Zidane returns to help boost France team’s morale
Zinedine Zidane made an appearance at France’s training camp on
Wednesday to help coach Laurent Blanc restore the beleaguered
national team’s confidence following its disastrous World Cup.
Zidane lunched with the players at the Clairefontaine camp and
watched videos with them of his France team winning the 1998 World
Cup and 2000 European Championship. He also signed autographs and
briefly showed off his ball skills.
France hosts Belarus on Friday before an away trip to Bosnia on
Tuesday in qualifying for Euro 2012.
”I wished them good luck for what’s fast approaching,” said
Zidane, who last visited Clairefontaine when preparing for his
final tournament, the 2006 World Cup. ”They’re a new generation
and they have important things ahead of them. The France team is
the ultimate level you can reach.
”It can’t do them any harm,” Zidane said of his visit. ”I
spoke to them about my experiences with the France team.”
Blanc wanted the presence of Zidane and former France goalkeeper
Fabien Barthez to help boost the team’s low morale and instill some
core values that were lost in South Africa.
France’s whole squad went on strike at the World Cup in protest
at Nicolas Anelka being sent home for swearing at then coach
Raymond Domenech, shocking the nation and requiring Blanc to try
and repair the team’s image.
A gifted playmaker, Zidane played 108 times for France and was
the undisputed star of a teams that also included Barthez and
Blanc, a stylish defender who played for Inter Milan and Manchester
Things have gone badly wrong for France in the decade since
Zidane, Barthez and Blanc won the Euro 2000 trophy.
”I explained to them that the most important thing is to start
winning again,” Zidane said. ”Because a team is judged solely on
Poor performances on the field under former coach Raymond
Domenech paled into comparison compared to the scenes during the
training ground boycott that are now an embarrassing part of French
Patrice Evra led the players onto the team bus and drew the
curtains, moments after he had a heated row with the team’s fitness
coach. One furious French football official then resigned on the
As punishment for being the perceived ringleaders of the
training strike, Evra, Franck Ribery and Jeremy Toulalan were all
suspended by the French Football Federation. Anelka was given a
massive 18-game ban.
Toulalan received only a one-game ban, ruling him out of the
Belarus game, but Blanc did not pick him anyway.
Evra was banned for five games and Ribery, a former vice
captain, was suspended for three matches. Both players have been
ruled out the opening two qualifiers.
France also went out of the 2010 World Cup without winning a
single game – the second straight first-round exit for Domenech
after the poor Euro 2008 campaign.
Zidane predicts Blanc will turn France into a successful team
”Laurent is the right man for the job because of his experience
and the player he was,” Zidane said. ”Because the team is
starting from scratch, they can do some extraordinary things
AP Sports Writer Jerome Pugmire contributed to this report.