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MAY THE FARCE BE WITH YOU; SARKOZY STRIKES BACK IN WORLD CUP ROW.

Byline: Mark McGivern

PRESIDENT Sarkozy has stepped in to end the French farce at the World Cup - as a backlash against the rebel players grows at home.

The French squad returned to training yesterday after Sunday's boycott in protest at Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka being sent home.

But it was only after Sarkozy ordered his sports minister Roselyne Bachelot to extend her stay in South Africa to meet the players, coach Raymond Domenech and French Football Federation chief Jean-Pierre Escalettes.

As Anelka arrived back in London looking like a Star Wars extra in heavy black hooded coat and sunglasses, fans and sporting figures in France were lining up to condemn the players.

Dumped

They are furious at the players' actions when the team - who only qualified after a Thierry Henry handball gave them an unfair victory over Ireland - are on the verge of being dumped out of the tournament.

In South Africa, Bachelot signalled possible sanctions against the offending players, saying: "It's not yet the right time to take disciplinary action but that time will come very soon."

She added: "We are taking note of the indignation of the French people."

The FFF have already apologised to the people of France for the way their team is behaving and promised an urgent inquiry once France's World Cup campaign is over.

And the country's former football greats also slammed the team's behaviour.

"It's intolerable. It's not at all professional," said Emmanuel Petit, who scored in the final against Brazil when France lifted the World Cup in 1998.

Bixente Lizarazu added: "Nobody has their sang froid any more in this team and everyone is blowing up. This shows that no one has any authority over the French team any longer and that's very serious."

The end of France's participation will bring an end to the reign of Domenech, with Laurent Blanc set to take over.

After Domenech and Anelka's confrontation, captain Patrice Evra also became involved in a stand-off with the team's fitness coach Robert Duverne.

France team director Jean-Louis Valentin described the situation as "a scandal" and "unacceptable" and quit on the spot.

One leading football journalist admitted: "In France, everybody's sick and tired.

"We just want to bring this era to an end and forget all about this absolute disaster of a World Cup, the most shameful episode in the history of our football."

Meanwhile, bank Credit Agricole and hamburger chain Quick Restaurants have both withdrawn ad campaigns featuring the squad.

France, who were runners-up four years ago, will be eliminated today, regardless of their result against hosts South Africa, if Uruguay and Mexico draw.

CAPTION(S):

DISPUTE: Anelka and Domenech TALL TALE: Anelka tries to ignore questions at the airport
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 22, 2010
Words:450
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