Samir Nasri "affair" dominates French media
France v Ukraine, June 15, 5pm
June 15 ~ Games come around quickly at Euro 2012 but it has taken the French media longer than you would have expected to focus on today's match against Ukraine. A certain Samir Nasri gesture against England last Monday has hogged the headlines. After equalising against Roy Hodgson's side, the Manchester City midfielder ran towards the touchline, finger pressed against his lips, angrily mouthing the words "Shut your mouth!" He admitted after the game his barb was directed at journalists of France's leading sports daily L'Equipe for their pre-tournament criticism of his national team performances.
That Nasri's dramatic but ultimately innocuous outburst has dominated the media agenda is a legacy of the 2010 World Cup. At that tournament, of course, France's players heaped shame on themselves by sitting on the team coach instead of taking part in a training session. Since that all-time low, every gesture that can be interpreted – or misinterpreted – as an example of disrespectful behaviour is dwelled upon much longer than it would otherwise be.
"I'm not interested in talking about it," snapped France coach Laurent Blanc when asked for an opinion on the Nasri "affair". "Players' reactions are their own business. If certain players have issues with people in the media, you're all big boys and you can sort it out between yourselves."
French federation president Noel Le Graet backed Blanc's stance. "Players react in all sorts of ways after scoring a goal. Some do backflips, others take their shirt off even though they get a yellow card for it. He [Nasri] was perhaps thinking about a particular article he wasn't happy about. It's a bit of a shame, because you have to be above all that. But there's no Nasri 'affair'. It's really not a big deal. What I like about him is how much he puts into the game. He's a winner."
It wasn't until Thursday that thoughts fully turned towards this afternoon's game against Ukraine in Donetsk. Now they are thinking about it, the general media feeling is that France will go for the win more than they did against England, despite the searing heat.
Blanc has admitted the weather is a problem, but he has told his players to "go out and play". More than ten million fans tuned in for the England match, and another large TV audience is predicted. You sense that, in the media gallery at least, everyone is waiting for the goal celebrations. James Eastham
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