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June 20, 2010

Domenech would have forgiven Anelka

France coach Raymond Domenech has admitted he would have been prepared to allow striker Nicolas Anelka to remain with the squad had he apologised for his part in the row which led to the forward being sent home from the World Cup.

Raymond Domenech
GettyImagesRaymond Domenech faced constant negative publicity throughout the tournament

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Anelka's stay in South Africa was cut short on Saturday when he was disciplined by the French Football Federation after reports of his dressing-room bust-up were leaked to the media.

The 31-year-old was offered the opportunity to say sorry but refused and France officials were left with no alternative but to dismiss him from the squad.

Anelka reportedly exploded in a foul-mouthed tirade after Domenech criticised him for straying out of position during the goalless first half of their 2-0 Group A defeat to Mexico on Thursday.

He was subsequently substituted before the start of the second half but Domenech said the incident had been blown out of proportion and Anelka could have remained with the team had he shown the necessary contrition.

"It was not a confrontation," he told French television station TF1. "People cannot imagine the pressure. We are in a dressing room - the coach says something to a player who is already under pressure, he can react angrily, and with strong words.

"He did not react in the most suitable fashion, but it was just a guy sitting in his corner and muttering - that would not have mattered had it stayed there.

"What was important was that it made the front page of a newspaper, and that exposes the internal life of the squad. I sorted out the problem internally, and as far as I was concerned it was done and dusted.

"I had another chat with him (Anelka) the next day and I left open the possibility for him to apologise, something which he did not want to do.

"The decision to exclude him was the right one. I am sorry for the children for whom the French team represents something. He (Anelka) does not have the right to say such things."

France have to convincingly beat South Africa in their final Group A match and hope there is a positive result from the Uruguay versus Mexico game, otherwise Domenech's six-year reign will end in an ignominious early exit from the tournament.

Rumours of disharmony with the France squad have been circulating for a couple of weeks but the latest claim of a fight between Yoann Gourcuff - believed to be unpopular with some of the players - and Franck Ribery on the flight home from Polokwane after the Mexico defeat has been dismissed by Domenech and the Bayern Munich winger.

"That's absolute nonsense," Domenech said. "Those who know Yoann a bit know it is totally impossible for him to fight with anybody."

Ribery added: "Of course that is false. I don't have any problem with Yoann. On the contrary, I was one of the first to speak with him because Yoann is important for the team.

"There is a need for him and I even spoke with him yesterday because I found it (the Anelka situation) a little sad."

Ribery, who has failed to make an impression on the World Cup so far despite arriving in South African with a big reputation, said the team had not helped themselves.

"I am suffering from what is happening at the moment," he said. "The group exploded. It is France which is suffering. I am suffering."