Domenech on Italian charm offensive
France manager Raymond Domenech went on a charm offensive here Monday in a bid to reduce the tension surrounding Tuesday's make or break UEFA EURO 2008 clash with Italy.
Domenech has had his fair share of run-ins with the Italians since the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ final, but he put those differences to one side here ahead of the game that could conceivably spell the end of his reign as French manager.
"I love Italian football, I love their cuisine, I love their sun, and I love their sea - the trouble is they (the Italian media) always say the opposite about me," he said. "To play Italy is always superb, and to do it here in the EURO is marvellous. Add to that the possibility of qualifying and it's every footballer's dream.
"A France v Italy game is always like a derby, to play it in these circumstances makes it exceptional."
Domenech has had the job of trying to lift his group after their 4-1 drubbing by the Dutch which left them on the brink of being knocked out but his and his player's fate is now out of their hands.
For even a win against the Italians won't be enough if Romania draw or beat what is expected to be a Holland side with some of their key players rested.
Asked if he'd be keeping an eye on proceedings in Berne, Domenech replied: "We've got to forget the other game and concentrate on doing what we have to do.
"A small chance of us qualifying only exists if we achieve something against Italy," he added. "Have I got more grey hair in the past week? No, my hair's white!"
Then, replying to one reporter who suggested this could be his last press conference as France manager in the event that things go horribly wrong on Tuesday Domenech, getting up from his chair, said: "What I can tell you is that that is the last question."
France must beat Italy and pray Romania don't beat already qualified Holland in the other Group C game being played simultaneously to make it into the quarter-finals as group runners-up.
Anything less will see them packing their bags and heading back to Paris.