KNYSNA - France's failure to behave as a team and a lack of understanding between the players on the pitch explain why they are faring so poorly at this World Cup, midfielder Jeremy Toulalan said on Friday.
The only player to face the media a day after a shock 2-0 defeat by Mexico, Toulalan admitted the former world champions, now risking an early exit, had a collective problem.
"Mexico were a team and we were 11 players," the quiet but resolute 26-year-old said, staring gravely at inquisitive reporters at the team's base in Knysna, Western Cape.
France, featuring top talents like Franck Ribery and Nicolas Anelka, looked totally harmless against a brave Mexican side on Thursday in Polokwane, creating one chance in the whole match.
"Some of us have individual qualities but we need to find a balance", Toulalan said.
"There were shortcomings from everybody. It was a collective problem and we need a collective answer. We need more understanding between the players on the pitch. There was a lack of that, too."
Toulalan dismissed media reports that France's attitude on the field was the result of a rift in the squad and of a difficult relationship between Ribery and Yoann Gourcuff in particular.
"We're not all the best of friends, that's normal, but that does not translate on to the pitch," said the workaholic, holding midfielder, one of the few France players who at least looked like they were trying hard against Mexico.
"For instance, when I'm playing with Yoann, I'm not going to pass him the ball more just because we get on well," he added.
Gourcuff took the playmaking duties in France's opening 0-0 draw with Uruguay but did not come on against Mexico, leaving his role to Ribery, who was equally disappointing.
Toulalan was asked if coach Raymond Domenech, who has appeared to improvise so far, hesitating between two playmakers but also two tactical systems, was to blame for the side's dismal showings.
"We're a group, we all need to take responsibility, and that means the players, the coach and the staff," he said.
Toulalan, who picked up a second yellow card against Mexico, will miss his team's last Group A game against South Africa next week.
In that match France, whose fate has dropped out of their hands, need to win by a wide margin to stand an outside chance of qualifying.
"There is a tiny chance but we must take it," Toulalan said, not sounding too convinced.
Finally, asked if he realised that the 2006 World Cup runners-up and 1998 winners, were no longer feared by their opponents, he paused for a few seconds before saying simply: "Yes."comments