BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa -- France coach Raymond Domenech said his players acted like imbeciles by protesting Nicolas Anelka's expulsion from the team by refusing to train just two days before the match that decides their World Cup future.
"I tried to convince them that what they were doing was an aberration, an imbecility, a stupidity without name," Domenech said Monday.
The players worked out Monday, a day after striking to show their displeasure about Anelka being kicked off the team for getting into a heated exchange with Domenech at halftime of France's loss to Mexico last week.
France plays South Africa on Tuesday in a Group A match it needs to win to stand a chance of advancing. It also needs a winner in the Mexico-Uruguay game to avoid a repeat of the 2008 European Championship, when it went out in the first round.
Patrice Evra's role as captain could be over after only five games, with Domenech refusing to confirm him as his leader after the defender initiated the player walkout.
"I haven't picked the team yet, we will see tomorrow," Domenech said, adding of the players that "they've expended a lot of energy. It's sad."
When Domenech was asked if some players had told him they do not want to play the game, he answered evasively.
"It is a possibility that we will finalize [things] tonight with the staff to see what team we put in place," he said.
Evra was furious at the French Football Federation's decision to send Anelka home late Saturday, amid claims from the players that the FFF denied Anelka a chance to give his side of the story at a news conference.
Having initially said he understood his players' frustration and that what Anelka said -- although abusive -- was something which happens within the locker room, Domenech struck a different note on Monday.
"First of all, I would like to specify that the punishment that was handed out to Nicolas Anelka is justified," Domenech said. "I support the federation in this matter. No one can permit themselves to act like that, either in the dressing room or elsewhere."
FFF secretary Henri Monteil cast doubt whether all the players wanted to strike, speculating that there were "three or four" leaders taking the rest along with them.
Stern-faced and speaking without emotion, Domenech also defended his decision to read out a statement from the players in which they announced their refusal to take part in training. It had surprised many that Domenech agreed to speak on the players' behalf, because it created ambiguity about whether he supported the strike or not.
Domenech said he spent more than 45 minutes trying to talk the players out of the strike, including when the players were on the team bus with the curtains closed. Other federation officials also tried, with one delegate even resigning over the incident, he said.
"At a certain point, I said to myself: 'Stop. We have to put an end to this charade' -- because that is what this was," Domenech said. "Something must be done. Everything was being broadcast live. The French and all the people who were asking themselves what was happening had a right to know. So I took the paper and I read it."
"What I should have said at the end is that in no way do I support this document or this attitude."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press