Raymond Domenech, the France national coach, is not popular with fans of Les Bleus, who often boo him at games, and his World Cup squad selection has done little to improve his rating. Emmanuel Petit, the former France, Barcelona and Arsenal midfielder, said Domenech made a mistake by omitting the experienced Patrick Vieira in his provisional squad. And only 27.3 per cent of French people believe their team will go beyond the first round at next month's tournament, according to a poll byGFK-L'Equipe TV-RTL-MSN, which also showed Domenech's popularity had dipped, with just 22 per cent of French people having confidence in the coach.
Domenech left Vieira, the combative Manchester City midfielder, Karim Benzema, the Real Madrid striker, and Samir Nasri, the Arsenal midfielder out of the 30-man preliminary squad. Petit, a member of the France team that won the World Cup on home soil in 1998, said his former Arsenal teammate Vieira could not reasonably have hoped for a starting berth in Domenech's team but that he will be deeply missed in the locker room. Speaking on French television, Petit said that Vieira is "essential to the life of the team."
The 33-year-old Vieira, who was also part of the France team that won Euro 2000, said his international career was over after 107 appearances with France. "In hard times, when there are tensions and when players are experiencing problems to live together, he can be very helpful," Petit told L'Equipe TV channel. Vieira played his last match for France in June last year, a disappointing 1-0 friendly loss at home to Nigeria. Vieira said he accepted the coach's decision but criticised his poor communication.
"I didn't speak with him on the phone in the past six months," Vieira said. "We always had a good relationship, even when he was living through hard times. In the view of my career, I would have loved more consideration." * Agencies