No mercy for French heroes

Associated Press

Paris, June 26:

How the mighty have fallen. French newspapers on Saturday showed neither mercy nor sympathy for their soccer team’s failure to defend its European title. Only scorn.

“Indefensible,” said the bold headline on the front page of the sports daily L’Equipe’s, which carried a photo of a stunned Zinedine Zidane. “Finished” headlined the daily Le Parisien.

“It’s a disaster comparable to that of the 2002 Asian World Cup, when the French champions were eliminated in the first round. Le Parisien blamed worn-out players and a coach “who preferred to abandon ship before the competition started,” a reference to Jacques Santini’s contract with English Premier League Trottenham Hotspur that begins this summer. The shock 1-0 defeat of Les Bleus to outsider Greece at the Euro 2004 quarter-finals was simply a “pitiful” performance, the national daily newspaper Liberation wrote dryly. “Blues Without Soul.” Papers also used words like “debacle” to describe the match.

The loss was all the more surprising because it followed 18 victories and three ties. The previous loss for the champion team dates back to February 12, 2003, a home game against the Czechs, who won 2-0. “Go Back Home,” wrote L’Equipe in an article explaining Friday’s defeat - and shaking a finger at the France team. “The European champions once more lost their title with a game undignified of their rank,” L’Equipe wrote. In an exceptionally harsh commentary, L’Equipe said the elimination from Euro 2004 was merited by the performance but, more seriously, wondered about the future of the team.