Assistant France coach says rift is over

Assistant coach Alain Boghossian insisted on Thursday that a

bust-up in the France camp has been properly dealt with, and that

the players are now fully focused on beating Spain in the European

Championship quarterfinals.

Two years after France’s strife-torn World Cup, a new rift has

emerged in the form of a heated dressing room exchange after

Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat by Sweden. This prompted the French to hold a

meeting the next day to ease tensions.

”The fire’s been put out. Nothing’s broken. Everyone said what

they had to say,” Boghossian said ahead of Saturday’s game with

the defending champions. ”We all had a chat over lunch when things

had calmed down. Then we had a little meeting after dinner.”

With media speculation in overdrive amid reports of fall outs

among players, and verbal altercations between players and staff

members, Boghossian insisted the situation is nothing like South

Africa in 2010 when Les Bleus went on strike at training.

”It’s not at all comparable,” he said. ”These things happen,

we shouldn’t pull the wool over our eyes. Tensions are normal when

you lose. If everyone was smiling after that defeat, we (the staff)

would have raised our voices even more.”

Boghossian thinks France could benefit from getting everything

out in the open.

”I think it’s a positive thing, because at least things are

clear between us now,” he said. ”There were some (verbal)

altercations, some exchanges. It’s like when you’re in a

relationship, if you brush things under the carpet then things will

explode.”

Boghossian was reportedly involved in a bitter argument with

central defender Philippe Mexes over the careless way Mexes had

picked up a yellow card – meaning he is suspended for Saturday’s

match.

”Philippe and I had a tactical exchange,” Boghossian said.

”He got his yellow card high up the pitch, which really didn’t

serve any purpose. But then again, if everyone had shown the same

commitment as him, maybe we wouldn’t have put in such a

performance.”

Other reports suggest that coach Laurent Blanc was irate with

Hatem Ben Arfa, who had a poor game.

”It wasn’t that much of a clash. It was a discussion, an

exchange, and the two people concerned explained things to each

other,” Boghossian said. ”They shook hands and there’s no

problem.”

Midfielder Samir Nasri has been the focal point of French media

criticism ever since his ”Shut your mouth!” gesture to a

journalist after scoring in the 1-1 draw against England in their

opening Group D match.

”There’s always one person who’s targeted during a competition.

I think Samir’s strong enough mentally to accept the criticism,”

Boghossian said. ”He went through that in England with City, and

he was strong enough to bounce back. It’s up to him to show us that

the criticism hasn’t got to him, and that he can play to his best

level.”

However true the speculation may be, they underline how France

sorely lacks a leader who could have prevented the tensions from

escalating in the first place.

The team which reached the 2006 World Cup final included

defender Lilian Thuram, midfielder Patrick Vieira, and playmaker

Zinedine Zidane. Not only were they great players, they were also

very vocal and played a crucial role in keeping the squad

together.

Boghossian, a former midfielder and a member of the France team

that won the 1998 World Cup, has concerns over the leadership

issue.

”No one stands out as a leader on the pitch. The problem won’t

be solved between now and Saturday,” he said. ”You can’t just

click your fingers and say ‘let’s hope a leader’ comes along, or

point the finger at someone and designate him as that leader.

”Either the leader comes naturally, or if there isn’t one then

you do things another way.”

France’s captain is soft-spoken goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

While Lloris reassures his defenders with his calm presence, he

is not the inspirational leader that Zidane and Vieira were.

Boghossian says it’s not in Lloris’ nature.

”Raising your voice when you feel it’s the right thing to do is

great, but it’s not good to force things,” Boghossian said. ”It’s

never good to try and play a role.”