Paris – Patrice Evra, who captained France through their farcical 2010 World Cup implosion, has raised the temperature around the national team again after becoming embroiled in a row with former fellow internationals turned pundits.
Evra has been summoned by coach Didier Deschamps and the French federation after he said his critics, including former tournament winners Bixente Lizarazu and Luis Fernandez, were “bums”.
His interview, cut to edit out comments that could have been defamatory, was aired on Sunday on French television channel TF1, the day before the World Cup playoff draw was being made in Zurich.
“Which opponent for Les Bleus?” was sports daily L'Equipe's headline on Monday, under the flags of Portugal, Croatia, Greece and Ukraine as well as a picture of Evra.
Although Deschamps hinted on Sunday that he could be lenient, the French federation may be tempted to be more severe, as it was in 2012 when it banned Samir Nasri for three international games for insulting a reporter.
On the pitch, everything seemed to be finally clicking for France, who won their final two qualifiers and scored 13 goals in their last three games to finish second in Group I behind Spain and go into the playoffs.
Evra, however, has put his team on shaky ground again, less than a month before the November 15 and 19 playoff tie.
“I was wondering why today's leaders were the same as in 2010 in South Africa. After what happened at the World Cup, there were reasons to be worried,” Lizarazu told L'Equipe on Monday.
“Well, Patrice Evra's interview confirms my opinion.”
Manchester United fullback Evra was banned for five international games for his role in the 2010 fiasco, when France players went on strike to support Nicolas Anelka who had been kicked out for insulting then coach Raymond Domenech.
After two decent performances with Les Bleus, Evra lashed out at his critics in the television interview, saying: “My public image is good. It's not these bums who will tarnish my image.
“I'm not arrogant. It's the truth, those people will never have my honours, they have never won anything.” – Reuters