What a difference a month makes.
At the beginning of June many in the football community pegged France as one of the favorites heading into Euro 2012. Gone were the demons that plagued the squad in years past. A talented young team led by former star Laurent Blanc ran off a 23 match unbeaten streak and look poised to do serious damage after a superb second half performance against Ukraine in Kiev.
Once again, however, infighting destroyed French hopes. As documented in this wonderful piece by footy blog contributor Ben Lyttleton, crazy overpowered sensibility.
Doing his best Nicolas Anelka impersonation – Samir Nasri’s childish antics and the selfish pouting of Hatem Ben Arfa, Jérémy Ménez and others brought those demons from South Africa back.
Former French International Bixente Lizarazu summed up Blanc’s departure:
“A big surprise, a big waste. I think Laurent Blanc had all the cards in hand to decide to carry on, with the challenge of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil,” Lizarazu said on RTL radio. “Maybe it was down to the discussion with Noel Le Graet. Both of them were waiting to see if there was a desire to work together, and since both seem to be very, very stubborn, with a strong character, neither of them made the first step. It’s a bit like in a relationship where you have to say ‘I love you’ first. No one says it and you split up.”
At just 46 the football world remains Blanc’s oyster. His success at Bordeaux will land him another prime managerial gig – but how long it will take for these wounds to heal remains to be seen.
I expect we’ll learn who couldn’t say ‘je t’aime’ in the coming days. Either way, this breakup feels like one where belongings aren’t returned.