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Timeline of Les Bleus' fall from grace

Upon adding the European title to their World Cup crown in 2000, Les Bleus were the darlings of a nation. Ten years on, they have become the world’s least popular team, with the most reviled coach. Timeline of a downfall.

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2002: Defending world and European champions France crash out of the World Cup in the group stage after spectacularly failing to score a single goal in three matches.

2004: France also relinquish their European crown after a quarter-final defeat to Greece. Raymond Domenech replaces Jacques Santini as the coach of the national team.

2006: After a lacklustre start to the World Cup, a rift emerges between coach Domenech and the squad. Several senior players, including Zinedine Zidane and Lilian Thuram, reportedly take matters into their own hands, leading France from the brink of elimination to an unexpected final. Les Bleus go on to lose in a penalty shoot-out against Italy, but the final will be best remembered for Zidane’s sending off after he head-butted Italy’s Materazzi.

June 2008: With Zidane gone for good, France’s Euro 2008 campaign comes to a premature end after two draws and a defeat in the group stage. Domenech, who is said to turn to astrology when picking a team, is widely blamed for the catastrophe.

July 2008: The French Football Federation confirms Domenech will keep his post for the forthcoming World Cup, much to the disbelief of fans and squad veterans alike.

January 2010: French fans find it hard to celebrate after Les Bleus sneak into the 2010 World Cup thanks to a Thierry Henry handball during a play-off against Ireland.

May 2010: France players Franck Ribery and Sidney Govou are at the heart of a media storm after it emerges they were questioned in connection with an under-age prostitution ring. Ribery admits he had sex with a prostitute, but says he did not know she was 16.

June 4, 2010: After an unconvincing win over Costa Rica and a feeble draw with Tunisia, France wrap up their underwhelming World Cup warm-up with a home defeat to China. Polls suggest their popularity is at an all-time low.

June 11, 2010: France serve up a disappointing draw against Uruguay in their World Cup opener. Domenech is criticised by some players for fielding striker Nicolas Anelka instead of Henry.

June 17, 2010: Les Bleus are left staring at an early exit after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Mexico. The French press laments a team “lacking in backbone and in soul”.

June 19, 2010: Sports daily L’Equipe, France’s best-selling national newspaper, quotes a foul-mouthed rant allegedly aimed by Anelka at Domenech, in a headline that would have embarrassed most tabloid newspapers in England.

The media leak sends shockwaves throughout the French camp and sparks a hunt for a “traitor”. Anelka is sent home, allegedly after refusing to apologise for his remark.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemns the words attributed to Anelka, while Quick, a popular fast food chain, says it has cancelled its advertising contract with the striker.

June 20, 2010: France’s players walk off the training pitch after a row between the team’s captain and the fitness coach. In a statement read out by, ironically, Domenech, the players say they walked out in protest at Anelka’s expulsion.

A senior official of the French Football Federation promptly resigns, describing what has happened as “a scandal for the federation, for the French team and for the whole country”.

June 21, 2010: The French press lashes out at Les Bleus, described as “cowards” and “deserters”. Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot calls on the players to show “dignity and responsibility”.

French bank Credit Agricole suspends its advertising campaign featuring the French team. Other sponsors, including energy giant GDF-Suez, say they may follow suit.
 

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