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A Bore Draw When Two Times Zero Equals One

Jun 19, 2008
The French have rather an appropriate expression for a football game that ends in a draw - "match nul". And that just about sums up the general sentiment after France's opening 0-0 non-thriller against Romania at Euro 2008.

With the Netherlands thrashing World Cup holders Italy 3-0 in the so-called "Group of Death's" other game, perhaps the most comfort French coach, Raymond Domenech, can take from the result is that at least his team didn't lose and managed to come away with one point.

"I knew this group would be very complicated," he commented afterwards. "We have to bounce back. There are two more matches and six points for the taking," he added.

Good on Domenech for not resorting to the usual footballing clichés or stating the blindingly obvious that might have escaped the attention of the millions of armchair fans here who turned on their televisions early Monday evening and tuned in to watch Les Bleus superbly underperform.

From start to finish the game was sheer drudgery, with the French mix of young stars and established quality internationals unable to break down the defences of a Romanian team that added little to the game and seemed content to come away with a point.

All right, so captain Patrick Vieira and striker Thierry Henry were both sidelined through injury, but Domenech was still able to field a crop of young players who would make many a national team selector drool in anticipation. Karim Benzema, Franck Ribéry, Jérémy Toulalan - on paper at least they promised to deliver.

They didn't. And much of the blame surely has to lie fair and square with the man at the helm - Domenech himself.

His appointment as a successor to Jacques Santini after France lost in the quarterfinals of Euro 2004 to the eventual winners Greece raised more than a few eyebrows among both fans and players. And his management style and tactical strategies have often been less than convincing since he took over.

Domenech's good fortune has been that his reign has been blessed with a generation of talent - not least one of the game's greats, Zinedine Zidane, who has now sadly hung up his boots.

Although France struggled to make the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Domenech managed to guide them through to the final before famously losing to Italy in a penalty shoot-out - a result that relieved much of the pressure from the manager's shoulders and secured the renewal of his contract with the French Football Federation.

The 56-year-old former international (he was capped eight times for his country) has not been shy of courting controversy in some of his decisions. To the bemusement of many fans, he has refused to select - seemingly almost on a whim - international stars still very much in their prime such as striker David Trezeguet or winger Ludovic Giuly.

And he earned the wrath of former Chelsea coach José Mourinho by calling up Claude Makélélé into the squad, in spite of the veteran midfielder's "retirement" from international football. Mourinho accused Domenech of treating the player "like a slave".

His tactics once again came in for rigorous questioning in qualification for Euro 2008. France booked their place as runners-up in their group to Italy but along the way twice suffered defeats to Scotland - hardly a powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination in international football.

Simply put though Monday's result will have disappointed many who had widely tipped the World Cup runners up to go far in this tournament. Sure it's not over yet and yes, there are two games remaining.

But Domenech's head is on the block yet again and six points from two games against the Netherlands and Italy would seem something more than wishful thinking.
About the Author
Johnny Summerton is a Paris-based broadcaster, writer and journalist specializing in politics, sport and travel. For more on what's making the headlines here in France, log on to his site at http://www.persiflagefrance.com
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