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Nicolas Sarkozy steps in to quash France's World Cup feud

President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly told Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot to extend her stay in South Africa to sort out the nasty feud between players and coaches on France's World Cup soccer team.

By Matthew ClarkStaff writer / June 21, 2010

French national soccer team coach Raymond Domenech conducted a training session Monday in Knysna, near Cape Town, June 21, 2010. Many current and former players blame him for France's World Cup woes.

Toru Hanai/Reuters

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C'est un catostrophe! Things have become so bad after France's World Cup soccer team dissolved into bickering following their loss to Mexico last week that President Nicolas Sarkozy has intervened.

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Mr. Sarkozy reportedly told Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot to extend her stay in South Africa to try to sort out Les Bleues.

"We are taking note of the indignation of the French people," she said. "We are calling for dignity and responsibility."

Indeed, those qualities were in short supply over the past few days.

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Although the French team has been bickering for months, things spun out of control during the Mexico match when star striker Nicolas Anelka launched an allegedly foul-mouthed tirade at coach Raymond Domenech.

Coach Domenech then sent Mr. Anelka packing, which spurred a revolt from the rest of the team. They decided to boycott practice on Sunday in protest.

French Football Federation's (FFF) managing director subsequently quit. Plus, captain Patrice Evra got in an altercation with one of the trainers.

"Everyone in the whole world is mocking us now,'' winger Franck Ribery said. "I'm gutted, because we're not playing football anymore.''

Soccer legend Zinedine Zidane is equally saddened by the feud, but struck an optimistic note during a press conference Monday (which was scheduled long before the current feud).

"This team has the possibility to get over this obstacle with this match [against South Africa on Tuesday]. Everything can change for them," Mr. Zidane said. "I hope they can still get out of this group. There is hope even if everything that has been said to now is the opposite."

And even if France gets knocked out before reaching the second round, as is now expected, Zidane remained upbeat about the team's future.

Why? Because they'll have a new coach.

"If they lose there's a new coach in Laurent Blanc who will change all of this," Zidane said. "I don't think you can blame one player or another, but Laurent Blanc's arrival will change everything that is happening within the team."

The team was training again on Monday.

But will others besides Anelka be punished for their roles in France's stunning meltdown?

"It's not yet the right time to take disciplinary action," said Ms. Bachelot, "but that time will come very soon."

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