So France bowed out of the World Cup on Tuesday. That, in and of itself, isn't too surprising. They barely qualified for the World Cup and only did so with a controversial hand ball. Technically they shouldn't have even been in the World Cup. Even though this is France, winner of the 1998 World Cup and runners-up in the 2006 World Cup, everyone knew that a first round exit was possible because of their struggles to even qualify. But who knew that they would exit how they did?
For anyone not following the awesome drama, France completely fell apart in the most dramatic of fashions. Let's go through the time line of events:
July 2006: In the World Cup final, Zinedane Zidane, perhaps the greatest footballer of our generation completely loses his cool and headbutts an Italian player and gets redcarded and sent off the field. Not sure how this really relates to the events of this Cup, but things haven't been right since that moment.
July 2006 - November 2009: France plays the 2010 World Cup qualifying matches and barely qualifies. France only qualifies by beating Ireland and they scored the winning goal off of a hand ball. Apparently some Irish curse was put on the team after the game.
June 11, 2010: France plays their first World Cup game against Uruguay and they tie 0-0. This isn't too surprising for a couple of reasons: 1. Uruguay is good. 2. France isn't good. Remember how they barely qualified?
June 17, 2010: France plays Mexico in their second World Cup game and loses 2-0. Admittedly, I was even surprised by this one because I was fooled into thinking that France was better than they really are. It's easy to forget that a team isn't good and has chemistry issues when you look at their roster. France has a pretty impressive roster: Franck Ribery, Nicolas Anelka, Patrice Evra, Forent Malouda, Eric Abidal etc. Those names may or may not mean something to you. If they don't, just know that all of those players don't just play for premier European soccer clubs, they are crucial parts to those clubs. Some of the best players in the world.
But France is strange like that. They won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Cup. Then in the 2002 World Cup with pretty much the same team that won the championships, they completely fall apart, fail to even score a goal and are eliminated in the first round. So individual talent alone doesn't carry a team. You need team chemistry as well. Just ask England.
But apparently the chemistry was real bad. During halftime in the Mexico game, France's striker Nicolas Anelka and the coach, Raymond Domenech had a bit of a blow up. A pretty fun exchange ensued. Some quality name-calling between two adults. Stay classy France.
June 19, 2010: Not surprisingly, Anelka is sent home. Usually something like that happens after you call your coach's mother a whore. Even if Anelka had scored 6 goals in 2 games, he would likely have been sent home. Given though that he had failed to do much, it was probably a pretty easy decision.
June 20, 2010: This is where the drama gets good. Here's the abbreviated version: France is going to their training facility. They arrive in a bus. All the players get off except for the captain Patrice Evra and the coach. They have words. Evra thinks the fitness manager leaked the Anelka story. He's upset. He confronts the fitness manager. They get upset at each other and their verbal fight probably ends with the fitness manager throwing a glass of wine in Evra's face before the fitness manager quits. Evra and all the players go back on the bus, pull down the shades and refuse to practice. Which is great because it's just like a little kid throwing a fit and going and pouting in the car. Only in this situation its 22 grown men. But they are French, so it seems fitting.
June 20 - 22, 2010: Everything blows up. The team director resigns because he is "sickened and disgusted" by the team. The French president even gets involved and asks the sports minister to stay in South Africa to try and resolve the issues.
Zidane gets involved as their are allegations that he is influencing the team on some of their decisions.
June 22, 2010: France loses to South Africa 2-1 and ungraciously bows out of the World Cup. The captain, Patrice Evra is dropped by the coach and doesn't play in the game. It's pretty much a total embarrassment for a team with their history and quality of players.
Quite and awesome story. Someone should write a book about it. Or at least make a movie about it. With all the estrogen and drama queens involved, I'm sure Lifetime has already secured the rights.