Équipe de France: Zidane retires, Domenech refreshes

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
August 12th, 2004 • 4:10 am

Until the various domestic European leagues are in full swing and the transfer market closes at the end of August, there will be as much football news off the pitch than on the pitch.

This week could still turn out to be the most important of the season. In addition to the on-going sagas of the possible/probable/unlikely transfers of Arsenal’s Patrick Vieira and Liverpool’s Michael Owen to Real Madrid (which could very well reach their resolutions in the next 48 hours), we now have Zidane’s retirement from the French national team.

It was not unexpected, but it’s still a major event. France’s early exit from the Euro 2004 competition demonstrated a number of things, including the fact that Zidane’s game was incompatible with the game of the Arsenal clan (Vieira, Pires, and Henry). Thierry Henry said just that in a candid interview during the first round of the competition (“At Arsenal, we don’t play with a ‘meneur de jeu’,” he said in an attempt to explain why France was experiencing so much difficulty), and now Zidane says just as much, albeit in more diplomatic terms, talking about the “end of a cycle“, using a variety of other peaceful metaphors, and admitting the need for change.

Perhaps more significantly, however, France’s new coach Raymond Domenech has announced his selection for the friendly against Bosnia next week. And the good news is that there is no Mikaël Silvestre (who had a woeful Euro 2004 and has hopefully been forced to retire from the national team), no Trézéguet (who didn’t do anything for France during Euro 2004 either, and still was selected by Santini for the fateful quarter-final against Greece, against all the evidence that he wasn’t the right choice), and no Makelele (who lost a huge contingent of supporters after his astonishingly unsporting and shameful behaviour in the Champions’ League semi-final against Monaco, and didn’t contribute anything to the team in Euro 2004 either).

There is also no Louis Saha (which is probably a good thing, because, in spite of his accomplishments last season, he still has a lot to prove), no Ludovic Giuly (who didn’t get much of a chance to contribute during Euro 2004, but who also didn’t do much for Monaco after scoring the all important goal against Real Madrid in the Champions’ League last year), and no Olivier Dacourt (whose recent disciplinary problems probably didn’t help).

In other words, we are going to see lots of new faces, and that’s very good news. Of all the World Cup 98 winners, Fabien Barthez is the only one left. He had a pretty decent Euro 2004 all told (stopping that Beckham penalty against England), and seems to be doing OK with Marseille. He certainly looks like he’s fitter and has more bite than he did when he was playing (and later on not playing) for Manchester United. Still, one hopes that Domenech will not hesitate to show him the door when the time comes.

France still has more than enough talent to easily qualify for the 2006 World Cup — but they also need to find a game plan for big occasions, but they were obviously stuck in a tactical dead-end during Euro 2004. Here’s hoping that Zidane’s retirement will accelerate the process — not to take anything away from his huge contribution, of course!

Elsewhere, Reyes is called up for Spain, van Persie for Holland, Lehmann up for Germany, Edu and Gilberto for Brazil — which is good for those players, but not so good for Arsène Wenger’s nerves! Is there anyone on that Arsenal team who is not an international player? :-)

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