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   31 May, 2002 | 1030 IST



France get the blues

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Senegal win adds spice to world game

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Senegal's shock 1-0 win over defending champions France in the opening match of the World Cup on Friday has added spice to the world of football just when it needed it.

At a time when it appears increasingly difficult for less glamorous sides to make an impact at domestic and international level, the West African nation stepped on to the sport's biggest stage for the first time and produced one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.

The result has left the world champions with little breathing space in their remaining group A games against Uruguay and Denmark. Coach Roger Lemerre may be starting to wonder if his much-vaunted defence is past its sell-by date.

Television networks and sponsors breathed a sigh of relief at an appetising start to the first finals in Asia, which are not expected to attract the usual ratings in the key European market because of the time difference.

Most importantly, the victory was no fluke. At a time when it is getting increasingly tough for football's smaller sides to win the European Champions League or continental championships, Senegal showed athleticism, skill and tactical awareness.


France did miss a number of goalscoring chances in the second half, and the game might have gone differently if striker David Trezeguet had not hit the post in the first half.

But Senegal, all of whose players earn their living in France and are coached by Frenchman Bruno Metsu, closed the world champions down in the key midfield area.

Defender Ferdinand Coly was particularly impressive at the back, and Salif Diao and Khalilou Fadiga neutralised the usually dominant Patrick Vieira in midfield. Although he tended to get caught offside too often, striker El Hadji Diouf of Lens will now be firmly marked down on the shopping lists of many top clubs.

Goalscorer Pape Bouba Diop took his chance well in the 30th minute, reacting sharply after France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez had failed to get a grip on the ball.

The former French colony, 300-1 outsiders to win the tournament before the match, know a victory against Denmark in their next match on June 6 will almost certainly put them through to the second round -- an achievement few would have predicted before Friday's kick-off.

Metsu, however, remained cautious.

"It is no good beating France if we don't do well afterwards," he said. "You need luck. But things can rebound on you in this game. I am no better a coach today than I was before but you have got to have faith."

France, who must beat Uruguay in their next game on June 6 to keep alive their hopes of getting through, may have reached a point where the era of Marcel Desailly (33), Lilian Thuram (30), Frank Leboeuf (34) and Bixente Lizarazu (32) is coming to an end.

Some of the French players said they would not dwell on Friday's game too long, but Lemerre has plenty over which to ponder.

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