JOHANNESBURG — Before the World Cup started, you could have gotten good odds that the French would go home as champions.
On Sunday one of Europe's top bookmakers starting taking bets the French would go home before their final match.
The bizarre turn of events, which has been brewing for years, finally bubbled over Sunday at the team's camp just east of Cape Town with a series of events that started with a conversation between captain Patrice Evra and coach Raymond Domenech and ended with the humiliated Domenech reading a statement to the media condemning the French federation's decision to kick forward Nicolas Anelka off the team a day earlier.
In between, fitness coach Robert Duverne stormed out of camp, team director Jean-Louis Valentin angrily announced his resignation and the entire team, after filing off the bus for practice, filed back in without so much as kicking a ball.
By the end of the day even French President Nicolas Sarkozy had weighed in, with Roselyne Bachelot, his sports minister, saying "the indignation of the French is great."
A World Cup finalist four years ago and a champion in 1998, France is winless, goalless and virtually hopeless heading into Tuesday's group-play finale with South Africa. And as spectacular as Sunday's mutiny was, it was just the latest incident that has conspired to make France, the No. 9 team in the latest FIFA rankings, one of the worst in the World Cup.
"We're in another world here," Christian Teinturier, vice president of the French soccer federation, said. "French football is in a catastrophic situation."