French Federation bans Nicolas Anelka for 18 games

Nicolas Anelka has been suspended for 18 games by the French Football Federation following his row with Raymond Domenech at the World Cup finals, while captain Patrice Evra has also been banned for five games for his role in the scenes that shamed French football.

The FFF also announced that as a result of the squad's refusal to train prior to France's final World Cup group game against South Africa, Franck Ribery has been banned for three games and midfielder Jeremy Toulalan for one.

The strong punishments cast a shadow over the start of the country's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign under Laurent Blanc, even though Anelka had withdrawn his services after he was sent home from the World Cup in disgrace having criticised Domenech at half-time of the country's 2-0 defeat to Mexico.

Evra, Ribery and Toulalan are all senior players for les Bleus and have been punished for their role in orchestrating the strike that was designed as a protest in support of Anelka.

Former France team director Jean-Louis Valentin, who resigned following the farcical events in South Africa, earlier said the rebels deserved a second chance.

After giving evidence at the hearing, Valentin said: "As a lover and supporter of the France team, I think everyone deserves a second chance."

Valentin indicated the players had expressed remorse for their actions. "I felt the players apologise, marked and scarred by what had happened," he said. "I think now they must know how to turn the page and move on. There was a very good dialogue that lasted long enough."