Posted by Jeff Bradley
JOHANNESBURG -- There was a time in soccer history -- in the U.S., anyway -- when the 1998 U.S. team was considered the poster boy for World Cup dissension. After losses to Germany and Iran, American players began to gripe to the media about coach Steve Sampson. U.S. veterans Alexi Lalas, Eric Wynalda and Tab Ramos were the most vocal members of the team that finished 32nd in France.
Well, the Boys of '98 can take a breath, because 12 years later, here in South Africa, the French team has redefined what it means to embarrass your country at the World Cup.
A boring, goalless draw with Uruguay turned out to be the highlight of the tourney for Les Bleus. I watched Mexico shred France with a crew of French journalists in a Bloemfontein hotel on Thursday, and they could not say enough bad things about French coach Raymond Domenech. As the coach stood emotionless on the sideline, you could almost sense total disgust for what was going on. And then a day later, all hell started to break loose.
Nicolas Anelka was sent packing after an argument with Domenech, and the team staged a walkout of training. Ugly stuff. And for Tuesday's finale, Domenech used his last 90 minutes of power to exclude captain Patrice Evra from the lineup. "Tonight it's time for the big apology toward the French people, because I share the pain of all these French people," Evra said. "What hurts even more is that this apology should have been made yesterday, but my coach stopped me [from] doing it as a captain.
"France will know the truth. There is a cause for all this failure; several things will come out. Then, if people don't want to forgive, at least they will know the truth."
Evra then said the whole squad will "give up all the bonuses. We won't accept a single cent from the World Cup out of shame."