Laurent Blanc avoided confirming that he would continue as France coach following their Euro 2012 quarter-final exit against Spain. He also admitted that the Spanish had simply been too good for France, who had been unable to make any clear chances.
France's elimination comes in the wake of a dressing room confrontation following their defeat against Sweden in the final group game. The issue, admitted by the French manager and his players, dominated the agenda in the buildup to the quarter-final, with the manager even noting the fear of "ghosts" from 2010 re-emerging. To make matters worse, there were further reports after the game of a clash between Samir Nasri and a French journalist. The hope that the arguments might have a galvanising effect were dashed here and asked if he was ready to continue working with the players, Blanc did not give a definitive answer. He did, though, talk of the need for a long process for France to build a team to compete at the highest level.
"We've just gone out of the competition. We are disappointed and you can see that on the faces of the staff and players," Blanc said. "We will analyse everything in detail from this competition. We will do it in the coming days. There have been ups and downs. We will look at it calmly and we will see what happens after that."
Blanc had included two right-backs in his starting line up, with Anthony Réveillère and Mathieu Debuchy playing. Yet it was from that side of the pitch that Spain created the opening goal which set the tone for the game. He also admitted that France had planned to attack Spain on the opposite wing but had been unable to do so.
"We had looked a lot at Spain and saw they were very good on the left," he said. "The frustration is that we conceded on that side of the pitch as we had planned to stop them there. It's infuriating to see them cross from the left and Alonso stroll in to score. Alba only had one cross, but they scored from it. The main regret is conceding so early in the game.
"Just as they are very good on the left, we felt our left-hand side could be very good too. The Spanish left is much stronger than their right and we wanted to attack on our left because we have [Franck] Ribéry and Karim [Benzema].
"We lacked technique, but we could have caused them more difficulty. We knew we would have 30 to 35 per cent possession. We ended up with 40 per cent, but we didn't take advantage and score a goal. Even if Spain dominated and controlled the game, they were afraid of us and our forward line. We had a few chances, even though we didn't have clear-cut chances."
He added: "We have to be realistic too. This Spain team is great and there is no shame in saying they are a better side than us and they proved that this evening. Until now, two sides have really shown how powerful they are at the Euros. They are the favourites and that is Germany and Spain. It's not very surprising.
"We know the great nations have players at the same club sides and of course it helps. Even England, with a lot of foreign players in their league, have lots of players from Chelsea and the Manchester clubs. Spain have players from Real and Barcelona. For France, that hasn't been the case for a while and it isn't going to change. We have to get on with it and if you want to create a team, it's a long process."
News of Nasri's clash with a French journalist heaped more shame on the Manchester City midfielder, who has already clashed with media during the tournament.
Nasri, who came on as a second-half substitute, went through the mixed zone without a word for reporters after the match. Asked by a reporter for a quote, he answered: "You are looking for shit, you are looking for trouble." The reporter replied: "Get lost."
Nasri then turned back and said "f**k you" followed by a stream of further abuse, inviting the reporter to have a conversation with him man-to-man.
The Spain manager, Vicente Del Bosque, praised his team for a solid display in which the Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso shone with two well-taken goals. "France didn't have many chances and we were in control all the time. It was important to win and that's what we did," he said. "Iker [Casillas] hardly had anything to do and that speaks of the good defensive performance of the team. If our defenders are good then we will be closer to winning the tournament because we will always create a chance."
Del Bosque did admit that Spain will be at a disadvantage in the semi-final because they will have less rest than Portugal. He said: "We have two days fewer to rest than them and I am thinking about this. It is a small handicap. We have arrived very drained because the heat we suffered tonight was cruel on the players."