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The Trouble With France - World Cup Germany 2006 Qualifying

Sep 2 2005

Domenech Is Doomed

France, the FIFA World Champions in 1998, currently lying fourth in Group 4 behind the Rep. Ireland, Switzerland and Israel, go into their World Cup 2006 qualifying matches against the Faroe Isles (3 September) and Ireland (7 September) needing to win both games to keep their qualifying hopes on track.

In their home game against the Faroe Isles (World Ranking, 126) at Lens - a comfortable home victory should be theirs for the taking and three points would move them level with Ireland (World ranking, 14) ahead of the clash at Lansdowne Road, Dublin.
A match which could well prove a stumbling block for France.
Especially if it's windy and raining and the 'fighting Irish' scent a victory.
Goalkeeper Shay Given (Newcastle United), defender John O'Shea (Manchester United), midfielders Roy Keane and Liam Miller (Manchester United), forwards Damien Duff (Chelsea) and Robbie Keane (Tottenham) are all used to playing at the highest level and and have experience of facing Thierry Henry, Sylvan Wiltord, Claude Makelele, Djibril Cisse
et all.

But the trouble with France is not the individual brilliance of the players, it's the waning control over the group of Raymond Domenech, the national coach.

When Domenech was appointed in July 2004, France was ranked second in the FIFA World Standings.

Under Domenech it has slipped to ninth and recently three senior France internationals, Zinedine Zidane, Lilian Thuram and Claude Makelele voluntarily came out of retirement to help France ensure qualification for Germany 2006 - and by doing so undermined Domenech's authority over the team, his training methods and his right of selection.

No Frenchman could leave national hero Zinedine Zidane sitting on the bench after he had made himself available to play.
And Claude Makelele has publicly said that if he doesn't play he'll retire for a second time. Makelele also publicly admitted that he returned to the French squad without ever having spoken to Domenech.
His dealings were solely by telephone with Zidane.

So Domenech has been by-passed by his players and with the return of the three musketeers he'll have to leave out someone he selected.
Patrick Vieira, Vikash Dhorasoo and Florent Malouda are Domenech's chosen midfielders.
At least one of them will be dropped.
Possibly even the man he chose as team captain, Juventus Turin's Patrick Vieira.

Or perhaps in true French democratic spirit he'll ballot the squad on the starting line-up.

Domenech was promoted National Coach after France's mediocre Euro 2004 campaign when Jacques Santini - seduced by the the English Premiersh League - resigned before the tournament ended.
A long-time staff member of the French Football Federation's Direction Technique Nationale, Domenech - after much internal politicking - was nominated by Claude Simonet, the president of the FFF and duly appointed.
Domenech was an insider and a compromise candidate.

What every soccer team needs is a strong manager who imposes his ideas, his tactics and chooses the players he wants in each post.

Domenech's idea of showing he was in charge was to ban portable telephones from the massage room and insist the squad had breakfast together. That firm action produced the following results: He lost the respect of senior players who exited the squad on mass.

The team has strugglked agianst modest opposition (Ireland apart) in their WCQ matches to date.

France 0:0 Israel
France 0:0 Rep.Ireland
Faroe Isles 0:2 France
Cyprus 0:2 France
France 0:0 Switzerland
Israel 1:1 France

Hardly scorelines that suggest France are future World Champions.

France must qualify for the World Cup Finals next year - their squad is packed with talented players who deserve to be part of the spectacle.
But when players are seen to be more powerful than the boss, trouble is on hand.

Domenech loves the theatre - and has ambitions to be an actor.
But it's unlikely he ever dreamed that Zinedine Zidane, the most popular celebrity in France, would direct him in a disaster movie called 'Domenech Is Doomed.'

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