Sports News

Les Bleus return home under heavy security

French soccer team players walk on the tarmac to take a bus after their arrival at Le Bourget airport near Paris June 24, 2010. France has been knocked out of the World Cup after being defeated 2-1 by host nation South Africa in Bloemfontein on Tuesday. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

LE BOURGET, France (Reuters) - France’s team returned to Paris under heavy police protection on Thursday after their humiliating first-round exit from the World Cup.

The plane chartered by the French Federation landed at Le Bourget business airport, 20 km north of Paris, after a 15-hour flight from South Africa.

A smattering of supporters were kept at a distance and dozens of photographers, cameramen and journalists were penned behind a wire fence.

Some of the players went straight into two coaches with darkened windows which left the airport through a back entrance.

Witnesses said the Olympique Lyon players and Franck Ribery flew out on in two private planes without going through the terminal.

Team captain Thierry Henry is expected later at the Elysee Palace for a meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy, a government spokesman said.

Les Bleus’ World Cup campaign, marred by infighting and the boycott of a training session, ended on Tuesday with a 2-1 defeat by hosts South Africa that left them bottom of Group A without a win.

Their failure has turned into an affair of state.

On Wednesday, Sarkozy called for a wholesale review of French soccer after chairing a government meeting and Sports minister Roselyne said on Thursday “the resignation of French Federation chairman, Jean-Pierre Escalettes was unavoidable.”

Writing in Paris by Jean-Paul Couret, editing by Jon Bramley