Domenech to remain France coach

July 11, 2006

PARIS, July 11 (Reuters) - Raymond Domenech will stay on as coach after leading France to the World Cup final, the French Football Federation (FFF) said on Tuesday.

Domenech, who took over from Jacques Santini after Euro 2004, was offered an extension to his two-year contract and he accepted it, the FFF said on their website.

'Taking into account the excellent performance of France during the World Cup, the federal committee unanimously offered Raymond Domenech the chance to carry on his mission as national coach,' a statement said.

France lost Sunday's World Cup final to Italy on penalties and start their qualifying programme for Euro 2008 in September.

'I'm proud of this team and I'm proud of Raymond Domenech,' federation chairman Jean-Pierre Escalettes told a news conference.

'Many of our dreams came true (during the World Cup). The players honoured the blue shirt with their commitment.'

The contract details of the extension will be discussed between Escalettes and Domenech before the next meeting of the FFF's board.

The French play a friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo on August 16.

They will start their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign with a game in Georgia on Sept. 2 before they host the Italians at the Stade de France four days later.

MAIN CHALLENGES

One of the main challenges facing Domenech during his second term is to find replacements for Zinedine Zidane, influential defender Lilian Thuram and tireless midfielder Claude Makelele.

Thuram and Makelele have decided to retire from international soccer while playmaker Zidane, sent off for a head-butt in extra time against Italy, played his last match on Sunday.

The French coach can bank on Olympique Lyon's Florent Malouda and Eric Abidal, and winger Franck Ribery who emerged as undisputable first choices during the tournament in Germany.

Defenders William Gallas and Willy Sagnol were also key members of the squad while Patrick Vieira should take over from Zidane as captain.

As a player, the 54-year-old Domenech wore the colours of Olympique Lyon, Strasbourg, Paris St Germain, Bordeaux and Mulhouse between 1970 and 1988.

He helped Strasbourg to the league title in 1979 and Bordeaux in 1984, and won the French Cup with Lyon in 1973.

Considered a tough defender, he earned eight caps for France.

Domenech began coaching the France under-21 squad in 1993 and led the team to the final of the 2002 European championship in Switzerland.

He took over from Santini after France's failure at the 2004 European championship in Portugal and helped the 1998 world champions finish top of their group and qualify directly for the 2006 World Cup.