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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

Football

Laurent Blanc: The one-term ‘President’ of French football
AFP
Paris, July 01, 2012
First Published: 23:46 IST(1/7/2012)
Last Updated: 01:33 IST(2/7/2012)
French headcoach Laurent Blanc gestures as he attends the Euro 2012 football championships quarter-final match at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk. AFP/Pierre-Philippe Marcou

Laurent Blanc was known as "Le President" for his elegance and assurance under pressure as a player but they proved to be not enough in the tortuous post of France coach a role he decided he had had enough of on Saturday after just two years.

Blanc has never been known as a quitter and he has largely known success throughout his playing and coaching career - a league and League Cup double with Bordeaux in 2009 pushing him to the front of the queue for being France coach.

However, his relations with the other president French Football Federation Noel Le Graet were in the end not strong enough to earn him unconditional support and sympathy when things didn't quite go to plan.

For while a new contract was on the table it wasn't enough for Blanc. “Blanc wanted to hear 'I am eager to work with you' but this phrase was not uttered," a source close to the talks told AFP on Thursday.

Having seemingly succeeded in restoring some of the lustre and prestige to the French team after the 2010 World Cup debacle, under the unloved and ridiculed Raymond Domenech, he appeared powerless to stop things getting out of control when the script went awry as it did at Euro 2012.

On the face of it reaching the quarter-finals - the first knockout stage the French had reached at a major finals since the 2006 World Cup and the minimum requirement of the FFF — and extending their unbeaten record to 23 is more than passable.

However, the ending of that record in the 2-0 defeat by already eliminated Sweden in their final group match unlocked a Pandoras Box that Blanc was never able to close.

For the softly-spoken and unconfrontational Blanc was not able to cope with the outbreak of dressingroom discord after the Sweden game and taken aback by the row he had with Hatem Ben Arfa, one of the players rated as troublesome who he had thought he could handle and restored to the squad.

Although not on the level of discord within the French squad in South Africa in 2010 Blanc lost from that point on the support of several members of the squad for not standing his ground with Ben Arfa and more crucially Samir Nasri.

“He (Blanc) continued to place his confidence in him (Nasri) when it was clear that the latter slowed the pace of the game down too much, which really agitated his team-mates.”


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