Defending champs eliminated from World Cup in first round

French toast

Posted: Wednesday, June 12, 2002

YOKOHAMA, Japan -- France no longer rules the soccer universe. Put it down near the bottom with Saudi Arabia, Slovenia and China, all eliminated in the first round of the World Cup.

France has another ignominious statistic: like the Saudis and Chinese, it didn't score in the tournament.

The defending champions needed to beat Denmark by two goals Tuesday to reach the World Cup's second round. Instead, the Danes won 2-0 in Incheon, South Korea, and Les Bleus became the first champions to go scoreless through a first round. They're also the first defending titlist to exit after the opening round since Brazil in 1966.

''I didn't expect to go back home like that after the first round,'' star midfielder Zinedine Zidane said. ''We're all very, very disappointed, but we won't stop here. We will have to turn the page, turn over a new leaf.''

When asked what he had gotten out of this World Cup, he replied: ''Nothing.''

Just like the French offense. It's no shock if the Saudis or Chinese don't score, but France?

''We didn't play as we should have,'' coach Roger Lemerre said. ''We must accept it as it is.''

As painful as it is.

With Zidane, the 1998 World Cup hero, on the sideline with a thigh injury, France opened with a stunning 1-0 loss to Senegal and then tied Uruguay 0-0. Zidane returned for the Denmark game, but nothing helped the French, who saw two shots rebound off the crossbar.

At the end, Zidane walked off the field with his head hanging down, followed by the rest of the French team.

Thousands of traveling Les Bleus fans fell silent, while Danish fans in the opposite corner of the stadium beat on drums and sang ''Ole, Ole, Ole.''

The Danes got goals from Dennis Rommedahl in the 22nd minute and Jon Dahl Tomasson on a counterattack in the 67th. Those were their only shots on goal.

''We had a good day,'' coach Morten Olsen said. ''The team played with a lot of confidence and, especially, a lot of discipline.''

Back in Paris, some reactions to the French loss were strong.

''I'm disgusted. They are the defending champions, and for four years they bragged and did nothing,'' said architect Alain Goust, 32, as he held a French flag -- which he wasn't waving. ''When they arrive back at the Champs Elysees, they're going to have tomatoes thrown at them.''

They were throwing parties in Senegal, Ireland and Germany, as well as Denmark, after those four nations moved into the round of 16. Those four joined four-time winner Brazil and Spain in moving ahead.

While the Danes won Group A, tournament newcomer Senegal rode three first-half goals into the next round. The Africans took a 3-0 lead and barely held on for a 3-3 tie against Uruguay in Suwon, South Korea.

Denmark plays Saturday in Niigata, Japan against either England, Sweden or Argentina. Senegal plays Sunday in Oita, Japan against one of those teams.

''I believe a small team can be big,'' said Senegal's El Hadji Diouf. ''Today is a historic day for African countries.''

Senegal gained its 3-0 lead on a penalty by Khalilou Fadiga in the 20th minute and goals by Papa Bouba Diop in the 26th and 38th.

In the second half, Uruguay had goals by Richard Morales in the 46th minute and Diego Forlan in the 69th, and tied the game on Alvaro Recoba's penalty kick in the 88th.


A Danish fan reacts prior to the game of his team versus France for their Group A World Cup 2002 soccer match at the Incheon Munhak Stadium in Incheon, South Korea, Tuesday, June 11, 2002. Also in group A are Senegal and Uruguay.

AP Photo/Yun Jai-hyoung

Uruguay narrowly missed advancing instead of Senegal in the first minute of injury time. Senegal's Lamine Diatta headed a shot off the line and, staring at an open net, Morales sent a close-in header wide.

''We're bitter,'' Forlan said. ''One goal could have made the difference and we should have had it at the end.''

In Senegal's capital, Dakar, fans careered through the streets in battered old cars, waving fists and national flags.

Germany, despite playing the final 50 minutes a man down when Carsten Ramelow was ejected at Shizuoka, Japan, knocked out Cameroon 2-0 on goals by Marco Bode and Miroslav Kohse, who now has five goals. The Germans will play Saturday at Seogwipo, South Korea against either Spain, South Africa or Paraguay.

''We showed our dedication and commitment and deserved to win,'' Christoph Metzelder said. ''Our minimum target was to get to the final 16.''

Ireland defeated already-eliminated Saudi Arabia 3-0 in Yokohama to finish second to Germany in Group E. The Irish, who had never scored more than one goal in a World Cup game, will oppose either Spain or South Africa in Suwon, South Korea on Sunday.

The Irish went through even though their best player, Roy Keane, was sent home after a feud with coach Mick McCarthy before the tournament began.

''We fight against doubters all the time, we fight against critics all the time,'' McCarthy said. ''We do it very well.''

Two Irishmen were arrested for trespassing at the game after they climbed an 8-foot fence to get into the stadium. Separately, police arrested 24-year-old Brian Geraghty, also of Ireland, for not carrying his passport while trying to enter the Ireland-Saudia Arabia game with a ticket for the June 9 match between Japan and Russia held at the same stadium.

Geraghty, however, was released and charges were dropped early Wednesday after his passport was produced.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov pledged to continue World Cup broadcasts on outdoor screens despite a riot near the Kremlin during a Russia-Japan match Sunday.

The disturbances left two dead as up to 8,000 people, mainly young men and teen-age boys, many of them drunk, rampaged after Russia lost 1-0, setting cars ablaze, smashing windows, and fighting police and each other.

''Broadcasts will continue,'' Luzhkov said. ''We won't yield to those who would like to deprive people of the opportunities of communication, information possibilities characteristic of a modern civilized nation, a modern civilized city.''

But Moscow police chief Vladimir Pronin warned that the area around the Kremlin was not secure enough for such broadcasts.

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