Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Loss Completes France’s Dishonor

France exited in disgrace from the World Cup on Tuesday with no victories and little sympathy for a team that infamously used an intentional handball to get into the tournament and self-destructed on the way out.

The French team’s petulant image did not gain much redemption in its final match, a 2-1 defeat to host South Africa in Bloemfontein, south of here. Les Bleus, as the French team is known, played the final 65-plus minutes a man short after midfielder Yoann Gourcuff was ejected for elbowing an opponent in the head.

Afterward, the eccentric and departing French coach, Raymond Domenech, declined to shake hands with his South African counterpart, Carlos Alberto Parreira. Apparently, Parreira said, the snub was related to his criticism of the way France had qualified for the World Cup: the illegal handling of the ball by Thierry Henry, which was unseen by the referee and led to the decisive goal in a playoff victory against Ireland in November.

Tuesday’s defeat completed a stunning implosion for France, which was the 1998 World Cup champion and 2006 runner-up but lost two of its matches here and tied in the other. On Thursday the star forward Nicolas Anelka profanely insulted Domenech at halftime of a loss to Mexico, then was expelled from the team. In protest, France’s players skipped practice Sunday, drawing widespread criticism from French politicians and in the news media.

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