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May 30, 2006

Domenech inflamed by negative headlines

CLAIREFONTAINE, France, May 30 (Reuters) - France coach Raymond Domenech is fed up with negative headlines in the build-up to the World Cup.

'I'm tired of reading about what's going wrong,' said Domenech.

'There is a great atmosphere in the team. People keep stopping us to wish us well - that's what you should talk about but that does not make headlines.'

French preparations for the World Cup have not been smooth. The coach argued with his reserve goalkeeper, Gregory Coupet, who cannot accept being number two behind Fabien Barthez.

So upset was Coupet that he briefly left France's camp in the French Alps last week before deciding to return.

Then came whistles and boos from the Stade de Francde crowd for the coach and several players during Saturday's 1-0 friendly win over Mexico.

Domenech was also criticised for saving his first comments for one of the team's sponsors, a mobile phone operator, after unveiling his World Cup squad this month.

Domenech kept touching his right ear with his hand during a news conference on Tuesday at France's training camp outside Paris.

'Maybe it's a psychological problem, because I'm tired of hearing things I don't want to hear,' Domenech joked.

France coaches have been wary of the the national press since sports daily L'Equipe roundly criticised coach Aime Jacquet's tactics during the triumphant 1998 World Cup campaign on home soil.

Jacquet said he would never forgive those who had hurt him and since then France coaches have been careful to say as little as possible.

Neither Roger Lemerre, who guided France to the title at the European championship in 2000, nor Jacques Santini were at ease with the media.

Domenech, who took over from Santini after France's quarter-final exit from Euro 2004, is now being attacked and finds this difficult to deal with.

'We're here to prepare for the World Cup, not my hanging,' he said on Tuesday. Then he touched his ear again. 'I'm not sure but I think it's inflammation of the ear.'