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   3 June, 2002 | 1035 IST



France get the blues

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France ready to ring tactical changes

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France are wondering if the strategy adopted after winning the World Cup four years ago is out of date and coach Roger Lemerre admits he is ready for an 11th hour change of direction.

The solid and efficient 4-3-3 line-up crafted by former coach Aime Jacquet during the triumphant 1998 campaign has been replaced by a highly sophisticated 4-2-3-1 by his successor Lemerre.

This set-up, which relied primarily on star playmaker Zinedine Zidane and midfielder Robert Pires playing on the left wing, proved reliable when the French clinched the 2000 European championship title.

Zidane But with Pires out for six months through a knee injury and Zidane absent because of a torn thigh muscle, France fear their rivals can read their tactics too easily and Friday's disastrous 1-0 defeat to Senegal left them pondering a complete change of tactical direction.

The French coach even mentioned the possibility of returning to three defensive midfielders in the starting line-up as Jacquet had in 1998.

"It's a set-up I have used from time to time. I'm not reluctant to use it. It's something I have had in my mind for a while now," he said

In 1998 thanks to the Jacquet's 4-3-3 formation, France only conceded two goals from seven matches en route to their triumph.


The world champions are still to win a match without Zidane this year.

They drew 0-0 with Russia before they slumped 2-1 to Belgium and bowed 1-0 to Senegal in one of the biggest sensations in World Cup history on the opening day here.

"We must find a solution," said striker David Trezeguet. "We know what the team is worth but we must find out a solution, as against the Senegalese we have tried everything and it has not worked.

"Since 1998, we have used the same strategy. Everybody knows us really well. Before starting the match, they know what we are going to do.

"Against Senegal we have come up against the same problems as against Russia and Belgium. They have refused to play and they have waited for us to set the pace," said defender Lilian Thuram. "They all have the same tactics to beat us."


The absence of the world's most expensive player weighed heavily in the outcome of the opening match in Seoul, as the French lacked the imagination to break the solid Senegal defence.

"We played like first-timers," captain Marcel Desailly said. "We should have tried to go down the wings instead of trying to break in the centre."

Lemerre added: "Of course, a team are always stronger with their key player but I would not agree with the expression that France are addicted to Zidane.

"We have played without him in the past and we have had pretty good results."

Zidane, who resumed jogging on Saturday, is still doubtful for the match against Uruguay in Pusan on Thursday which they badly need to win.

Lemerre has hinted he may hand the playmaking role to Johan Micoud and leave a disappointing Youri Djorkeaff on the bench.

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