at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
DONETSK, Ukraine – Where there was controversy in France's Euro 2012 campaign, which ended with a one-sided quarterfinal defeat by Spain on Saturday, Samir Nasri was never far away.
The Manchester City midfielder began the tournament with a man-of-the-match performance in the 1-1 draw with England, but went home in disgrace after a foul mouthed rant at a journalist from AFP.
A talented but confrontational member of the squad, Nasri's dwindling influence mirrored France's fading performances and his off-pitch indiscretions mean his place in the national set-up is now in jeopardy.
Even his display against England was overshadowed by controversy, as he elected to celebrate his equalising goal by putting his finger to his lips and screaming “Shut your face!” in the direction of the press box.
He later revealed the barb had been aimed at a journalist from French sport newspaper L'Equipe, whose criticisms of Nasri's contribution in France's three warm-up matches had apparently upset the player's ailing mother.
If Nasri's explanation elicited any sympathy, his subsequent misdemeanours left him with precious little credit.
Implicated in the changing-room slanging match that erupted after France's 2-0 loss to Sweden, he saved his worst for last by losing his temper with a reporter as he walked through the mixed zone after the 2-0 loss to Spain.
After rudely declining to comment on the game, he snapped when told to “Get lost” by the journalist and launched a tirade of abuse that left seasoned onlookers open-mouthed.
“Go fxxx yourself, go fxxx your mother, you son of a bitch. You want us to have it out, go fxxx yourself. There, like that you can now write that I am badly brought up,” he said before leaving the mixed zone.
The French press were quick to draw comparisons with the incident at the 2010 World Cup that saw Nicolas Anelka excluded from the France squad after insulting coach Raymond Domenech.
Nasri had been left out of that tournament by Domenech – ironically over concerns about his behaviour after he fell out with senior members of the squad at Euro 2008.
“I said to myself: 'If we (Nasri and Karim Benzema) were not taken (to the World Cup) because we were a disruptive influence, what would have happened if we had been there?'“ he remarked in August 2010.
France coach Laurent Blanc now knows what Nasri brings to major tournaments, and it may not be an experience he wishes to replicate.
Blanc has repeatedly told journalists that the former Arsenal player needs to “do more” for the national team and despite Nasri's starring role against England, by the time France faced Spain, he had been relegated to the bench.
As in France's three pre-tournament friendlies, Nasri was gradually eclipsed by Franck Ribery and Benzema, his partners in the French forward line.
There have been criticisms of his displays in the French media, but nothing to justify the virulence of the outbursts they provoked.
“Samir, we just wrote that you didn't play very well,” said Christophe Dugarry, the player turned television pundit who himself incurred the wrath of the French press during his time in the national side.
Nasri finished the 2011-12 campaign with a Premier League winners' medal around his neck after a successful first season with City, but the club's huge spending power means he cannot be sure of a starting place next season.
Having consistently undermined Blanc's efforts to repair the damage to France's image inflicted by the mutineers of 2010, he can no longer contemplate his international future with any certainty either. – Sapa-AFP