France’s footballing years of woe

Samir Nasri's apology for outburst after Euro 2012 loss is the latest saga in ten years of French footballing turmoil.

    France’s footballing years of woe
    Zinedine Zidane’s head butt and sending off at the 2006 World Cup final marked the beginning of the end for France, with the national team subsequently failing to win a match at Euro 2008 and at the 2010 World Cup [EPA]

    Samir Nasri has apologised for a row with a journalist that followed France’s elimination from Euro 2012.

    After losing 2-0 to Spain in the quarter-finals, Nasri was involved in a heated exchange with a journalist in which he used profane language and asked the reporter to step outside for a confrontation.   

    The 25-year-old has since apologised, tweeting that "the supporters and in particular children should know that I regret that my language may have shocked them”.

    Nonetheless this apology may not be enough to prevent the wrath of the French Football Federation. The body’s president, Noel le Graet, has described his behaviour as "intolerable". Reports in the French media suggest the Manchester City player could face a two-year ban from international football.

    The incident epitomises the turmoil that has plagued France for the last decade. During this period bouts of poor discipline and bickering have disrupted their pursuit of glory.

    However while Nasri has been made France’s scapegoat according to some, it should be noted that he was not the only source of tension within the camp – with manager Laurent Blanc admitting there was a dressing room row following his team’s group stage loss to Sweden.

    But as the inquest continues over France’s latest implosion, Al Jazeera takes a look at what has been a decade of desperation for a country blessed with some of the football's finest talent.

    World Cup 2002 – first round knock-out

    Having gone into the competition as defending champions, the French were eliminated at the first hurdle.

    Some newspaper commentators accused the players of arrogance and focusing too much on advertising contracts instead of football. Ill-discipline also played a role with star striker Thierry Henry receiving a red card in their second match for a two-footed-lunge.

    France ended the competition having scored no goals and manager Roger Lemerre was sacked. Communist daily, L'Humanite , labelled the campaign as "an incomprehensible fiasco."

    Euro 2004 – experienced players clash

    The defence of France’s European crown was ended by a 1-0 quarter-final loss to eventual champions Greece.

    The team was lambasted by all sections of the French media, and revelations later emerged of in-fighting between some of the team’s star players. Manager Jacques Santini claimed he had to break up a training-pitch row between Thierry Henry and Robert Pires. Henry later admitted there was altercation but played it down – insisting that it was not a “fight”.

    World Cup 2006 – the head butt that rocked the world

    Despite a slow start to the group stage, the French gained momentum in the knockout phases and beat Spain, Brazil and Portugal on route to a final showdown with Italy. It was there that disaster finally struck.

    With the game deep into extra time and locked at 1-1, one of the most shocking moments of footballing history occurred. The referee sent off French Captain, Zinedine Zidane, for violent conduct. Replays show Zidane head-butting Marco Materazzi in what appears to have been a response to something the Italian had said.

    France went on to lose 5-3 on penalties in game where the actions of their most celebrated player, in his final game, arguably cost them football’s biggest prize.

    Euro 2008 - no respect for elders

    In the thick of it: Thierry Henry reportedly clashed with Nasri in 2008 [GALLO/GETTY]

    France crashed out of the competition in the first round with reports of squabbling taking place.

    In addition to his current scandal, Samir Nasri clashed with striker Thierry Henry. He allegedly stole the experienced star’s seat on the team bus – much to the anger of Henry’s fellow veteran William Gallas. Post tournament comments from the defender suggest there was division in the camp between young and old, claiming that some of the younger players seemed “very cheeky”.

    World Cup 2010 – national humiliation

    France stumbled out of the competition in the first round amidst a backdrop of chaos.

    Jean-Pierre Escalettes, who was President of the French football federation, claimed that the team’s antics in South Africa destroyed "50 years of values”.

    The expulsion of Nicolas Anelka from the squad for verbally abusing Manager Raymond Domenech following a 2-0 loss to Mexico, appeared to trigger tensions. It led to the team boycotting training in protest; however Thierry Henry – who was captain at the time – later revealed that there was a deeper “sickness” in the camp. Like in Euro 2008, there appeared to be generational gap with Henry claiming that he felt “isolated”.

    A humiliating 2-1 defeat to South Africa in their final group game compounded France’s misery. Domenech was subsequently fired, while then President Nicolas Sarkozy summoned Henry to the Elysee palace to demand answers for what was a national embarrassment.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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