Call it a self-inflicted wound: France's home loss to Belarus on Friday. This is the result you get from a federation that's elected to continue picking at the wounds of the World Cup. Rather than move-on - or, if not move-on, make the best of a bad situation - the FFF has taken spotlights, microscopes and a scalpels to South Africa, exposed every abnormality to every scrutiny, prolonged a treatment that could have been outpatient. They've used chemo when aspirin was needed, and as a result they've selected a B/B+ team for this week's matches, excluding a number of their best players through suspension or a less transparent omission.
In doing that, France has amplified the chances that their team does not make Euro 2012. For some people, that's an unfathomable thought, but Les Bleus just lost at home to Belarus. We may want to start considering the possibilities - possibilities which, in light of the performances at Euro 2008 and South Africa 2010, are more grounded than reactionary. Bosnia and Herzegovina may be a better team. I have a hard time thinking either Romania or Belarus are truly better, but if France is going to play games for a few matches, the gap between them and Belarus and Romania gets bridged quickly. This tournament is only ten games long. That is a small sample size, France.
It's also time France came to grips with their place in the soccer world. There are no Zidanes in the player pool. Where's a Thuram? Are there Desaillys and Blancs? Does the midfield have a Vieira? I ask because there seems to be two problems. First, France is not as talented as they were during their Ubuntu era. No shame in that, because every country goes through their highs and lows. Unfortunately, this downturn is compounded by France's second major problem: their federation is acting as if the talent with which they won the World Cup is inherent to their country.
It's not. While the tales of Clarefontaine are woven we can't overlook the fact that Benzema is faltering. Gourcuff is faltering. There are no elite central defenders. And who's the next Henry? Who's the next Thuram? Who's the next Zidane?
Unless you're a federation that can confidently answer those questions, you can not be flippant in how your treat your impact players. But France has misjudged the situation, so while Patrice Evra and Jeremy Toulalan and Franck Ribery sit suspended - while your program sits fractured - France lose at home to Belarus.
Are we solving the problem, or contributing to it? I'm starting to think this is going to be a major downturn.
86' - Sergeu Kislyak
14' - Jan Tigorev (Yellow)
49' - Vitali Rodinov (Yellow)
France: Lloris, Sagna, Clichy, Mexes, Rami, Malouda, Diaby, M'Vila, Menez (Saha 69', Gameiro 80')), Remy (Valbuena 34'), Hoarau
Belarus: Zhevnov, Omelyanchuk, Tigorev, Yurevich, Shitov, Martynovich, A. Hleb, Kulchiy, Kutuzov (Kislyak 74'), Rodionov (Kornilenko 85'), V. Hleb (Putilo 89')
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Senijad Ibrici, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Sergey Kislyak, Belarus
Gjergj Muzaka, Albania
Miralem Pjanic, Bosnia and Herzegovia
Bogdan Stancu, Romania
Edin Zdeko, Bosnia and Herzegovina