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Domenech's quiet revolution is winning friends
« on: July 08, 2006, 08:05:15 AM »

Domenech's quiet revolution is winning friends

Jon Brodkin in Hamelin
Saturday July 8, 2006
The Guardian

Two hundred years after Napoleon Bonaparte occupied Berlin, the French leader who takes his troops into the city tomorrow does so amid considerably less personal fanfare. Few coaches can have reached a World Cup final to so little adulation as Raymond Domenech. Amid the plaudits heaped on Zinédine Zidane, Lilian Thuram and other players, the 54-year-old has barely received a mention. It is as if his team's progress in Germany has been achieved in spite of rather than because of him.
When Patrick Vieira spoke, after the win against Portugal, of the communication between the players on the pitch and at half-time being key, it was tempting to conclude - correctly or otherwise - that their imput was more significant than that of the coach.
When their performances improved it was tempting, too, to marginalise the role of Domenech after his faltering qualification and friendly results, and imagine senior squad members leading one final charge before bowing out.

Yet as Willy Sagnol reflected yesterday on France's progress, he was fulsome in his praise of the coach. If there is a lack of admiration for Domenech within the squad, as some have posited, the right-back was hiding it well. "We are lucky to have a coach who lets us express ourselves, gives us responsibility and does not look down on us," he said. "We have a lot of respect for him. The spirit has been great, the coach has given us confidence and success and the keys to win the World Cup, and that is what we are trying to do."

Domenech's call-up and inclusion of Franck Ribéry has been more than justified, he has set up the team in a successful 4-2-3-1 system and could not be falted tactically in the knock-out rounds. He is now silencing his critics after being vilified over a long period in France, and ridiculed, as a follower of astrology, for publicly stating that he does not like the Scorpio star sign, under which the excluded Robert Pires was born.

All along he said the World Cup final was his objective and dismissed the significance of uninspiring warm-up performances. "Football is not like the theatre when the audience does not get to see the rehearsals," he said.

For a coach whose only domestic honour is a second division title at Lyon and who worked as France's Under-21 coach for no fewer than 11 years before taking over the national team in 2004, this has been a remarkable journey.

Marcello Lippi, his opposite number tomorrow, has an honours list that includes five Serie A championships, four Italian Supercups, an Italian Cup and a Champions League. Yet no one can be sure Domenech will not triumph.

If he does succeed, the coach and the team will remember the criticism amid the applause. "We will celebrate with the people who believed in us and were with us from the start," said Sagnol. Few believed in Domenech even two weeks ago, but they may do tomorrow night.

« Last Edit: July 08, 2006, 08:07:31 AM by Blwe_torch »
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