Laurent Blanc steps down as France coach

Former skipper Deschamps favourite to replace him

Laurent Blanc stepped down as France coach on Saturday after a European Championship campaign that ended in the quarter-finals and with his players again being questioned about their behaviour.

Blanc informed the French Football Federation (FFF) of his decision following lengthy negotiations with FFF president Noel Le Graet on Thursday. The FFF said there would be no further comment before a news conference Tuesday, when its executive committee meets.

The favourite to replace Blanc is former France captain Didier Deschamps, who is set to leave as Marseille manager after a difficult last season.

Le Graet was favourable to Blanc staying on. However, Blanc was reportedly unhappy he wasn't offered a contract extension before Euro 2012 had started, with the FFF preferring to wait and see how the team performed. France lost its final group match to last-place Sweden to set up a clash against Spain in the quarter-finals, losing 2-0 to the defending champions in a largely defensive performance.

The Euro 2012 campaign was tainted by tensions among the players following a heated changing room bust-up immediately after the 2-0 loss to Sweden, while midfielder Samir Nasri was also embroiled in an expletive-laced exchange with a French journalist. Those incidents may have influenced Blanc's decision.

He took charge of France in July 2010 following the World Cup debacle in South Africa in which the players went on strike in protest against then-coach Raymond Domenech.

Blanc's tenure reign was fairly successful, rebuilding the team following the shambles of the Domenech era. Under Blanc, France reached the quarter-finals of a competition for the first time since the 2006 World Cup, drawing a line through the failures of Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup in which France failed to win a single game under Domenech.

Blanc lost his first two games in charge, but the team then embarked on a 23-match unbeaten run before losing to Sweden and Spain at Euro 2012. Altogether, France lost only four out of 27 matches under Blanc.

Having led Bordeaux to the French title in the 2008-09 season, Blanc may return to club management. He had previously been linked to the vacant manager's position at English Premier League team Tottenham.

Deschamps would be the ideal choice to replace Blanc, having made no secret of his desire to coach France one day. He was France's captain when it won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 and would be a popular choice. Deschamps had a difficult season at Marseille last campaign and is expected to leave.

"It's a shame that Blanc is not staying," former France manager Michel Hidalgo said on BFM TV. "It's hard to understand, but it is Laurent Blanc's decision."

Hidalgo, who guided France to its first trophy at the 1984 European Championship, thinks Deschamps would be the ideal choice.

"At 43 years old, he's ready for everything. He has good qualities," Hidalgo said.

Blanc restored the pride of the national team after it hit rock bottom at the last World Cup - the players shocking fans back home and causing public outcry by going on strike at a training session in protest after striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for insulting Domenech.

The task appeared even more difficult for Blanc when France opened its Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with a 1-0 loss at home to Belarus. Things picked up quickly, however, and confidence was boosted by impressive wins against England, Brazil and Germany in friendlies.

Against Spain, however, Blanc received criticism for choosing a negative lineup that featured two right backs.

Striker Karim Benzema received no service and failed to score in four matches at Euro 2012. The abject performance against Spain came just days after an equally poor showing against Sweden, perhaps showing the limitations of the team and how far Blanc could really take it.

The row in the changing room that followed the Sweden match also showed Blanc that the players are still difficult to handle, and that another two years in charge would mean having to address tensions within the squad amid constant media exposure.

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