New France coach Laurent Blanc will be forced to explore his options for next month's friendly against Norway after suspending all 23 players involved in this summer's dismal World Cup campaign.
Les Bleus' campaign ended in failure and controversy, as they managed only one point and one goal from three games in Group A and were left in disarray when the squad refused to train two days before their final game against hosts South Africa.
A number of senior figures had called for sanctions against the perceived ringleaders of the protest — but Blanc proposed to exclude the whole party at a meeting yesterday with the French Football Federation's federal council, who ratified the decision.
A statement yesterday read: “Laurent Blanc met this Friday, July 23, with the federal council, to whom he presented his staff and his sporting project.
“He also proposed to the federal council, who accepted, not to retain for the friendly against Norway, on Wednesday, August 11 in Oslo, any of the 23 players officially selected by the French Football Federation for the World Cup in South Africa.
“Laurent Blanc will release the list of players retained for this match against Norway on Thursday, August 5 at 11.30.”
That list seems certain to include the likes of Real Madrid duo Lassana Diarra, who missed the campaign with a stomach problem, and Karim Benzema — surprisingly omitted by then coach Raymond Domenech.
Mickael Landreau, Rod Fanni, Adil Rami, Yann M'Vila, Hatem Ben Arfa and Jimmy Briand were all cut from Domenech's 30-man provisional squad and Monaco's Stephane Ruffier is Landreau's chief rival for the goalkeeping vacancy, while midfielders Samir Nasri and Mathieu Flamini will also surely be expecting to hear from Blanc. There could even be a shock recall for Manchester City veteran Patrick Vieira, although the 107-cap midfielder recently insisted: “My focus is on City, nothing else. I want to do my best for the club.”
The strike which sparked the controversy, on June 20, came after Chelsea forward Nicolas Anelka was sent home from the tournament following a heated exchange with Domenech at half-time in the defeat to Mexico on June 17.
Captain Patrice Evra accused a “traitor” within the party of leaking details of Anelka's foul-mouthed tirade to the media and of destabilising the squad, and was then seen arguing with fitness coach Robert Duverne at the start of the scheduled training session.
Duverne stormed off the training ground and the squad headed for their bus and refused to train, leaving Domenech to read a statement to the press on the players’ behalf. Former France defenders Lilian Thuram and Marcel Desailly called for Evra to be banned from national team duty over his part in the insurrection.