ZURICH (Reuters) - A nightmare of a match, a 2-0 defeat by arch-rivals Italy and a group-stage exit from Euro 2008 did not prevent France coach Raymond Domenech from thinking of romance on Tuesday.
Asked whether the incident-ridden game might have been his last in charge, Domenech said his only immediate plans were to marry his partner, television journalist Estelle Denis.
“My future? The only plan I have is to marry Estelle,” said Domenech, who faces a struggle to keep his job after a calamitous tournament by the 2006 World Cup runners-up.
“There are beautiful things in life,” Domenech told reporters. “In difficult moments, you want to tell people you love them, you want to say the things that matter.”
There was no shortage of difficult moments on Tuesday in a game where everything went wrong for Domenech’s men.
France, needing to beat the world champions to stand a chance of reaching the quarter-finals, had their key player Franck Ribery carried off on a stretcher with a suspected twisted knee after less than 10 minutes.
Defender Eric Abidal was then shown a red card for bringing down Luca Toni in the area midway through the first half.
Andrea Pirlo scored the resulting penalty and Daniele De Rossi added the second from a 62nd-minute free kick, deflected past keeper Gregory Coupet by France striker Thierry Henry.
Domenech defended his men for never giving up in a tense affair.
”That team had guts, showed courage, unselfishness and talent but the circumstances made it tough,“ he said. ”Playing with 10 men for an hour, Franck being injured after 10 minutes, just one substitution possible after half an hour, that’s tough.
“You can’t accumulate as many catastrophes in one match as we did tonight”, added the coach, who had fielded a rejuvenated team and left out such stalwarts as defender Lilian Thuram.
The 36-year-old Thuram was the only player in the current squad to have started France’s 3-0 World Cup final win over Brazil 10 years ago and announced his international retirement after Tuesday’s game. His absence appeared a symbol for the end of a golden era.
France now to need to rebuild after Domenech, whose team leave with just one point and one goal, failed to find the right blend between seasoned warriors and promising youngsters.
The coach said, however, that brighter things could soon follow for a team comprising exciting newcomers such as 20-year-old striker Karim Benzema, who would have scored a superb goal on Tuesday but for a great save by Gianluigi Buffon.
“That team have real potential with young players with a long career ahead of them,” Domenech said. “I liked the temperament they showed tonight. They have a future.”
Additional reporting by Bertrand Boucey, editing by Trevor Huggins