France coach Raymond Domenech says his players acted like imbeciles in protesting Nicolas Anelka's expulsion by refusing to train only two days before the match that decides their FIFA World Cup future.
"I tried to convince them that what they were doing was an aberration, an imbecility, a stupidity without name," Domenech said from Bloemfontein of Sunday's strike.
France plays host South Africa on Tuesday in a Group A match it needs to win to stand a chance of advancing. It also requires a winner in the Mexico-Uruguay game to avoid a repeat of the 2008 European Championship, when it went out in the first round.
Patrice Evra's role as captain could be over after only five games, with Domenech refusing to confirm him as his leader after the defender initiated the player walkout.
"I haven't picked the team yet, we will see tomorrow," Domenech said Monday.
Evra was furious at the French Football federation's decision to send Anelka home late Saturday, amid claims from the players that the FFF denied Anelka a chance to give his side of the argument at a media conference.
Having initially said he understood his players' frustration and that what Anelka said — although abusive — was something which happens within the dressing room, Domenech did a complete turnaround Monday.
Anelka punishment 'justified'
"First of all, I would like to specify that the punishment that was handed out to Nicolas Anelka is justified," Domenech said. "I support the federation in this matter. No one can permit themselves to act like that, either in the dressing room or elsewhere."
The day after his tirade against Domenech — which happened at halftime during Thursday's 2-0 defeat to Mexico —Anelka trained as normal with the squad. He was sent home the next evening by the FFF after details of the clash were splashed across the front page of sports daily L'Equipe, including the expletives Anelka allegedly used.
Stern-faced and emotionless, Domenech also defended his decision to read out a statement from the players in which they announced their refusal to take part in training.
It had surprised many that Domenech agreed to speak on the players' behalf, because it created ambiguity about whether he supported the strike or not.
Domenech said he spent more than 45 minutes trying to talk the players out of the strike, including when the players were on the team bus with the curtains closed. Other federation officials also tried, with one delegate even resigning over the incident, he said.
"At a certain point, I said to myself: 'Stop. We have to put an end to this charade' because that is what this was," Domenech said. "Something must be done. Everything was being broadcast live.
The French and all the people who were asking themselves what was happening had a right to know. So I took the paper and I read it."
"What I should have said at the end is that in no way do I support this document or this attitude."