French participation in South Africa appeared doomed before the tournament even began. The now infamous Thierry Henry handball against the Republic of Ireland in Paris on 18 November almost triggered an historic amendment to the FIFA constitution.
The cries of injustice and crusades to Sepp Blatter’s office door were in vain and Ireland fans were left to make do with an apology from the disgraced French forward.
Just after the tournament got underway, Florent Malouda clashed with manager Raymond Domenech before France’s opening match against Uruguay. Arguably the only in form player in the squad, the Chelsea man was left to reflect upon the error of his ways until the 80th minute, when he was brought on.
Following their goalless opener, another inept performance led to a 2-0 loss to Mexico. EmotionsÃ¢â‚¬â€inevitablyÃ¢â‚¬â€erupted.
Thierry Henry stormed out of the Polokwane stadium after failing to make an impact during their defeat to Mexico. A “traitor” within the squad revealed that a half-time spat between Domenech and Nicolas Anelka had resulted in the substitution of the Cheslea forward.
Anelka allegedly insulted the French manager with the French Football Federation afterwards opting to send the forward home. It is an incident similar to the Saipan episode of 2002 which saw the then Ireland manager Mick McCarthy dismiss Roy Keane following an ill-advised comment to the boss.
The latest instalment of drama occurred at an open training session yesterday when, in front of the watching media, captain Patrice Evra became embroiled in a sensational bust-up with France fitness coach Robert Duverne.
Evra told Duverne that the players were taking Anelka’s side and were boycotting training, leading to a heated argument between the pair.
The defender skulked back to the team coach while Domenech attempted to calm Duverne.
So FranceÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s World Cup ambitions are in tatters, their fate out of their hands.
But whilst the crushing defeat last Thursday was a surely victory for the green of Mexico and Ireland alike, for the Irish it must be difficult not to look back and ask: what if?
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