Football Federation) still kept Domenech in his position.

Now, in 2010, Domenech has been showing flagrant incompetence for four years. Because of his poor choices, we find ourselves with players who are no longer great and who no longer form a team.

France24.com: Why were all these signs ignored?

J. B.: For reasons more political than sports-related. Because we had no candidates for Domenech's replacement after Euro 2008.

The FFF has the bad habit of always wanting to nominate a coach from its own ranks. From the start, everyone agreed to keep Domenech in order to defend the interests of the inner circle.

France24.com: In retrospect, what were the errors made in assigning players to positions?

J. B.: You have to wonder about Franck Ribery. Domenech made him the leader on the field. Ribery asked to play on the left, his wish was granted, and he played poorly. [On Thursday night], he played in the centre, and he was very bad. Why rely on a player who has been injured for a long time before becoming embroiled in controversies unrelated to football which must have shaken him up? Does he really have the mental strength to be a leader like Zidane or Platini?

I think it’s an error to pin hopes on a player who, on a human and athletic level, is not up to it. We could also talk about Anelka and Govou on the offensive front, even if yesterday [in the match against Mexico], the failure was pretty much collective.

France24.com: The French team is criticised for not playing well together. Is it the players’ fault or Raymond Domenech’s?

J. B.: A little bit of both. You’ve got a French team, tormented by a sense of paranoia, who have cut themselves off from the world. Football is life, it’s joy. I find that the “Bleus” have a bad attitude. They give off the impression that they’re just doing a job, and the job bores them.

France24.com: Why didn’t Gourcuff succeed in making himself the leader of the French team, and why is he not accepted by the other players?

J. B.: He’s not liked, because he’s different. He doesn’t like going out to night clubs, he listens to opera, he’s quiet, his father is a teacher [editor's note: and a former football player and coach]…so his cultural profile is different. I’m not in the locker room, but indeed it seems that he is not appreciated by certain high-profile players on the team.

It’s a very “high school” attitude, but if there’s a coach, it’s up to him to decide. So Raymond Domenech is useless since he caved in when his top players pushed for Yoann Gourcuff’s eviction.

France24.com: Who makes the team ultimately? Domenech or the players?

J. B.: The real question is: where is the team? Whether it’s Domenech or the star players, if there is no team to begin with, there is no soul.

Date created : 2010-06-18

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