France World Cup squad cloistered in Alps

24th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

TIGNES, France, May 24, 2006 (AFP) - France coach Raymond Domenech has cloistered his squad high up on the French Alps to get them mentally ready for the World Cup and avoid the fiasco that downed the team four years ago.

TIGNES, France, May 24, 2006 (AFP) - France coach Raymond Domenech has cloistered his squad high up on the French Alps to get them mentally ready for the World Cup and avoid the fiasco that downed the team four years ago.

In 2002, the French delegation, lead by Roger Lemerre arrived in South Korea tired both physically and mentally from a long, tough season and with playmaker Zinedine Zidane laid low by an injury.

The then world champions lost their opener 0-1 to Senegal and never recovered failing to score a single goal and crashing out of their group.

Two years later at Euro 2004 and with Jacques Santini in charge, a talented French squad was riven with dissension and cliques and they surprisingly went out at the quarter-final stage to eventual winners Greece.

This time around Domenech, who has had his own problems with several players, is trying to install an atmosphere of trust and confidence huddling with his squad for several days above 2,100-metres altitude at this ski resort in the French Alps.

"If everyone feels at ease mentally, then the preparation phase always works well," said Domenech, the former national youth trainer who was a surprise choice to take over the top job after Santini quit at the end of Euro 2004.

"Experience shows us, at least according to the players who were there, that they arrived in Asia four years ago already exhausted," he said.

"They did not have a real break from football and what is most important in preparing a team is that they arrive feeling fresh mentally."

Domenech said he had told his players to first of all finalise their club situations for next season and then take a short holiday as far away from the World Cup circus as they can get on a distant island or in the United States.

But he told them to be back with him by Sunday when he gathered players and their families around him and headed up the mountains.

His methods brought immediate support from Zidane who returned to play for France during a difficult qualification campaign after announcing his retirement from international competition after Euro 2004.

"We have a good team and good players," he said. "Now we must ensure that we are all at 150 percent by the time we get to Germany.

"If we can all be on top form when the big day comes we can beat any team out there. I am sure of that."

The 23-strong French squad were due to have an outing to the formidable Tignes glacier over 3,000 metres on Wednesday before heading back down to the main ski resort.

They are due to travel back to the French Football Federation headquarters at Clairefontaine outside Paris on Friday to continue preparations for their final buildup games against Mexico in Paris on Saturday, then against Denmark at Lens on May 31 and against China at St-Etienne on June 7.

They will travel to their base camp in Germany the day after the China game and settle down for the opener against Switzerland in Stuttgart on June 13. Togo and South Korea ar the two other teams in the groups.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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