So France is out, but does it have to be ugly?

Yes, Les Bleus went down today, as many predicted. As I noted, despite pundits who had them as group favorites, if they even got out of the group it would be amazing. Why? Because they were a damaged side, and have been for years under the aegis of Raymond Dumbenech.

So they’re out, and the joy has been unrestrained. Why? Some say arrogance toward “little” countries. But was there really? It seems like they were too busy fighting among themselves to show any arrogance to anyone.

The World Cup is about deeply felt allegiances to countries, sometimes not even birth countries of many of us. And for the record, I think it’s churlish and mean-spirited to take such pleasure in a nation going out.

Les Bleus, the side that I love, has a great many problems, woes that have been documented ad infinitum. It would seem they have enough to worry about. I had the immense pleasure of being at the match, in Montpellier’s Stade de la Mosson, at which Zidane returned to the side. It was electric, and galvanized a nation and a football side. And Zizou almost repaid that favor, up until he just missed a header that was saved by Buffon, then made a header, into the chest of Marco Materazzi. It could well be argued that it’s been downhill since then. But maybe, just maybe, without anything to rally around, the deficiencies in the coaching staff and federation became all that much more apparent. And yet, the joy in their misery is unrestrained.

“It serves them right because of the handball.” It’s up to the referee to make that call. He didn’t. Are they supposed to give the goal back, stop play and say “Hey, we didn’t really score that goal legally, so take it off the books.” Do you really think that any player would do that?

–One commenter here, Dave, said that Les Bleus need “real Frenchmen,” rather than relying on the colonies to win. Ramzi made a subtle, but eloquent reply that mentioned many of the French players from colonies who weren’t at this WC, but who energized the 2006 effort. Zidane was born in Marseille, but his parents are Algerian. Hmmm. Here’s the colony-free starting XI from today, along with their birthplaces:

Djibril Cisse: Arles, France
Hugo Lloris: Nice, France
Franck Ribery: Boulogne Sur-Mer, France
Andre Gignac: Martigues, France
Gael Clichy: Toulouse, France
William Gallas: Asnieres Sur-Seine, France
Sebastien Squillaci: Toulon, France
Alou Diarra: Villepinte, France
Alou Diaby: Aubervilliers, France
Yoann Gourcuff: Ploemeur, France
Bacary Sagna: Bourgogne, France

All “real” Frenchmen, and all were mostly crap. Now assuredly, Patrick Vieira was born in Dakar, Senegal, but he was left off the squad. Perhaps some more of them there colonists would have served Les Bleus well. Florent Malouda, the bright spot in the second half as a substitute, was born in French Guyana. One of those colonists, again. Sidney Govou came in as well, and he’s from France, in Le-Puy-en-Velay. And of course Thierry Henry is from Les Ulis, France. They both sucked.

Which means what?

Fact of the matter is that when a side loses confidence in its coach, it is doomed. And the players have not had confidence in Domenech for some time now. So they lashed out, against him, against the France football federation, against anybody that they could, up to and including sullying the colors that should run from their veins when they bleed. And they are out. They played down, to a level far, far below the talent that they could offer up. And they are going home, in ignominy, with tails between legs, flying in second-class seats, courtesy of the FFF.

It’s awful. For the nation, for the players, for the Federation, for the fans. Alexi Lalas plumbed the depths of his innate stupidity by saying of the implosion, “Well, they’re French, so it’s funny.”

I hope that everyone’s countries do well this World Cup, whichever ones remain. And I hope that people will have the heart and kindness not to take such joy in people’s hearts being ripped out. It was bad enough that they lost. That they lost in such a manner, with everything falling down around them, makes the insult and injury that much more painful.

Is scorn really necessary, as well?

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. Luke
    June 22, 2010

    Alexi Lalas is a grade-A shit head and I may end up writing a post where all I do is call him unspeakably awful names.

    As for the hatred of the French, I’ve never understood it because well, bread and cheese is the best thing you can possibly find.

    Sure, a fun joke about losing a war is nice every now and again.

    • Auld Super
      June 23, 2010

      Bread and cheese ? What about beer and chinese food, surely much better.

  2. Kari
    June 22, 2010

    I sympathize with the French fans–in fact, I feel really, really sorry for them–but the French team; from the players, to the coach, to the management, have done nothing to deserve my respect…right now.

    They basically spit in the face of the French fans,who saved their money and booked off their vacations to come to SA to support them, despite knowing how they reached the Finals, and the Irish, and any other team that just missed out of the WC, with those childish and heartless performance.

    Yes, your coach is a dumbass, but you’re not playing to represent your coach, you’re playing to represent your people. Man the hell up. No one agrees with Dumbenech–indeed, the fans know of his ineptitude–make them feel proud by playing your heart out in spite of it, in spite of him.

    If the French player took that approach, I would have sympathized with them more. But they didn’t. They went out with a pathetic whimper instead of a proud bang. They chose to take the unprofessional, childish way. They knew Blanc was coming, so they thought “Whatever. This douche is gone after the WC, the faster he’s gone the better. We’ll start everything over once he’s gone. No point in even trying to go further. The sooner this is over, the better”.

    They’re in the WC. THE WORLD CUP. The handball fiasco is over. They’re here now. I think any player would have done that handball to get their team to the WC, so I’m over that. What pisses me off is that when they got there, they did f- all. They really wanted to go right? They did that desperate act to get to SA, right? Then why the hell didn’t they do anything when they were there? Maybe Ireland wouldn’t have much better than France in the footballing scheme of things, but they would have tried a hell of a lot harder.

    I don’t agree with the “They ARE French after all” look, but I don’t feel sorry for them at all. I dislike them because they haven’t done anything to deserve the opposite.


  3. Rohanv
    June 22, 2010

    I’ve always found the American hate of all things French inexplicable (they helped you become a country!) The English dislike is a little more understandable, but their media really shouldn’t be lapping this up when compared to their own team. (Granted, journalists wherever don’t have to have an ‘own team’, but the English media don’t necessarily subscribe to this.)

    Les Bleus fans just have to accept that every alternate World Cup is going to suck. And that brings me to the biggest point you missed, or chose not to mention, in this post: Laurent Blanc!

  4. Jose
    June 22, 2010

    I was glad that France got eliminated simply because their performance must have been as painful to French fans as it was to me.

    It was sad. Forget the handball and all that other nonsense: to see the team go out there and play like they did is a slap in the face to the other 170 national teams that would have left their heart and soul on the pitch.

    So seriously, screw ’em. I’ve never been anti-France, and will hope they improve and wish well upon them in the future (especially under their promising new coach), but the train-wreck that they’ve been these last two weeks, both on and off the field, is something that the World Cup doesn’t need to see ever again.

    • Jose
      June 22, 2010

      P.S. The French players renounced the money they are entitled to by their participation in the tournament.

      First step has already been made 😉

  5. vicsoc8
    June 22, 2010

    I’m glad France is out.

    No team as disgraceful as this French team deserves to move on in the tournament, much less even be in the tournament. French fans should be glad their team is out as well. Honestly, if you are a French fan would you want this disgraceful circus to continue?

    I’m tried of hearing people blaming the coach and the FFF for everything. Yes both were horribly inept. This doesn’t excuse the childish, selfish, heartless acts of the players. I don’t care how horrible the coach is, how horrible the atmosphere is, or if there are no tactics – when you step onto the field in the World Cup you play with all your heart no matter what the situation is off the field. I would much rather have players who aren’t good enough to be there but will try their hardest than players who can’t be arsed because “ohhh the coach isn’t very good.” Man up.

    The whole thing was funny, but not because they were French. It was a sadistic, dark humor sort of funny. It tapped into a dark part of the human psyche – our enjoyment in seeing other people make an ass of themselves.

  6. lovelymofo
    June 22, 2010

    I love France, I love Paris, I love their museums, I love the sound of French, and I even like many of the French players. I feel sorry for fans of Les Bleus (except for my brother, for reasons I’ve mentioned before), but I feel no pity whatsoever for the FFF, Domenech, or the players.

    I will confess to being amused by the implosion of the team – at least in the sense that these are grown ass men representing their country at the World Cup. And instead of busting their ass to do the best they can, they’re spending their time acting like 5 year olds fighting over candy or something.

    Sorry your team is out Kxevin, but they did little to deserve going past the group stage.

  7. Euler
    June 22, 2010

    The Schadenfreude displayed during this Cup has been very unfortunate and rather odd given how many traditional powers have been struggling.

    France was simply ugly and more than anything else that was sad to watch.

    Lalas has been in stunningly bad form. The man’s lack of lack of irony is remarkable. He’s openly rooting for the U.S. and taking childish delight in the struggles of France and England in particular. All the while he keeps making pronouncements about the U.S. advancing and the U.S. hasn’t even won a match yet. As he takes pleasure in France’s debacle it seems to not even occur to him that the U.S. hasn’t played particularly well and very well could go home as well.

    But this seems to be an international phenomenon, particularly when it comes to France. The Guardian is firing off hyper-critical columns about the French team as if the England team were doing splendidly and former NT captain John Terry wasn’t trying to engineer his won insurrection against Capello. Terry was just too much of a bumbler to pull off the revolt.

    One of the things that was particularly tough to watch with France was Govou wearing the 10 jersey. Zizou’s 10 gets passed on to by Domenech to Govou.

  8. Helge
    June 23, 2010

    Apparently, we have signed Juan Manuel Mata for 20m:

    So please, no more offensive signings now!

    • Jnice
      June 23, 2010

      I refuse to believe it. I can’t believe something Madrid press picked up before Barcelona.

      • Jnice
        June 23, 2010

        I also checked the Valencia paper sites and it wasn’t there either.

        • Jnice
          June 23, 2010

          EDIT: I originally checked about 3 hours ago, now the press seem to be picking it up, but I still refuse to believe it because they are all still using the ‘Onda Cero’ source.

    • Reagan
      June 23, 2010

      I agree, why Mata? If the reports are true, I think it’s a stupid move. What does Mata give us that Pedro/Bojan don’t?

      Villa has already shown his quality on the wing against Honduras and Ibra would have nailed the chances Torres had in that game.

      Predicted (praying for) signings – Van Der Wiel, Felipe and FABREGAS

      How will we fund the above buys? Sales –

      (In pounds)

      Toure – 30m
      Henry – 5-10m
      Hleb – 7-12m
      Caceres – 9-12m
      Henrique – 10m

      … and we’re set!

  9. Auld Super
    June 23, 2010

    The French were flown home economy it said on sky sports news, if it’s true that would be funny. Mata, Mascherano, Cesc, Torres, Clichy, I’ll only believe any story when I actually see them wearing the Jersey in Camp Nou.

  10. mei
    June 23, 2010

    i have a a question for you.
    Is it ok if I dont really support my “country” in the world cup , simply because I dont really see it as country representation.
    I see football as a sport when someone happened to at some point pick a team , for whatever reason(like me , i happened to found out about barcelona simply because back in summer of 1998 someone placed a poster of kluivert over my bed , i looked into the history and i was an automatic passionate supporter of the club without ever either really supporting a local team of my original country or even following the domestic league). At international level I view it the same way ; i watched batistuta back in 1994 and became a fan of argentina but thats it. I dont really see football at international level as country representative , I mean players must have a passport of the nation that they are about to represent , but that doesnt mean its a nation playing , rather a players coming from that nation playing and thats a big difference.

    • June 23, 2010

      hmmm im quite similar with u.
      i started watching football and play football because when i moved to holland in 1995 i saw ronaldo play. and ajax. and barca. liked both those teams and loves the player. and thanks to my dad also for being being a cruyyfian. showing me ajax and barca.
      and for me i naturally support holland as my dad is dutch. but because ronaldo played for brazil i support brazil and holland. so i stuck with those teams till this day.

      • Dave
        June 23, 2010

        Ronaldo never played for Ajax, but yes my own love stated with the Ronaldo/de la pena at Barca 96/97 I believe

  11. Blow-Grenade
    June 23, 2010

    I think FFF is responsible for the French debacle. They left Raymond Dominech with very little power as they announced his successor before the world cup. This would definitely give the players a reason to dissent him, since they already knew there was a successor.

  12. Luke
    June 23, 2010

    Seems this debate is being infiltrated by the right of French politics as a way to cause more strife in the nation that has attempted to unite a large number of foreign nationals and territories. This combined with the tension caused by issues with burqas a few months ago, and it is no good for the French.

    Check it out:


  13. Dave
    June 23, 2010

    Interesting defence of the French Kevin-might I explore a few points further.
    First of all this is not anti-French sentiment- people have not just picked on the French national team for no reason-they have created this themselves and deserve everthing they get.

    1 ‘Real Frenchmen’- before anyone decides to get on their high horse, I would like to explain that this has nothing to do with the country they were born in or skin colour. It solely means mentality. Ramzi offered an interesting replay nonetheless

    “time to hire real Frenchmen”
    Like Platini, Zidan, Turam, Viera, Lizzarazu (or however you write it )…
    Yea, I know what you mean!
    Now firstly I think its laughable to even consider comparing(referencing) what France brought to the 2010 world Cup with France’s Golden generation.
    The difference was that the people mentioned by Ramzi WERE PROUD TO PLAY FOR THEIR COUNTRY as evidenced in their effort on the field and respect off it(regardless what the manager was like)
    Instead now France are led by a group of spoilt wingeing mercenaries.
    If I was French, I would be ashamed at the conduct of those individuals giving no passion or effort.
    Gallas suddenly as mentioned in the Guardian starts singing the French Anthem after 80 something caps- a big baby everywhere hes been.
    Im glad you mentioned Malouda Kevin as a poster boy of effort-is this
    the same fella who started the trouble before even the plane took off.
    He might as well be playing with Guyana. To come to another country and try to dictate what way things are done-unbelievable. He should spend less time on his hair

    2 Oh yes the manager I hear you say- yes he’s clueless but what Anelka said was completely out of order and far too personal but thats ‘Le Sulk. Domenech conduct after the match summed up his teams attitude.Classless. Blaming the manager no longer holds strength. This player power led by a couple of imbeciles who came from nothing get paid huge salaries has gone too far. For starters there was a crisis of leadership-even as slow as viera was he was badly needed.
    Gallas- nasty individual
    Evra- hasn’t got it
    Henry- well most people remarked that he was more a suffocating influence at arsenal as captain. Make what you will.

    3“It serves them right because of the handball.”
    Fair enough you may say its Fifa’s fault etc they’ll take advantage of anything they can get but the arrogance shown by Evra when he said the only replay they would be playing was on the playstation-was low.
    Thankfully Patrice will have plenty of time to play his beloved playstaion now.
    The killer for me is to take a place and not show any effort.I just hope we never this again whether it involves the French or anyone else

  14. inNYC
    June 23, 2010

    I’m not anti-France at all. I set my ringtone to “La Marseillaise” during the whole ridiculous Freedom Fries era here in the US. And I do think there’s a particular and generally unwarranted anti-France attitude here (anyone catch the Rolling Stone/McChrystal jump-off?).

    But I don’t think there’s any question right now that everyone involved in Le Debacle has disgraced themselves. The players’ deficiencies have been pretty amply documented here, but I’d also like to point out that everyone up the chain (some of whom are obviously responsible for the continuing Domenech situation) has taken the opportunity to pile on the players now that there’s something theoretically “in it” for them to be loudly denouncing the team. That’s all pretty lame as well. The sports minister making fun of their hotel, Zidane (whose grace note as a player we all remember quite well, and who was supporting Domenech for a while if I”m not mistaken), the freakin’ PM. Now Henry has to go meet with the Prime Minister to explain why they had a bad world cup? Seriously? And the fans seem to be taking such glee in their own team’s downfall. It seems a bit much, and I have to admit that I’m trying to understand if there’s a particularly French situation going on, in the same way that you can make *some* generalizations about the English fans/press and their relationship to the team.

    Yes, Alexi Lalas went a bit far. But so did the French, here.

  15. i realize i’m late to this discussion, but i have to say in defense of the mockers, that in some ways their derision and schadenfreude IS justified. what france did in their 11 days in the tournament wasn’t just disrespectful to their country/fans/etc–it was disrespectful of the game we all love, and specifically to the world cup. to see these players (for whatever reason, be it their coach, their federation, or their wine going sour) not care about this game and this tournament is incredibly disheartening, and i for one feel that they deserve every bit of disgust and contempt they get, from now until they come to an international field with some semblance of desire and passion.

    they have mocked the game, now let them be mocked in equal measure.

  16. Lev
    June 24, 2010

    Great post. Offering you a belated comment. I don’t think that the players embarassed France as much as they just embarassed themselves.

    Before you represent your country, you represent yourself. Now this is even more so in the French team with so many players who have roots elsewhere, but to me that is beside the point.

    It is a disgrace when a group of footballers just spit on the opportunity of playing in the World Cup, something most of their colleagues (not to mention the rest of us) can only dream of.

    I accept that it is not the players’ fault that their federation kept on a coach that they so obviously loathed for six years, but still, does that take away your pride? You’re at the motherFing world F-ing Cup!!!!

    At least the Italians tried.

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