JOHANNESBURG (TheStreet) -- France's World Cup run may be drawing to a sad conclusion, but the French national team and its fans won't be the only ones singing Les Bleus if they go home early.
team returned to practice today after boycotting yesterday's practice to protest the expulsion of striker
, who was sent home after verbally abusing divisive coach Raymond Domenech during Thursday's 2-0 loss to Mexico.
The spat also cost France its director, Jean-Louis Valentin, who resigned yesterday after saying he was "ashamed" of the team, and likely lost the faith of team fitness coach Robert Duverne, who walked away from an argument with captain Patrice Evra yesterday and threw away his accreditation medal in the process:
Those losses, however, may be minimal compared to what the French Football Federation stands to lose in sponsor revenue. World Cup partner
, which also sponsors the French side, said it was "appalled and saddened" by France's behavior but will fulfill its sponsorship agreement with the team through year's end -- when they become
, which also sponsors
, chose to stay mum on the future of said agreement.
Financial backers in the team's home country haven't been nearly as diplomatic. French bank
withdrew its support, with a spokeswoman saying the institution is "suspending our advertising campaign on insurance products that features the French team." Meanwhile, French fast-food outlet Quick pulled ads starring Anelka.
French mobile company
also invested in the national team and haven't clarified their position on its current crisis, while energy company
says only that it will "once the World Cup is over, discuss the form of this partnership" with the French federation, which isn't slated to expire until 2014.
With a rudderless French squad needing a win against a hometown South Africa team tomorrow for a chance to move on after the loss to Mexico and a 0-0 tie against Uruguay, both the players and Domenech seem to have forgotten something about their squad. National symbolism and the appearance of quitting on one's company aside, their team represents a global multimillion-dollar investment opportunity.
When the team deliberately torpedoes that investment -- as well as the investments of World Cup sponsors like
by basically shrugging off the event's importance -- it leaves not only flustered football fans, but also furious shareholders in their wake. If tomorrow's match ends with a loss, or a win that fails to break a tie between France and either Uruguay or Mexico, we'll wish France good luck in securing that Chico's Bail Bonds sponsorship for
-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, The Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.