Malouda: France has trouble handling pressure

Published Jun. 15, 2010 2:19 p.m. ET

France's players are having trouble dealing with the weight of expectation surrounding them and some are not coping well with the criticism they have been getting at the World Cup, midfielder Florent Malouda said Tuesday.

France is regularly knocked by its fans, criticized by former players and even lambasted by its own politicians, and Malouda says some of the players are unable to relax on the field because of the negative publicity they are getting.

``Because the environment we're in is not easy. There's a lot of expectation, I also think some players have trouble with stories coming out,'' Malouda said. ``Even if we're shut away, it can touch the players a bit and it can affect the way they play. I took loads of stick in 2008 and I'm still here.''

Malouda acknowledged that France did not play well when it drew 0-0 with Uruguay in its opening match, and says there must be a significant improvement against Mexico on Thursday in Polokwane.

``What we did against Uruguay was the bare minimum and we know we need to do more,'' Malouda said.

Malouda, who won the Premier League and FA Cup double with Chelsea this season, was heavily criticized for his performances at the European Championship two years ago. He subsequently complained that Domenech's tactics were largely to blame for how badly he played, but the criticism hurt him, nonetheless.

``It affected me and my family in 2008, but when I went on holiday they comforted me and said they wanted to see me in the blue shirt again,'' Malouda said. ``It gave me that desire to come back.''


Former France greats Zinedine Zidane, Marcel Desailly and Just Fontaine are among the biggest critics of Domenech's current team, and sports minister Rama Yade was publicly critical of them for staying in an expensive hotel during an economic crisis.

Few French fans back their own team - with hardly any fans making the journey to Cape Town for the Uruguay match - and almost none believe in the hugely unpopular Domenech's leadership.

``You have to put up with it, that's the weight of the national team,'' Malouda said. ``By contrast, when things work out well it's magnificent.''

Malouda played down the reports of a growing rift between him and Domenech - who left Malouda out of the team for nearly a whole season after he had criticized Domenech's tactics at Euro 2008.

However, he did confess that there was a minor incident during a tense training session on the eve of the Uruguay match. Malouda says Domenech was unhappy at how he was throwing himself into tackles at training.

``The day before the match I made a couple of fouls in training and he raised his voice, but I never answered back or lacked respect. There was no shouting match,'' Malouda said.

Malouda was dropped to the bench for that game, despite playing in all the warmup games.

``He told me it was a tactical choice, and I believe him,'' Malouda said. ``Yes I was surprised, I was expecting to play. But it's not the first time. Honestly, you have to move on quickly, even if I am disappointed.''