France’s World Cup saga continues

The soap opera swirling about the French World Cup team took another improbable turn Monday when beleaguered Coach Raymond Domenech appeared alone at a news conference to say some members of the team may not want to play in Tuesday’s Group A finale against South Africa.

“We will have to take it into account when I compose the team with my staff,” Domenech, who has endured a dreadful 48 hours that included the expulsion of one player, the resignation of a high-ranking French soccer federation official and a mutiny on the part of the players, who refused to practice Sunday.

Patrice Evra could be benched. Evra, who did not attend the pre-match news conference that normally features the coach and the captain, led the insurrection against Domenech and the federation over their decision to remove Nicolas Anelka from the team following the petulant striker’s obscene tirade after last week’s lost to Mexico.

Back home the team was denounced for its recent behavior with two major companies — the bank Credit Agricole SA and fast-food chain Quick — suspending advertising campaigns featuring the national soccer team while President Nicolas Sarkozy criticized the players.

During a news conference in St. Petersburg, Sarkozy called Anelka’s outburst “unacceptable.”

The French team returned to training Monday, but it did so in practice kits bereft of the team’s sponsors’ logos. To avoid elimination from the World Cup, the French, winless and goal-less so far, need a big win against South Africa while hoping that Mexico and Uruguay do not play to a tie in the other Group A game.

England deals with own rebellion

Midfielder Frank Lampard sought to quell rumors of a growing insurrection in the English camp by saying the players are solidly behind Coach Fabio Capello despite the fact the team could be knocked out of the tournament in the first round for the first time since 1958.

Lampard also denied reports that former captain John Terry had a heated meeting with Capello after last week’s scoreless draw with Algeria.

“I understand what John is saying because he’s passionate,” Lampard said. “He’s like that as a player. All 23 players deal with things differently. The messages I got from people was that John was saying some positive things.”

Earlier, Terry had said some players had their own meeting to discuss grievances with team management. The British press then reported that teammates told Terry to be quiet — a version Lampard appeared to support.

Italian coach also battled players

Coach Marcello Lippi blamed Italy’s stunning 1-1 draw Sunday with New Zealand on his players’ reluctance to take his advice.

“We worked the entire week on keeping the ball low and on the ground, but as soon as we grew a little nervous we started booting it high in the air,” Lippi said Monday.

Italy now needs to beat Slovakia in its final Group F match Thursday to be sure of advancing.

“We still have a chance, but we can’t continue like this,” Lippi said.

Times wire services contributed to this report.