Sarkozy to chair meeting on French flop

PARIS - President Nicolas Sarkozy called on Wednesday for a wholesale review of French football following the national team's humiliation in the World Cup, and said no player should receive bonuses after their dire showing.

France's campaign, marred by infighting and the boycott of a training session, ended on Tuesday with a 2-1 defeat by hosts South Africa that left them bottom of Group A without a win.

Underlining how seriously the French establishment has taken the rout, Sarkozy met Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot and junior Sports Minister Rama Yade on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.

"The head of state asked the ministers to make sure that those responsible draw the consequences for this disaster," the president's office said in a statement - a clear suggestion that Sarkozy wanted to see resignations over the fiasco.

"He also asked the ministers to make sure that no financial gain was passed on to the French team," he added. Team players have already said they would forego bonuses and additional revenues tied to the World Cup campaign.

Sarkozy's office said the failure in South Africa provided the opportunity to launch an overdue review of French football with an eye to renovating the sport. He said this root and branch audit should take place in October.

"Following their conclusions, the government will launch a more generalised review of the governance of sporting federations," the Elysee statement said.

The disgraced national football team is due to fly back to France on Thursday, with players promising to tell their version of events that led to a brief mutiny last weekend when they refused to take part in a training session.

Team veteran Thierry Henry will hold face-to-face talks with Sarkozy after he flies into Paris to discuss the situation.

"Thierry Henry called the president from South Africa and told him he wanted to see him as soon as possible after his return to France," government spokesman Luc Chatel told reporters on Wednesday.

The South African debacle has dominated headlines in France following the expulsion of striker Nicolas Anelka last Saturday for swearing at team coach Raymond Domenech.

The press has pinned much of the blame for the whole saga on Domenech, but the players and the French football federation have also came in for ferocious criticism, with widespread calls for a new broom to sweep clean the domestic sport.

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