After a stunning weekend of recrimination, mutiny and outrage, France's national team play South Africa on Tuesday and, miraculously, can still qualify for the next round if results fall the right way. They would need a big win against the hosts and for Mexico and Uruguay to avoid a draw.
The only positive note to emerge from this sorry saga, which has left France as "the laughing-stock of the world," according to World Cup-winning coach
France 2010 will always be remembered for the Anelka scandal, but the Chelsea forward, who landed in London on Monday morning, has not emerged as one of the main villains: instead, this quartet represent the bad boys of the 2010 World Cup's most astonishing story.
He even wanted to keep
But his behavior on Sunday, when he read out the players' statement criticizing his bosses at the federation for Anelka's exclusion -- after the players had humiliated him by refusing to train -- was of a man with nowhere left to turn. Even France's press officer had point-blank refused to read out the statement. "By taking part in that masquerade and reading the players' statement himself, Domenech lost his last opportunity to show some courage," wrote
His first mistake was to blame the press at Saturday's press conference, in which he insisted that the mole in the camp must be weeded out. To turn the story into a witch-hunt and then criticize the federation for Anelka's exclusion added fuel to an already raging fire, while sanctioning the refusal to train in solidarity of their forward turned the team into a national embarrassment. "Evra has confused the function of the captain with the role of the leader of a gang," wrote
French pundit and former national team player
This was Evra's chance to stake a claim to the captain's armband in the reign under France's next coach,
The reports that he had a fight with teammate
At one point he had tears in his eyes as he revealed how upset he was with the situation. "This has been my childhood dream but we didn't work as hard as we should have done, and I¹m suffering for that," he said. "But we are going to do everything we can to win the next game."
When it emerged that Ribery knew at that point of the plans to refuse to train later that day, calling into the question the veracity of his last comment, his performance was seen less as heart-felt and more as plain old political scheming.
His latest offense, though, surprised everyone: after the Mexico loss,