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May 8, 2013

Blanc reveals all about France tenure

Laurent Blanc has told L'Equipe that France's painful, controversy-ridden Euro 2012 campaign was a necessary rite of passage to weed out the squad's troublemakers.

Blanc, 47, left his job as national team boss when his contract expired following Les Bleus' quarter-final exit to Spain last June, despite having picked up the pieces in the aftermath of the catastrophic 2010 World Cup. France qualified impressively with a 23-game unbeaten run that only ended at Euro 2012 with defeat to Sweden in their final group game.

However, the positives were tainted by a number of disciplinary problems. After scoring against England, Samir Nasri mouthed 'Ferme ta gueule!' ('Shut your face!') to a journalist who had criticised him, before abusing another member of the media following the team's loss to Spain in the last-eight. Meanwhile, Hatem Ben Arfa, Yann M'Vila and Jeremy Menez were all punished for misdemeanours during the tournament.

"We had to go through that. Two years before, it was like a desert. We had to rebuild. It was clear that after 2010 we would go through very positive times and some much more difficult ones," Blanc, who admitted he felt "betrayed" and "disappointed" by certain players, said. "When you reconstruct, you do it with new people. Those moments, big competitions, teach you about people's character. You have to go through those experiences, see how certain people behave so as to not pick them later on. You can't know that beforehand. What happened at the Euro was very beneficial for the future, I'm convinced of that. Because those people excluded themselves."

Although Blanc refused to name names, he was clearly referring to the quartet, of which only Menez has featured for France since last summer. He did, however, reveal that he had attempted to persuade Nasri to see the error of his ways following his extraordinary outburst against Roy Hodgson's side in France's opening finals encounter, but to no avail.

"We told Samir, we explained to him that he had to assume what he had done and said, and that he had to be careful not to fall into certain traps that would be there," Blanc said. "We told him we were with him, on his side, but that he had to be able to not be reactive. After that, what happens, happens. What do you want to do?"

Blanc also criticised the attitude of Patrice Evra, who - after playing in the 1-1 draw with England - lost his place to Gael Clichy. The Manchester United left-back then sought an explanation for the situation from Blanc in a manner which has left the former Bordeaux coach, who resurrected Evra's career following the player's five-match international ban for his part in the 'bus of shame' fiasco in South Africa, feeling let down.

"I've kept Patrice's texts. I'll show them to him when I see him. That's how people are. We'll meet, and I won't need a microphone to tell him what I think. It's easy to talk. But you can't wipe away what you said to a person, especially when there are people around," Blanc said, adding that Evra - who has since been restored as first-choice left-back by Blanc's successor, Didier Deschamps - had even demanded the pair talk just before they left Kiev for Paris.

"After all the conversations we had, his attitude surprised me, yes," Blanc said. "It's like that. What makes me sad is that he thanked me, he was aware it was difficult to recall him, and that, a few months later, he said such things."

Although he refused to say so bluntly, Blanc hinted strongly that he felt his former international team-mate Deschamps had been partly to blame for the behind-the-scenes machinations which ensured his tenure with the national side ended last June.

"I think my fate was sealed before the Euros," Blanc said, before confirming his contract should have been automatically extended to 2014 following qualification for the finals in Poland and Ukraine. Instead, with no offer forthcoming, and his relationship with French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet strained, he left and was swiftly replaced by Deschamps, who quit his job at Marseille.

"There are coincidences which are difficult to explain," Blanc said, adding Deschamps' recent claim in L'Equipe, that the pair have never really got along, suggested more. "When you think that someone's annoyed with you, it's because you think that they perhaps have a reason to be annoyed with you."

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