Lots of drama today both on and off the pitch. First was the story from the French camp, where the team refused to train today after Nicolas Anelka had been sent home by the FAA. Anelka was sent home yesterday for an outburst against coach Raymond Domenech at half-time of Thursday’s 2-0 defeat to Mexico.
Late Sunday the French team statement saying:
“All players without exception want to declare their opposition to FFF decision to exclude Nicolas Anelka.” The players added they felt the FFF “had at no time tried to protect the squad.” They did vow, however, “to do everything individually and collectively so that France regains its honour [against South Africa] on Tuesday”.
I have never heard of a team imploding like this at a major tournament. The French still have a mathematical if the beat South Africa, but that is looking very unlikely at the moment.
Things are not much better for the team that beat France in the last World Cup final. Italy today drew 1-1 with New Zealand and need to beat Slovakia in their game next Thursday to ensure that they make it to the knockout stages. Italy have looked terrible in their two games, an aging team without any sense of inspiration. If Slovakia beats Italy, they will go through and the Italians will go to a very hostile reception.
Finally in the big game of the day, Brazil beat the Ivory Coast 3-1, but the big news was that Brazilian star Kaka was sent off in his game (a horrible refeering decision). Kaka will not miss Brazil’s final group game against Portugal.
With the win Brazil move onto the knockout stages, but I was really disappointed in how defensive that Sven-Goran Eriksson has had the Ivory Coast play so far. They have not played with any of the flair that we have come to expect from the Ivory Coast and Eriksson seems to be more concerned with not losing, than progressing futher in the World Cup.
In the early game today, the strength of South American football was on display again as Paraguay beat Slovakia 2-0. All five South American teams in the World Cup sit on top of their groups tonight, a remarkable achievement.