Economy

In South Africa, Off-Field Drama Escalates As The Games Continue

France's coach Raymond Domenech walks to

France's coach Raymond Domenech has overseen, and continues to lead, a disappointing French national team. Franck Fife/AFP hide caption

itoggle caption Franck Fife/AFP

Today's first World Cup game, between Portugal and North Korea, is nearly over.  (So far, The Navigators lead 5-0.)

Now, I admit I haven't been following the tournament with as much zeal as I did during its first week, but I remain fascinated by the off-field (off-pitch?) drama.

The vuvuzela scandal has subsided some.  In its place, there have been allegations of lax locker room security, bad refereeing, and the collapse of the French national team..

Les Bleus has imploded.

According to the Canadian Press, after "a listless draw" against Uruguay and a loss to Mexico, "striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for publicly criticizing coach Raymond Domenech, and the squad then went on strike, refusing to train on Sunday in protest."

I'll refrain from posting what Anelka purportedly said.  If you're really curious, you can read the vulgarity-filled quotation here — en francais.

The Canadian Press continues:

"There is no authority left in the French team. There's no pilot in the airplane," former France defender Bixente Lizarazu said in a scathing assessment of Domenech on French television. "We're in a lunatic asylum at the moment, I can't wait to be done with the French team so that we can look ahead to the real World Cup, the one which interests us."

Now, more on that strike...

"France's erratic World Cup campaign took another twist yesterday when the players walked out of a training session at their Knysna base in South Africa," The Independent reports.

Julian Sancton, blogging about the World Cup for Vanity Fair, gave us some cultural context:

"If national soccer teams are often said to reflect their countries' characteristics on the field — the Germans are efficient, the Spanish are quixotic, the Italians have a flair for the dramatic — the French squad today reinforced national stereotypes off of it, namely that they are recalcitrant, indignant whiners."

The French will play South Africa tomorrow.

UPDATE at 9:16 a.m. ET: At 87:45, Portugal now leads 6-0.

UPDATE at 9:21 a.m. ET: Final score: Portugal 7, North Korea 0.  The North Korean team has been eliminated from the World Cup.

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