FORMER champions France face the distinct possibility of missing out on next year's World Cup finals and must improve quickly, French media agreed yesterday in questioning the team's capabilities following their 1-1 draw with Romania.
The French were "ineffective, (they showed) a lack of vigilance and the off-the-cuff coaching of the man in charge (Raymond Domenech) has let them down. Pathetic," wrote regional daily Ouest-France in a dismissive commentary.
"Now, les Bleus no longer have their fate in their own hands. They will certainly have to negotiate a perilous playoff if they are to embark on a journey to the Cape," wrote another regional paper, Var Matin, as hopes faded of automatic qualification for the finals in South Africa.
Le Parisien/Aujourd'hui was also aghast at the draw, which means the French must beat group leaders Serbia, whom they now trail by four points, away on Wednesday.
"The World Cup is a long way off for Les Bleus," said the paper, which questioned "the true potential of a team which relies too much on its individualities".
"What a mess," said Lyon-based Le Progres after Julien Escude put through his own net to cancel out the lead veteran captain Thierry Henry had given them early in the second-half.
Domenech, who has been under pressure since a poor Euro 2008 campaign - though he did lead the French to the 2006 World Cup final, insisted overnight that "top spot is still up for grabs. I repeat it would have been better to win but we just have to regroup and focus on Wednesday. We have to show character."
The Journal du Dimanche worried, however, that the current team will not get the chance to emulate its 2006 counterpart.
"(The team) has not found a style, cohesion... It has no soul either. Things are getting serious," the Journal du Dimanche wrote.
And Depeche du Midi wrote: "There is something not quite right when it comes to managing the players in the French team.
"Every weekend they play for top European sides, and are often stars, yet when it comes to donning the blue shirt (of the national team) they produce stumbling football."
And Ouest-France pointed a finger at Domenech.
"He bears heavy responsibility for this fiasco," the paper wrote. - Sapa-AFP