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 March 28, 2002 | 1140 IST

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Five-star France lead the charge to finals

World champions France began their countdown to the World Cup finals with an emphatic 5-0 win over Scotland in Paris on Wednesday, a day featuring 50 international teams in friendly action.

Berti Vogts was taking charge of Scotland for the first time but saw France race into a 3-0 lead inside the first 23 minutes.

They were 4-0 up by the break before running out convincing winners with David Trezeguet scoring twice, and Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry and Steve Marlet adding the others to the delight of the 75,000 fans at the Stade de France.

There was more Gallic celebration as Philippe Troussier, the French coach of World Cup co-hosts Japan, saw his side chalk up one their most impressive victories as they beat fellow finalists Poland 2-0 in Lodz.

It was Japan's first away win since beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 in October 2000 and came courtesy of first-half goals by Hidetoshi Nakata and Naohiro Takahara.

There were also wins for perennial World Cup powerhouses, Italy and Germany, but both had to come from behind.

Italy beat England 2-1 at Leeds with Vincenzo Montella scoring both goals -- equalising Robbie Fowler's 63rd minute opener with a brilliantly-executed curling shot after 67 minutes and then cheekily planting a penalty past England goalkeeper David James with the very last kick of the game.

The match itself was punctuated by 19 substitutions, including nine for England at halftime, and a memorable one for debutant Empoli striker Massimo Maccarone, who scored for the under-21s on Tuesday and earned the matchwinning penalty 24 hours later.

Clint Mathis gave the U.S. a shock lead against Germany after 17 minutes in Rostcock but skipper Christian Ziege pulled Germany level after 44 minutes with an unstoppable free-kick past his Tottenham Hotspur team mate Kasey Keller.

Germany then hit three in nine minutes from Oliver Neuville (61), Oliver Bierhoff (65) and Torsten Frings (68) before Mathis grabbed a consolation 19 minutes from time.


Argentina, rated as co-favourites to win the World Cup along with France, looked set for a victory as they twice led against fellow finalists and African champions Cameroon in Geneva but in the end had to settle for a 2-2 draw.

A Juan Sebastian Veron penalty put Argentina ahead after 17 minutes but Cameroon were level three minutes later when Samuel Eto'o was left unmarked to head in at the far post.

Pablo Aimar (63) put Argentina back in front with an excellent breakaway strike, but substitute Patrick Suffo equalised with another header from a corner with four minutes to play.

Argentina stretched their unbeaten run to 16 matches, while Cameroon are still unbeaten under coach Winfried Schaefer.


There were unwelcome defeats for a surprisingly large number of finalists, including highly-rated Portugal who crashed to a 4-1 home reversal to Finland in Oporto.

Portugal, who have been dreaming of the World Cup with the likes of Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Nuno Gomes in their team, were never in the game against the visitors who raced ahead with goals from Joonas Kolkka (9) and Mikael Forssell (27).

Sergio Conceicao pulled one back five minutes before the break but the Finns continued their rampage with Jari Litmanen scoring either side of the break.

There was little joy for Spain either, as they went down 1-0 to the Netherlands in Rotterdam where a powerfully headed Frank de Boer goal after 32 minutes was enough to give the Dutch victory.

There were two other shock results with finalists South Africa crashing 4-1 to Georgia in Tbilisi after having two men sent off.

Estonia also scored a memorable upset with a 2-1 win over finalists Russia in Tallinn.


South Africa suffered a painful defeat in Georgia where they finished with nine men after striker Lesley Manyathela and defender Thabang Molefe were sent off.

Manyathela went in the 27th minute for a bad challenge while Molefe was red carded after 58 minutes for a nasty tackle from behind on Vitali Daraselia.

Levan Kobiashvilii (14pen), Georgi Demetradze (33, 86) and Rati Alexidze (84) scored for Georgia while Delron Buckley was on target after 67 minutes for South Africa.

Estonia were on the back foot for long periods against Russia but won with goals from Andres Oper after 10 and 85 minutes. Vladimir Beschastnykh scored for Russia after 18 minutes.


Belgium, also heading for Asia in a few weeks time, will have to concentrate better there than they did in Patras where Greece came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 with two goals from Visis Vryzas in the last 10 minutes.

Belgium established their lead early in the second half with goals from Bart Goor (32) and Wesley Sonck (53), but Greece struck back to win it with Vassilis Tsartas turning the match in their favour with a 59th minute penalty.

Senegal, competing in the World Cup for the first time and playing world champions France in the opening match, began their build-up with a 2-1 win over Bolivia in Dakar, while Saudi Arabia scored a notable 3-2 home win over fellow finalists Uruguay.

In other action involving World Cup finalists, Tunisia drew 0-0 with Norway, Sweden were held 1-1 by Switzerland, Croatia drew 0-0 with Slovenia.

Ireland, back in the World Cup finals after an eight year gap, also looked impressive crushing fellow finalists Denmark 3-0 in Dublin with Ian Harte (19), Robbie Keane (55) and Clinton Morrison (90) scoring.

Away from the matches involving World Cup finalists and in an otherwise unremarkable 0-0 draw between Liechtenstein and Northern Ireland, the 21-year-old Irish striker Warren Feeney made a little bit of soccer history.

By making his international debut he became the third generation of his family to play for his country, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who won two caps in 1947 and 1950, and his father, who made his sole appearance in 1976.

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