At the World Cup, French Drama and the U.S. Prepares to Face Algeria

BY Tom LeGro  June 21, 2010 at 2:24 PM EDT

French national team

France captain Patrice Evra, left, walks away during an argument with fitness coach Robert Duverne before the start of what was supposed to be a training session. Photo by Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images.

Four years after reaching the 2006 World Cup final in Germany, the French national team is in turmoil. The team and its deeply unpopular manager are on the verge of elimination.

Les Blues drew, 1-1, with Uruguay in their first Group A match, and then lost, 2-0, to Mexico on Thursday. They will play South Africa on Tuesday.

The French have had more dustups in training and in the locker room than goals scored. On Sunday, France’s fitness coach stormed off the training pitch after an argument with team captain Patrice Evra, which resulted in the players boarding the team bus and pulling the curtains shut. Later, the team director resigned.

A few days earlier, star striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for insulting France manager Raymond Domenech during halftime of the match against Mexico. Anelka’s dismissal led his teammates to refuse to attend training.

Even French President Nicolas Sarkozy is now involved. He has asked his sports minister to meet with the key people involved.

The French team was facing troubles even before the 2010 World Cup in Africa kicked off. An obvious handball led to the goal that put them ahead of Ireland in a qualification playoff and Domenech has alienated players with strange managerial decisions.

For more about the French team and other news from South Africa, including a look at the United States’ crucial upcoming match against Algeria, we talked to Washington Post reporter Steve Goff, who is in Johannesburg:

You can follow Goff’s coverage of the World Cup at Soccer Insider.

And tune in to Monday’s NewsHour for more on the World Cup, including an interview with Roger Bennett, co-host of Off the Ball on ESPN.com.