Domenech career could end where it began

DUBLIN - Raymond Domenech's term as France coach could end the way his short international playing career started over the next week, with a game against Ireland and a failed World Cup qualification campaign.

The controversial coach earned the first of his eight caps in a 1974 World Cup qualifier against Ireland, in a campaign that ended with the French missing out on the finals in West Germany that year.

Failure to prevail over two play-off legs against the Irish, beginning in Dublin on Saturday, would make the 2006 World Cup runners-up the most high-profile absentees at next year's finals and almost certainly spell the end for their coach.

"That's not the way I think, I only live in the present. I always say each game could be my last," Domenech told reporters.

"It is written somewhere. I somehow believe in fate and we are going to do all we can to qualify and make things last as long as possible."

The French script will have to be written without inspirational midfielder Franck Ribery who will miss both legs of the play-off with a niggling knee injury.

Les Bleus will pin their hopes on their all-time top scorer Thierry Henry, the only player to score in their two encounters against Ireland during the 2006 World Cup qualification campaign.

Domenech, whose side struggled early on in qualifying and were outshone by surprise group winners Serbia, said he did not expect any surprises from Giovanni Trapattoni's Irish side.

"We all know their characteristics and their unique spirit. We are not taking them lightly as they are sturdy players who want to qualify for the World Cup as much as we do," he said.


The French coach's tone had softened a little from a month ago when he described Ireland as the "England B team" - a translation that has since been contested - but the swipe was not lost on Ireland defender Richard Dunne.

"Every time a tournament comes round, they have all these world-class players and then a man (Domenech) who seems intent on messing them up," Dunne told reporters.

"Even watching Sky Sports, you can see the reaction of the people at the tennis when they put his face on the big screen and the whole place just booed him and his own players laughed at him," he added, referring to this week's Paris Masters event.

With the exception of goalkeeper Shay Given and perhaps captain Robbie Keane, not many of the current Irish team would make an England XI but Trapattoni has built a resolute team whose self-belief has so far patched over any flaws.

The manager has shown just as much belief in his squad, unbeaten in a qualifying group that included his native Italy, leaving the fit-again pair of Steve Finnan and Steven Reid out of the French tie and again ignoring playmaker Andy Reid.

The Italian has no serious injury problems among his thinly backed-up squad with winger Damien Duff expected to shake off an Achilles injury.

Aston Villa's Dunne thought it was time the Irish put an end to their opponents' good fortune.

"I think over the last World Cups and Euros, they haven't run smoothly for France but they've always got through and maybe it's time we put a stop to that," he said.

Teams (probable):