Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Pakistan's Political Turmoil: Can Imran Khan's PTI Party Depose the Government? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Pakistan's Political Turmoil: Can Imran Khan's PTI Party Depose the Government?

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

#IceBucketChallenge and hashtag activism

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

A bellwether for what not to do

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'The world’s dictators love the unrest in Ferguson'

Read more

ENCORE!

Montreal Stories

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

More than half of French households will pay no income tax this year

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users taking on the "Ice Bucket Challenge" to fight ALS

Read more

FOCUS

Israel's minorities and military service

Read more

  • Ex-PM Juppé announces bid for 2017 French presidential race

    Read more

  • Dozens killed as landslides strike Japan’s Hiroshima

    Read more

  • IS militants ‘behead’ missing US journalist in gruesome video

    Read more

  • Deadly airstrikes hit Gaza as ceasefire with Israel collapses

    Read more

  • Tentative peace in Ferguson despite second fatal shooting

    Read more

  • Suspected Ebola cases in Austria, new drug raises hopes

    Read more

  • WWII anniversary highlights best - and worst - of Paris police

    Read more

  • Headscarf at the beach sparks French MEP’s fury

    Read more

  • Iraqi army clashes with militants in Tikrit after retaking key dam

    Read more

  • Video: Life in under-siege Donetsk

    Read more

  • Racism, riots and police violence: USA under scrutiny

    Read more

  • ‘Let it be’: Londoners sick of Abbey Road tourists

    Read more

  • Australia to free children from immigration detention centres

    Read more

Sport

The frictions blighting Europe's football dreams

Text by Benjamin DODMAN

Latest update : 2010-06-21

Their players are global superstars and their clubs dominate the world, but European nations have got off to a shocking start at the World Cup – and anarchy has spread to their camps.

When European teams took all four semi-final slots at the last World Cup in 2006, it looked as though the “Old Continent” had reasserted its control over a game it has traditionally claimed as its own.

Four years on, Europe’s football superpowers have been left looking red-faced after a series of embarrassing results; and to make matters worse, a whiff of mutiny has spread through the camps.

Embarrassment on the pitch

While Central and South American nations have glided through the group stage so far, many in Europe’s numerous contingent have been found wanting.

Spain, the current European champions and the tournament’s hot favourites, slumped to a shock defeat in their first game, albeit against another European nation, the unfancied Swiss.

But the performances of three other European heavyweights – England, France and Italy – have prompted the harshest criticism so far.

France, whose qualification at the expense of Ireland was aided by an infamous handball, are virtually out of the competition after mustering just one point in two games.

England and defending champions Italy have fared marginally better, picking up two points each in as many games. But their poor performances against, respectively, Algeria and New Zealand, have left both teams looking utterly clueless.

Italy could do little more than throw high balls at their attackers, despite the fact that the average Kiwi defender was a full six inch taller. As for the England players, they appeared incapable of even controlling the ball, let alone passing it.

Farce in the dressing room

The Italians, whose ability to show unity on the football pitch contrasts markedly with the country’s politics, may yet rally to save their campaign. The same appears less likely of the French and English.

France’s campaign went from bad to worse on Saturday when star striker Nicolas Anelka was spectacularly fired after allegedly refusing to apologise for a foul-mouthed rant aimed at coach Raymond Domenech.

The players promptly blamed a “traitor” for leaking the lewd remarks, which had been splashed all over the French press drawing fierce condemnation back home, including a rebuke by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The next day, "Les Bleus" abruptly walked away from a public training session and released a statement expressing their dismay at Anelka’s eviction. The team director promptly resigned, describing what had happened as “a scandal for the federation, for the French team and for the whole country”.

England seek to clear the air

Enter Terry. The Chelsea defender, who was stripped of the England captaincy in February amid claims he had had an affair with a former teammate’s girlfriend, addressed the media on Sunday “on behalf of the team” saying England would also be having a clear-the-air meeting and that players would not refrain from criticising coach Fabio Capello.

By midnight, reports suggested Terry’s fledgling revolt had been crushed and the outspoken former captain had been left looking dangerously isolated.

England must now beat Slovenia to avoid the embarrassment of an early exit. Should they fail, their over-hyped campaign will be remembered only for the ridiculous expectations and one of the worst goalkeeping blunders in World Cup history.
 

Date created : 2010-06-21

  • WORLD CUP 2010

    France unleashes fury on drama-plagued football team

    Read more

  • WORLD CUP

    France laments ‘shameful’ World Cup performance

    Read more

  • WORLD CUP

    Nicolas Anelka: French football’s 'enfant terrible'

    Read more

COMMENT(S)