The soap opera swirling around the French World Cup team took another bizarre turn - if that's even possible - when coach Raymond Domenech appeared alone at a news conference Monday to say some of his players may not want to play in Tuesday's Group A finale against the host South Africans.
"It is a possibility," said Domenech, who has faced a player rebellion over the last 48 hours.
The mutiny started shortly after Thursday's 2-0 loss to Mexico when striker Nicolas Anelka insulted the coach in a profane tirade. The French Football Federation responded by expelling Anelka, and the players responded to that by boycotting practice Sunday.
The team returned to the practice field Monday, but with the players' workout uniforms stripped of all sponsor logos. In addition, a fast-food restaurant in France has pulled its ads featuring Anelka, while a prominent bank has canceled an advertising campaign featuring the team.
Domenech had harsh words to denounce the players' decision not to train. "It was an aberration, an imbecility, a stupidity with no name."
France, a World Cup finalist four years ago, needs a big win against South Africa Tuesday - and either Mexico and Uruguay to win - to stand a chance of reaching the knockout stages.
FIFA happy with officiating. Between the "We Wuz Robbed!" U.S. goal that wasn't, the blatant hand balls, or the acting jobs that are so over-the-top the Screen Actors Guild ought to demand dues, it's enough to make anyone wonder what the refs at the World Cup are watching.
As far as FIFA is concerned, they're watching just fine.
"We are very, very satisfied with the performance of the referees," Jose-Marcia Garcia-Aranda, head of refereeing for the sport's governing body, said Monday.
That's one person, at least.
Video replay isn't an option so long as Sepp Blatter is FIFA president, and he's all but certain to be re-elected to a fourth four-year term next year. And the idea of adding an extra set of eyes behind each goal has been kicked into the long grass and not likely to resurface anytime soon.
Pirlo returns. Midfielder Andrea Pirlo was back in training for struggling Italy on Monday.
The AC Milan playmaker has been out since injuring his left calf in a pretournament friendly with Mexico on June 3.
Coach Marcello Lippi still wasn't sure Pirlo would play against Slovakia.
"He just touched a ball today for the first time in nearly 20 days," the coach said.
Belgian ref for U.S. game. Frank De Bleeckere of Belgium will referee the United States vs. Algeria Group C match, his second match so far at the 2010 World Cup.
Quote of the day. From Archbishop Desmond Tutu, on South Africa's challenge in Tuesday's must-win Group A match: "There is no option but for us to play the game of our lives tomorrow against France. I'm predicting a three or four-nil victory."