There is little left to be said about France’s disastrous campaign in South Africa. On and off the pitch and in their words as well as their actions, Les Bleus fell desperately short of the standards their fans expected. The turmoil looks far from over too, with inquests sure to be launched and scores settled at various levels of the French game.
The figures central to the team’s bid have been trying to come to terms with what was a stunning and unexpected failure, and several of them shared their views with FIFA. “We really weren’t any good,” admitted centre-back Sebastien Squillaci. “Looking back, we didn’t deserve more than our one point.”
“It’s the end of a long nightmare,” added midfielder Abou Diaby. “When we arrived here, I didn’t think things would turn out like they did. We now have no other choice but to go home and think about something else.”
Together since 18 May, Raymond Domenech’s men spent more a month as a squad in close confines, a situation that called for everyone to fit in. That, clearly, is where their problems began, as the players themselves have intimated. “The adventure has come to an end in a fairly bizarre way, but we had this coming,” said right-back Bacary Sagna.
“Not everyone was pulling in the same direction for quite a while, and that didn’t help anyone or anything. I just hope we learn our lesson because I never want to relive something like this. We now need to get going again and start from the beginning. Things can only improve in the future.”
Before tackling the future, however, France will have to recover from this undoubtedly traumatic experience. “This campaign will leave marks,” explained Squillaci. “We can only blame ourselves.” The question now is what state incoming coach Laurent Blanc will find the team in when he takes over in July. Out-thought tactically, lacking conviction and unable to impress on the pitch, the players must quickly face up to their failings.
They could also benefit from recalling some forgotten values, as brought back to mind by Squillaci. “It’s an indescribable feeling to wear the France shirt and sing La Marseillaise,” he said. “Playing in a World Cup was a childhood dream for me. As long as I’m still called upon to play for the national team, I’ll be ready.” A little more of that same desire would have served Les Bleus well in South Africa.