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   June 3, 2002 | 1930 IST



France get the blues

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Zidane insists he will not take risks

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France playmaker Zinedine Zidane will not play against Uruguay unless he has fully recovered from a thigh injury, the player was quoted as saying on Monday.

"I am working hard and hope I will be able to make it, but if I am not right I am not going to fool anyone and it would be better that a fully fit team mate plays," he told Spanish sports daily Marca .

"France have won a lot of matches without me and without other players too."

France must beat the South Americans to put their World Cup hopes back on track after their shock 1-0 defeat by African World Cup newcomers Senegal in Friday's opening game in Seoul.

But despite the poor start to the defence of their world crown, Zidane says France are still confident of progressing in the tournament.

"We are not even thinking of missing out on the quarter-finals," added the twice World Player of the Year.

Zidane's injury has become an obsession in France with even the president and prime minister offering their support to a team that looked distinctly off-colour without their talisman.

The whole country has been closely scrutinising the latest bulletins on the condition of the French playmaker.

President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin have expressed their support for the squad, stressing that once Zidane has recovered everything will be back to normal.


Zidane's possible absence for Thursday's Uruguay match was splashed on the front page of sports daily L'Equipe on Monday.

Without giving a source, the newspaper said Zidane is running short of time to be fit for the key group A game in Pusan.

But daily Le Parisien ran a story hinting that the French playmaker is recovering faster than expected and should start.

"His healing is faster than we had imagined," a member of the French team was quoted as saying.

Any forecast is hard to make as the only certainty is that Zidane resumed jogging on Saturday after a six-day layoff due to a torn muscle in his left thigh.

"The injury is evolving favourably. The treatment and the work will step up in the next few days," team doctor Jean-Marcel Ferret said in a statement on Sunday.

"Zidane's situation is reviewed on a daily basis by the medical staff and by the coaching staff," Ferret said without providing a diagnosis.

On Saturday, coach Roger Lemerre said he would be very surprised to have Zidane back in time for the Uruguay match.

"There are only four days to go. And this is a very annoying injury as nobody can say how much time it may take to heal," Lemerre told a press conference, hinting that he may slot midfielder Johan Micoud into Zidane's position.

Cautious Lemerre is unlikely to take any risks with Zidane since he knows he cannot afford to have the player injured again if France are to have a chance of retaining their crown.

"You can't play with the health of the player. It's too important," said Lemerre, despite conceding his team badly missed their inspirational player in the opening game.

France opted to train behind closed doors on Monday ahead of the match against Uruguay, who lost 2-1 to Denmark in the second group A game on Saturday. France play Denmark on June 11.

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