France coach Raymond Domenech said his players acted like imbeciles by protesting Nicolas Anelka’s expulsion from the team by refusing to train just two days before the match that decides their World Cup future.
“I tried to convince them that what they were doing was an aberration, an imbecility, a stupidity without name,’’ Domenech said yesterday.
The players worked out in Bloemfontein, South Africa, yesterday, a day after striking to show their displeasure about Anelka being kicked off the team for getting into a heated exchange with Domenech at halftime of France’s loss to Mexico last week.
France plays South Africa today in a Group A match it needs to win to stand a chance of advancing. It also needs a winner in the Mexico-Uruguay game to avoid a repeat of the 2008 European Championship, when it went out in the first round.
Patrice Evra’s role as captain could be over after only five games, with Domenech refusing to confirm him as his leader after the defender initiated the player walkout.
“I haven’t picked the team yet, we will see [today],’’ Domenech said, adding of the players that “they’ve expended a lot of energy. It’s sad.’’
When Domenech was asked if some players had told him they do not want to play the game, he answered evasively.
“It is a possibility that we will finalize [things] tonight with the staff to see what team we put in place,’’ he said.
Evra was furious at the French Football Federation’s decision to send Anelka home late Saturday, amid claims from the players that the FFF denied Anelka a chance to give his side of the story at a news conference.
Having initially said he understood his players’ frustration and that what Anelka said — although abusive — was something that happens within the locker room, Domenech struck a different note yesterday.
“First of all, I would like to specify that the punishment that was handed out to Nicolas Anelka is justified,’’ Domenech said. “I support the federation in this matter. No one can permit themselves to act like that, either in the dressing room or elsewhere.’’
The midfielder said that John Terry’s emotional talk of a team meeting with coach Fabio Capello after England’s abysmal performance in a 0-0 draw with Algeria was the center back’s way of hitting problems “head on.’’
But Lampard denied it was a heated meeting with Capello, and stressed that all the players were behind the Italian coach.
“I understand what John is saying because he’s passionate,’’ Lampard said. “He’s like that as a player. All 23 players deal with things differently. Some people don’t want to say too much, some people want to hit things head on. Everyone appreciates that.
“The messages I got yesterday from people was that John was saying some positive things. I think we will try and hit things head on on the training ground.’’
England is on the brink of going out of the World Cup in the opening round for the first time since 1958 after draws with the United States and Algeria. The English need to beat Slovenia in Port Elizabeth tomorrow to ensure themselves a spot in the round of 16.
The return of the AC Milan midfielder was just about the only piece of good news for Italy in the wake of two unimpressive draws.
Coach Marcello Lippi lectured the players for 20 minutes before the start of training, with even injured goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon called out of the gym for the occasion.