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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 25, 2006

Goalkeeping bust-up spoils mood in France camp

TIGNES, France, May 25 (Reuters) - Reserve goalkeeper Gregory Coupet stormed out of France's pre-World Cup training camp after a dispute over rival Fabien Barthez, before deciding to return.

"There was indeed a problem," coach Raymond Domenech, who made Barthez his number one ahead of Coupet, told a news conference on Thursday.

"Gregory Coupet had the blues for a moment. He cracked. Such things can happen."

Domenech said Coupet left the camp in the French Alps resort of Tignes with his family and luggage on Wednesday before changing his mind and returning to the team hotel.

"He decided to come back," Domenech said. "It all lasted 30 minutes. Nobody is making a big fuss about it, we had an explanation.

"You have to understand that the France team is more important than the interests of any individual. The problem has been sorted."

A source close to the team said Coupet had argued with Domenech. The Olympique Lyon goalkeeper was apparently upset because Barthez failed to complete a hike up an Alpine glacier, saying he had a sore calf.

Barthez and Coupet took part in a training session on Thursday, hardly talking to each other.

"It's a good thing this has happened now (and not later)," France defender Lilian Thuram told reporters.

"Had it lasted, it could have got worse and damaged the atmosphere in the squad.

"Everybody can understand Greg. He is a competitor and it's normal that he finds it difficult to accept being the number two.

"The fact that he came back proves that he has accepted the situation. He did the right thing. We all talked about it and now things are cleared up."

The players had left their four-star hotel on Tuesday for a mountain refuge where they spent the night.

On Wednesday morning, they roped up for a hike on icy terrain before being joined by their families for lunch. The idea was to help team bonding before the finals in Germany start on June 9.

Domenech said when he named his 23-man squad earlier this month that Olympique Marseille's Barthez would be France's number one goalkeeper at the World Cup ahead of Coupet.

A prominent member of the Olympique Lyon side that won a record fifth successive Ligue 1 title and reached the Champions League quarter-finals last season, Coupet had said that he felt he should be the number one.

Domenech still has to announce who will be in goal when France play Mexico in a warm-up game at the Stade de France on Saturday.