Friday, December 18, 2009

France Misses Chance to Abandon Domenech

I'm not sure any but the greatest of coaches make much difference in the fate of a soccer club or a soccer nation. If the talent is there, some very mediocre managers can coach champions.

However, I do believe that a bad coach can destroy a good team and waste great talent.

Which brings us to Raymond Domenech.

The France Football Federation decided today to keep Domenech as coach through the 2010 World Cup. Which makes us wonder what they were thinking.

One of the FFF board members called for Domenech to be dismissed, prompting the board meeting today.

This, after almost two years of spotty France results that included losing the World Cup group qualifying championship to Serbia ... a 1-0 (!) victory over the Faroe Islands in August ... a 1-1 tie in Saint-Denis against underpowered Romania in September ... and the infamous Handball Game playoff victory over Ireland last month.

Domenech certainly has many of the "qualities" of the incompetent coach. Pig-headedness. An unwillingness to listen to others or use criticism constructively. Weird tactical ideas. An inability to command players' respect.

And, of course, getting bad results with very good talent.

Zinedene Zidane may be retired, but France still has a full cupboard of talent. Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema, Youann Gourcuf, William Gallas, Patrice Evra, Hugo Lloris ... wouldn't you think that group of players could do some damage in international competition? How do you think they might do under any half-dozen of the Dutch mercenary coaches knocking around? Semifinals? Finals?

So, what is holding back les bleus?

After two years of mediocrity, you pretty much have to come back to ... the coach.

It makes you wonder what sort of leverage Domenech has over the FFF. He's something of a goofball as well as a coaching cipher. Yet there he goes, headed for South Africa.

Well, it does set up this one intriguing subplot:

Who can get the least production out of the most talent? Diego Maradona? Or Raymond Domenech.

Fans in Argentina and France may not be amused as this competition-within-a-competition, but the rest of us will be.

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