Never forgive or forget
Everyone loves a winner, but the French don't seem to be able to get enough of their scapegoats.
David Ginola has been the victim of his nation's inexhaustible capacity for rancour since their failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, while Philippe Mexès was sacrificed on the altar of public opinion following Les Bleus' appalling display as they suffered the affront of defeat to Austria early on the rocky trail to South Africa.
Since Saturday night, Julien Escudé is likely to be considering setting up a Facebook therapy group for those who have endured the Joan of Arc treatment, though obviously without the burning at the stake part.
If France are heading to Belgrade to sample the delights of Red Star's Marakana, four points behind their hosts and their World Cup destiny largely in Serb hands, it is - if the media and Jean Publique are to be believed - the fault of the Sevilla defender, who put through his own goal to "rob" his side of all three points against Romania last weekend.
"Will Escudé ever recover?" said worried sports daily L'Equipe on Monday before putting the boot in groin-high. "He made a mess of his third match in a row. And this time, it was flagrant."
Admittedly, Escudé's display was not the most consummate of his career, but the own-goal - scored as he lunged full-length to try and clear a particularly menacing cross - was hardly the stuff of blooper video heaven.
Remarkably, the country's favourite tête de Turc - Turkish head, French for scapegoat - Raymond Domenech, escaped virtually scot-free in the fall-out from the 1-1 draw, though it is perhaps merely a ceasefire prior to the re-commencement of hostilities following the result in Serbia. Domenech claimed on Tuesday: "The match in Belgrade will not be decisive." Many think he is right - they believe it is already too late to hope for anything better than the Russian roulette of the play-offs.
There is a silver lining to the cloud of despair for the doomsday merchants, though - Domenech has been given the dreaded vote of confidence. "I repeat 'yes, yes, yes' - I have to say it three times because the federal council gave him the mission to qualify for the finals," said French FA president Jean-Pierre Escalettes, one of the main advocates of maintaining the status quo following Euro 2008, whose karaoke favourite is almost certainly the Tammy Wynette totem, Stand by Your Man. "He must go through with it and he will go through with it."
Though a dream ticket of Gérard Houllier and current assistant coach Alain Boghossian has been mooted should Les Bleus return from Belgrade empty-handed, the French FA's ostrich-esque stance in the summer of 2008 suggests it will be to the bitter end with Domenech. However, despite not needing to immediately head for the job centre, the French coach does have other pressing problems.
Player support had been key in the French FA's decision to keep Domenech after Euro 2008, but this week there are signs that cracks are beginning to show between the boss and the dressing-room. Reports of a rift led to Thierry Henry appearing live on national TV on Monday to deny claims he had criticised his boss "in the name of the whole squad," saying the players were "bored" in training and "don't know what to do" on the pitch.
While it appears the report of a meeting which all parties acknowledge took place has been subject to a heavy dose of artistic licence, there was a large amount of conspicuous confusion against Romania.
The unfortunate Escudé's contribution highlighted the lack of a settled back four. The central pairing on Saturday was the eighth different duo tried in 11 matches, while no sooner had Escudé touched the ball past Hugo Lloris than he turned to the Lyon goalkeeper and said: "Speak to me."
Given that it was only Lloris' second match as number one and only his fourth cap in all, the 22-year-old's lack of authority was understandable, but after having used Marseille's Steve Mandanda almost exclusively up until now, Domenech has added to the instability.
Also, the conundrum that Domenech faced in building his side round Zinedine Zidane has re-surfaced with Yoann Gourcuff. The Bordeaux playmaker is too slow to play in wide positions, but too talented and popular to be left on the bench, meaning Domenech is bound by circumstances to play his - admittedly favourite - 4-2-3-1.
This means that Domenech has to make a choice between Franck Ribéry and Henry on the left-hand side of the attacking trident. Neither wants to play on the opposite flank with Ribery asking Henry to switch when the Bayern Munich man came on against Romania - Henry refused. The only alternative was to bring Gourcuff off and send on Karim Benzema to partner Henry through the middle in a classic 4-4-2. The result was a chaotic and wholly uncoordinated final 17 minutes eerily reminiscent of displays without Zidane ahead of the last World Cup. The lack of cutting edge has been a leitmotif of the qualifying campaign to date with Les Bleus totalling just nine goals in their seven games - only Hungary and Scotland of the other European teams occupying the top two positions in their group have been comparably powder-puff.
"I don't know what you'd call it - when you have so many chances, when the team creates so much," said Domenech, searching for the words "ineffective" and "profligate" after seeing his side squander chances against Romania.
One of the chief reasons is that, despite his predilection for a lone striker, Domenech does not have a suitable player to fill the role. Henry no longer has the legs, and Benzema and Nicolas Anelka work better in a 4-4-2, which means that Toulouse's André-Pierre Gignac picked up only his fifth cap against Romania, a match in which his country's World Cup fate hung in the balance.
Should leading goalscorer Ribéry be consigned to the bench - or worse still, the stands - at the Marakana, Domenech could do worse than call on the in-form Florent Malouda to supply the central striker - most likely Henry - from the left flank.
Malouda would also have been of some use against Romania, except when the Chelsea man entered the dressing-room: "I saw there was no shirt for me. I deduced from that that I was neither in the starting line-up, nor on the substitutes' bench, that is how I came to learn of it," he said, showing Hercule Poirot-esque powers of deduction.
It was another classic piece of Domenech mis-communication in a week when Patrick Vieira revealed that he suspected he had been left out of the squad for the two qualifiers because of a missed call while he was training. The caller - thought to be Domenech - never rang back. If he fails to bring home three points from Serbia on Wednesday, Domenech may not lose his current post, but when he applies for a job in his post-France future, he could find the tables turned, hearing those immortal words: "Don't call us, we'll call you."