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 May 17, 2002 | 2200 IST

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France missing key players for Belgium friendly

Pierre Serisier

Zinedine Zidane will be one of at least three key players missing from the France line-up to face Belgium in Saturday's friendly at the Stade de France.

Defensive midfielder Patrick Vieira and key striker Thierry Henry are also set to sit out the world champions' final match before flying out to their camp in South Korea for the defence of their title.

Playmaker Zidane, the hero of Real Madrid's 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in Wednesday's Champions League final, will be at the bedside of his wife Veronique who is expecting their third child. He is set to be replaced by Parma's Johan Micoud in the creative midfield role.

Henry has been ruled out of the match because of a knee strain while Vieira has complained of end-of-season weariness after an exhausting club campaign in which he -- and Henry -- helped Arsenal secure a league and FA Cup double triumph.

Girondins Bordeaux Christophe Dugarry is set to cover for Henry up front while Alain Boghossian, Chelsea's Emmanuel Petit and Bolton's Youri Djorkaeff are likely to complete the midfield quartet.

"A lot of ideas have popped up into my mind (about the starting line-up)," French coach Roger Lemerre said. "France have already played without Zidane. There is nothing new about this.

"But it would be a mistake to take the Belgians lightly," Lemerre said. "They made an early exit during the 2000 European championship but since then they have bounced back."


"They have qualified for the World Cup finals by beating very strong sides and they deserve to be where they are today. We can expect a very good match between two strong European teams."

Lemerre said he was keen to give Djibril Cisse, one of France's most exciting talents, his first cap.

"It would be great to have him on the pitch. It's a good opportunity to introduce him to the French public," Lemerre said. "It would also be a good opportunity to see what he can do with this team."

The 20-year-old AJ Auxerre striker finished as top scorer in the French first division with 22 goals last season and was preferred to Liverpool's Nicolas Anelka in the final 23-man World Cup squad.

Lemerre may also decide to rest Manchester United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez who has complained of a sore throat, in which case Girondins Bordeaux's Ulrich Rame will start.

Belgium also have selection troubles after losing several players including leading striker Emile Mpenza who has been ruled out of the World Cup with a thigh injury.

Walter Baseggio and Philippe Clement, defender Joos Valgaeren and striker Bob Peeters will also miss the tournament through injury.

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