New France soccer coach Laurent Blanc said players will have to “be disciplined” and behave “impeccably” if they want to remain on the team after squad members went on strike under Raymond Domenech at the World Cup.
“My task is to retain the best players, in their best positions, and to create the best team possible,” Blanc said today during the first press conference. “It will be up to them to give proof, with no ambiguity, of hard work and discipline.”
Blanc, who made 97 international appearances for Les Bleus, will have to help the national team regain the respect of fans and the public after a World Cup campaign marked by a squad mutiny and the failure to win a single match.
Striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home after insulting Domenech at halftime of the match against Mexico. In protest, the rest of the team refused to train two days before the third match against South Africa. The affair dominated news coverage in France and drew criticism from President Nicolas Sarkozy, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and a host of former team members.
“I clearly cannot act as if nothing had happened in South Africa,” Blanc said. “I followed these events with great sadness. I was disappointed by the performance and disgusted by certain behavior.”
Captain Patrice Evra, Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery, and Barcelona’s Eric Abidal are among the French players criticized by politicians and former team members for their role in the rebellion that took place in South Africa. Blanc today wouldn’t say whether any of these players will be left behind.
“We could start anew, with a clean slate,” leaving everyone behind, Bland said today. “You would be happy for a while but in the long run it wouldn’t be enough neither for you, nor for me. I am here to win and this is what I will be judged on.”
The former center-back, who last season guided Bordeaux to sixth place in French soccer’s Ligue 1, said he still hasn’t decided what players to pick for an Aug. 11 exhibition match in Norway. He also said it’s not up to him to sanction the players for what happened in South Africa.
“I won’t be the bogeyman,” Blanc said. “But there may be some form of sanction in the choices I make.”
Blanc, 44, said his priority in the coming days will be to pick his technical and medical staff. The Norway game will help him figure out what players “I will be able to count on in the future,” he said. The goal is to establish a “hard core” of players around whom to rebuild the national team, Blanc said.
He signed a two-year contract to guide Les Bleus through the qualification campaign for Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Les Bleus were world champions in 1998 and runner-ups at the last World Cup four years ago.
“I am proud to be here,” Blanc said. “For me, as for many, the French team is the top, it’s above everything. It does not belong to anybody, it is for everyone. It was a thread throughout my career.”