Tuesday, June 10, 2008
A headache for Domenech
I wrote this piece for the Malay Mail with anger on June 14, 2006 minutes after France drew 0-0 with Switzerland in their opening World Cup match two years ago.
THE city of Stuttgart deserved better. As a source of auto engineering par excellence, the script was for footy fans, French or otherwise, to sit back and enjoy the ride.
After all, on parade were the millionaire monsieurs from France. Zidane, Henry, Gallas, Thuram, Ribery, Saha, Wiltord, Vieira, names that demand respect, just as many oohs and aahs you get when a Mercedes Benz or a Porsche tear around the streets of Manila or Jakarta.
Yet in a city totally imbued with class, panache and finesse, the world was treated to Germany 2006's most boring match thus far.
The French fluffed their lines, while Switzerland were equally guilty of contributing to a match bereft of inspiration and ultimately, a goal.
Then again, it's basically deja vu for the French.
They have to hark back to their landmark year of 1998, when France were
helmed by a more sensible coach, playing in their own backyard, with Jacques Chirac and Michel Platini perched on the VIP box, for the feeling of ecstasy of having found the net.
Since Emmanuel Petit's left-footed shot glided past the despairing dive of Taffarel, France have gone eight years without a goal in the World Cup.
But if you like all the moves, shimmies and nutmegs to end in shots aimed directly at the goalkeeper or wide off the mark, the clash at Gottlieb-Daimler Stadion was the one for you.
France seemed to think the objective of the game was to make things as difficult as possible, to make passes that go astray, or run the ball to the feet of the opposing defender. For their part, Switzerland were equally abysmal.
Raymond Domenech's team were basically an insult to the French sides of yore.
The Platini generation that captured the world's imagination in the 1980s might have missed out on the BIG ONE but at least they were heroic losers, captivating and creative in their approach.
The term free-flowing champagne football was a tribute to the Tricolores that lifted the 1984 European Championship title and the third spot in the Mexico World Cup in 1986 and fourth in Spain in 1982.
They had a world-class centre-back in Maxime Bossis, whose dribbling skills were hundred times better than that of Wiltord, a full-back, Manuel Amoros, who was equally adept on either flank with greater attacking instincts than Domenech's men put together, a tigerish Luis Fernandez winning virtually all the loose balls, a never-say-die Jean Tigana covering every inch of the pitch, Alain Giresse's delicate
touches, Dominique Rocheteau's mazy dribbles and above all Platini's nose
While the teams of Michel Hidalgo and Henri Michel were vintage France, the 2006 version are pedestrian at best.
Henry, Arsenal's record-breaking goal-scorer but average with France, might like to point out his attempt, after a cutback from Ribery, hit Patrick Mueller's hand in the 38th minute last night but it appeared to be ball to hand.
What about his feeble attempt that rolled slowly into Pascal Zuberbuehler's hands with Ribery in space five minutes before the interval? No wonder Henry doesn't win those awards that Ronaldinho gets.
The ultimate insult for this French team is that even Aston Villa reject Didier Six, the left-footed wing wizard, who missed a penalty against the West Germans in the dramatic semi-final in Seville in 1982 but later could not last long at Villa Park, was good enough to walk into Domenech's starting 11.
* MM says: Not too late to give Domenech the boot.
Back to the present, well, Domenech's men were again a disappoinment in their Euro08 Group C opening tie.
The Romanians were well-organised, while the French lacked offensive inspiration. Is it premature to send Domenench to the guillotine? I don't know! Domenech and Makelele seemed to be radiating positive vibes at the mixed zone shortly after the match.
I made the mistake of underestimating Domenech (pic) two years ago and the French went on to play Italy in the final.