â†µOn Saturday, I wrote in this space about the blow-up between France's Nicolas Anelka and coach Raymond Domenech that topped an already abysmal World Cup for France. And somehow, in 24 hours, it has gotten worse than "Your mom" insults at halftime of World Cup games: The French team is refusing to train after a spat between captain Patrice Evra and Domenech. â†µâ†µ
â†µâ‡¥France team director Jean-Louis Valentin says the national team is refusing to train following a dispute on the practice field.â‡¥â‡¥ â†µâ‡¥
â†µâ‡¥Valentin also says he has resigned from the French football federation, shouting that he was "ashamed" of the team.â‡¥â‡¥ â†µâ‡¥â†µ
â†µBut, if this were happening to any other team in this World Cup, it would be more heartbreaking than hysterical. But because it's France, a team that is to melodrama what Italy is to flopping and whining, this is just brilliantly dark comedy, and because of that Thierry Henry handball, it is taken as karmic comeuppance. It gives writers reason to trot out hacky jokes about French success or lack thereof in international conflicts, and bar patrons a target for drunken diatribes. It's convenient and comforting for some Americans, whose concept of France is a country full of lily-livered, wine-swilling, cheese-chomping effete elitists, to see France fail at something. â†µâ†µ
â†µOf course, for the average French soccer fan, it must be crushing. France can still advance—it would likely require a dominating win over South Africa and a 1-0 result in Mexico-Uruguay—and keeping it together for the next few days might at least salvage some dignity. Instead, the nation that came within a headbutt and a penalty kick of claiming the World Cup in 2006 appears poised to implode, hand Bafana Bafana a triumph on home soil, and trek back to Europe without a single point, and perhaps not a goal. â†µâ†µ
â†µThat, to my mind, is as depressing a failure for a soccer-loving country as the United States' troubles in basketball were for the better part of the last decade, and perhaps more so: American teams were still in contention for medals in most cases, while France could conceivably finish last of the 32 teams in this World Cup. â†µâ†µ
â†µI can't fully comprehend what this must feel like for France, a proud nation with an enviable history in soccer. But I suspect few reveling in the schadenfreude really mind the heartache fans of the most hilariously hapless team in the 2010 World Cup are suffering. â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.