French football wasn't exactly in the rudest of health heading into the World Cup. A fortuitous handball in the playoffs from out-of-sorts striker Thierry Henry handed them a place in the finals at Ireland's expense. But with pretournament form patchy at best and the squad not jiving with coach Raymond Domenech, the portents weren't good. And so it proved.
A drab opening-day draw against eventual group winner Uruguay was followed by a comprehensive 2-0 defeat to Mexico, which also progressed from the group. Then things really livened up. Striker Nicolas Anelka allegedly insulted the coach at halftime, which led to his being sent home. The players decided to protest by refusing to train. And while they turned up for their final match, against host team South Africa, another defeat (2-1) meant the waiting bus to take the team straight to the airport wasn't wasted. Back home (though they had to sit in coach. The shame!), the underperforming squad woke up the morning after to learn that President Nicolas Sarkozy was convening a high-level meeting to figure out what went wrong.