France coach Raymond Domenech has never been warmed to at all by the French public and even more so from his players as he dropped his latest clanger on Friday in the build up to France’s uninspired 0-0 draw with Uruguay by succumbing Florent Malouda and talisman Thierry Henry to the bench.
The 58 year old’s eccentric management style of supposedly picking his teams based on astrology has left people baffled. It is safe to say he is his own man and will not budge from criticism which illustrates his stubborn nature. Despite guiding Les Bleus to the final against Italy four years ago he still remains one of France’s most unpopular figures.
Their build up to their opening game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup has been marred by dressing room unrest from the likes of William Gallas and Florent Malouda who are unhappy with their coach’s way of thinking. Arsenal centre-back Gallas has boycotted the press in an alleged protest against his coach for picking compatriot Patrice Evra as skipper ahead of him. With Thierry Henry’s inclusion in the starting eleven being under scrutiny, it had left the Les Bleus armband up for grabs.
It isn’t the first time the French have ran into problems with the media and have been heavily criticised in the past for their handling of communications with the press which had led to the French Football Federation’s president Jean-Pierre Escalettes’ call for Domench and his players to make more of an effort after Euro 2008.
Florent Malouda who has just come off the back of his best season in England with Chelsea had a training ground altercation with Domenech, rumoured to be over the inclusion of Bordeaux’s Yoann Gourcuff in the starting eleven. This saw Malouda dumped to the French bench in the game against Uruguay where Abou Diaby took his place. Ironically Diaby was the only real stand out performer for the French as he gave a spirited display unlike some of his fellow colleagues.
Sidney Govou of Lyon started the match ahead of Thierry Henry and fluffed a magnificent chance with just a few minutes gone to put the 1998 champions ahead but didn’t make good enough contact to bamboozle goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. Nicolas Anelka was the lone man up front with Govou and Franck Ribery playing off him on the wings. France enjoyed a positive start but began to fade away as the game ran its course. Uruguay was very resolute and had a couple decent chances themselves with Forlan’s prowess threatening.
Domenech’s stubborn attitude was evident as he seemed reluctant to make any changes to his side that were evidentially lacking ideas and creativity. It took him to the 71st minute to makes his first change as Thierry Henry came onto earn his 121st cap in place of Anelka. No change to the formation as the Barcelona man played the loner up front. Domench then brought on Malouda soon after but still there was no change to their mentality. They lacked a cutting edge and found it excessively difficult to break down Uruguay, even with them playing with ten men for the remaining ten minutes after Nicolas Lodeiro was given his marching orders after a robust challenge on Bacary Sagna.
There is no guarantee had Domench started with Malouda that their fortunes would have been better but Malouda would have added something more dynamic in the middle of the park. Henry is not the player he once was but he still possesses that aura around him that frightens opposition defenders. Domenech continued to foresee his 4-3-3 formation during the game which evidentially lacked sparkle but he still continued to use it and only made like for like substitutions which did not change the complexion of the game what so ever.
It will be interesting to see if he tinkers with his side for the next game against Mexico. His way of thinking wouldn’t surprise anyone at all if he opts with the same eleven and formation. If France want to progress to the second round they need to up their game against Mexico who showed in their first game against South Africa that they are a neat footballing side with the creative flair up top which France lacked.
The stubborn nature of Raymond Domenech may haunt France if he doesn’t concede to some common sense by starting players for the good of the team. Rifts and arguments aside, winning football matches is the most important aspect and sooner he realises that the better for France and their 2010 hopes.