Under-fire France coach Domenech clings on in face of huge opposition
Everybody hates Raymond. Or so it would appear yet again after the French national team's insipid performances to date in the quest for automatic World Cup qualification.
Everybody, that is, except for French federation president
Despite the fact that on paper,
Under such circumstances, the team's latest result, a 1-1 draw in Serbia in front of a hostile Belgrade crowd last month, could quite reasonably be seen as something of a triumph for Domenech. After all, Serbia is one of the most difficult places to visit and the French pulled themselves up by their bootstraps after going a goal down to a penalty in an incident that saw keeper
Given France's inability to inspire its public, many believed that defeat in Belgrade was absolutely inevitable. But a
But regardless of whether France finally makes it South Africa, there will still be huge doubts cast over coach Domenech's ability to motivate a group of undoubtedly talented individuals into a cohesive unit.
With players such as
It was a statement that didn't best please the former French international, who said, "Leave Domenech in peace for a bit and don't bring me into all this." It's unlikely, though, that anyone in France actually has the intention of getting off the current coach's back anytime soon.
It's still not impossible for France to qualify directly for South Africa as outright winner of Group 7, but it would take a minor miracle for that to happen. First of all, Domenech's side would need to win its two remaining qualifying games, against the Faroe Islands on Saturday and then against Austria four days later. This is eminently doable and would give France a final total of 21 points.
But Serbia is already on 19 points and its remaining two games are at home to Romania and away to Lithuania, two countries the Serbs have already beaten in the group. You'd have to be a real optimist to believe that France will avoid the playoffs, then, though at least Austria's draw against Romania means
But regardless of all this, France's qualifying campaign has been highly unconvincing by anybody's standards. And Domenech's complete refusal to acknowledge his side's failings or the generally moribund nature of France's performances in front of the French public has only exacerbated the feelings of frustration amongst supporters.
Domenech may, of course, end up having the last laugh. It wouldn't be the first time that a team supposedly in crisis made a decent fist of a finals tournament. Remember 1998? But it certainly feels like a creditable showing in South Africa is an absolute must if the coach is to remain at the head of the French team. Time, as always, will tell.