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Sports

French World Cup disaster continues as team refuses to practice

After Nicolas Anelka's expulsion from the team, the French team refused to practice on Sunday. Anelka was booted after cursing out coach Raymond Domenech, and it was Domenech who was left to meet the press to explain.

Raymond Domenech reads a statement to the media on France's training pitch

Domenech read the players' statement as the team headed for the bus

The wheels are continuing to fall off in the French World Cup camp in South Africa. On Sunday, the squad pulled out from its scheduled training session in protest against striker Nicolas Anelka's expulsion.

A day earlier, the French football federation (FFF) announced that Anelka had been booted off the team for comments he made to the team's coach during France's 2-0 loss to Mexico.

Nicolas Anelka

There won't be any more action for Anelka in this World Cup

The French players were unanimously against the FFF's decision to remove Anelka, claiming that the dispute between the player and coach Raymond Domenech had been made in the privacy of the locker room and should have never reached the press.

"We regret the incident at half-time of the France versus Mexico match," the teams' players said in a statement, "but we regret even more the divulging of an event which was only the squad's business and was part and parcel of the life of a top-level team."

The statement was read out loud to the media by coach Raymond Domenech and followed a near-scuffle on the training pitch between team captain Patrice Evra and Robert Duverne, a fitness coach on the team. Duverne had reportedly insisted that the players go ahead with the practice.

The players' decision to call off their practice also caused the team's director, Jean-Louis Valentin, to resign in disgust.

Picked up by the press

According to media reports, Anelka crudely insulted Domenech coming off the pitch at halftime in France's group game against Mexico. Domenech had reportedly criticized Anelka's performance on pitch. Anelka was subbed for the second half.

L'Equipe newspaper headline with Anelka and Domenech in foreground

Anelka was not quoted warmly by L'Equipe

French sports newspaper L'Equipe printed Anelka's alleged comments on the front page of Saturday's edition. The Chelsea forward denied cursing at Domenech as suggested by L'Equipe but did admit to a 'heated conversation' with his coach.

On Saturday, Anelka was asked by FFF president Jean-Pierre Escalettes to issue a public apology for his remarks. When Anelka refused, the decision was made to send him home.

Support from teammates

French captain Patrice Evra had sympathy for his departed teammate, saying Anelka wasn't the problem on the French squad.

"The problem is the traitor among us who told the press what was said," Eyra said. "There's somebody in our group that wants to harm the France team."

Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery appeared in tears live on French television as he discussed Anelka's expulsion and problems with the French team, appealing to the French people to forgive the team for their poor showing so far in the World Cup.

France go into their final group game against South Africa with their backs up against the wall. They opened the tournament with a lackluster 0-0 draw against Uruguay, and after Thursday's loss to Mexico, have only a glimmer of hope of advancing to the knock-out stage.

France must win its game against South Africa on Tuesday and hope that the game between Uruguay and Mexico doesn't end in a draw. Even then, France would only advance if it had a superior goal difference to that game's loser.

Author: Matt Zuvela (Reuters, dpa, AFP)
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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