Group D: France – Sane Coach Proving A Novelty

The Back of the Net team continue their build-up to Euro 2012 with individual team profiles. Here, Paul Watson takes a peek at everybody's favourite side, France…

Raymond Domenech’s reign of terror and improvised theatre is over, and Laurent Blanc will be hoping to repeat the successes of the not-that-good French conquerors of the early Millennium.

Tournament PedigreeAfter Michel Platini’s heroics in 1984, France’s next golden period arrived just before the start of the new Millennium, as they took full advantage of the low standard of international football at the time to win World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000.

Few French fans will forget L’Equipe’s immortal headline in 1998: 'France champions of the world, rest of world really bad at football though' or a slightly embarrassed Didier Deschamps holding aloft the Henri Delaunay Trophy in 2000 mumbling: "Oh, so that’s it then, we’ve won it?"

Raymond Domenech eraFrench football fortunes were to decline again with the surprise appointment of Raymond Domenech in 2004 – a surprise due to Domenech’s lack of a track record at the highest level and the fact the new coach was unashamedly less into football and more into plays and 'stuff like that'.

Domenech baffled critics with his odd team selections. He often dropped talented players due of their star sign and replaced them with unknowns, players who weren’t even French and occasionally concepts such as ‘jealousy’, who replaced David Trezeguet for a qualifier against Macedonia.

By the 2006 World Cup, Domenech had clearly gone mad. He replaced training with jazz-dance classes and woke his side up at 4.30am to stage a ragged version of Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ on the eve of their first group game against Switzerland. Amazingly France still reached the final, allowing Domenech to remain at the helm.

But in 2010, things became untenable. Les Bleus exited at the group stage after a catastrophic week which saw players refuse to train, Nicolas Anelka expelled from the squad and Franck Ribery cede the special collectivity of New Caledonia to the Dutch. The tournament ended with Domenech reading out an open letter from the players penned by Anelka railing against the coach’s leadership style, the showers in the hotel and the decision to select Anelka.

In a final act of petulance Anelka deliberately omitted any comas or full stops from his two-page rant, leaving Domenech dangerously short of breath as he reached the end.

Recovery from Domenech eraLaurent Blanc’s first task was to restore order, which he did emphatically by ordering the execution of the entire 2010 squad, and by accident also Karim Benzema, who had actually missed out on selection. Since then Blanc has been a much safer pair of hands than Domenech, assembling an effective if unspectacular side and only occasionally making questionable insinuations about squad demographics.

Worth a bet?You can get 3/1 on the entire French squad arriving in and leaving Ukraine together.

More from Back of the NetGroup A: Poland • Russia • Greece • Czech RepublicGroup B: Netherlands • Germany • Portugal • Denmark Group C: Spain • Italy • Croatia • Republic of Ireland Group D: Ukraine • England • France • Sweden

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