French fallout

Laurent Blanc out as France coach

Associated Press

PARIS -- Laurent Blanc stepped down as France's soccer coach on Saturday after a European Championship campaign that ended in the quarterfinals and with the national team's players again being questioned on their behavior.

Blanc informed the French Football Federation of his decision following lengthy negotiations with FFF president Noel Le Graet on Thursday. The FFF said there would be no further comment before a news conference Tuesday, when its executive committee meets.

Le Graet was in favor of Blanc staying on. However, Blanc was reportedly unhappy he wasn't offered a contract extension before Euro 2012 had started, with the FFF preferring to wait and see how the team performed. France lost its final group match to last-place Sweden to set up a clash against Spain in the quarterfinals, losing 2-0 to the defending champions in a largely defensive performance.

The Euro 2012 campaign was tainted by tensions among players following a heated locker room dust-up following the 2-0 loss to Sweden, while France midfielder Samir Nasri was also embroiled in an expletive-laced exchange with a French journalist. Those incidents may have influenced Blanc's decision.

He took charge of France in July 2010 following the World Cup debacle in South Africa in which the team's players went on strike in protest against then-coach Raymond Domenech.

Blanc's tenure was fairly successful, rebuilding the team following the shambles of the Domenech era. Under Blanc, France reached the quarterfinals of a competition for the first time since the 2006 World Cup, drawing a line through the failures of Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup in which France failed to win a single game under Domenech.

Blanc lost his first two games in charge, but the team then embarked on a 23-match unbeaten run before losing to Sweden and Spain at Euro 2012. Altogether, France lost only four out of 27 matches under Blanc.

Having led Bordeaux to the French title in the 2008-09 season, Blanc may return to club management. He had previously been linked to the vacant manager's position at English Premier League team Tottenham.

The favorite to replace Blanc is former France captain Didier Deschamps, who is expected to leave as Marseille manager after a difficult season. Deschamps would be the ideal choice, having made no secret of his desire to coach France. He was captain when France won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 and would be a popular choice.

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