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   June 6, 2002 | 1945 IST



France get the blues

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Upsets shed new light on fixtures

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By upsetting the applecart, Senegal, South Korea and the United States have kindled interest in some of the less glamourous fixtures of the 2002 World Cup.

Their first round victories, allied to France's disappointing goalless draw with Uruguay on Thursday, suggest there will be a number of unexpected clashes in the second round.

Some fans, having bought tickets for the last 16 based on their expectations of how the first round will pan out, will be left watching teams they know nothing about and had little interest in before the tournament started.

Denmark against Senegal is hardly a fixture which whets the footballing appetite in the way that, say, Friday's match between Argentina and England does.

But on Thursday it was a top-of-the-table clash between two sides whose 1-1 draw puts them both within sight of the knock-out stages of the competition.

In contrast, France and Uruguay, with three World Cup titles between them, were fighting for their survival in the day's other group A encounter. Their 0-0 draw left both teams on the brink of a first round exit.

Who would have thought South Korea's match against the United States in Taegu next Monday would have been a battle for top spot in group D?

Or that Portugal will be on their way home later the same day if they lose their bottom-of-the-table tie against Poland in Chonju?


Only the most ardent soccer fans in Latin America and Europe will get up before dawn or interrupt their Sunday lunches to watch Japan's match against Russia in Yokahama at the end of this week.

But, nevertheless, Japan's spirited performance against Belgium in their opening match will surely have persuaded a few more soccer sceptics that Asia's emerging sides really are worth watching.

The second round promises to be fascinating.

Portuguese fans who have bought tickets for the June 18 clash in Taejon, confident their side would be there as winners of group D, could well find themselves watching South Korea against Mexico instead.

Much has been made of a possible second round tie in Niigita on June 15 between France, as winners of group A, and either England or Argentina as runners-up in group F.

But at the moment, Denmark or Senegal against Sweden is a more likely fixture.

This is not, of course, totally unexpected.

Several teams over the past decade have threatened to break the mould and reach the latter stages of a World Cup at the expense of soccer's traditional powerhouses.

Croatia finished third in 1998, while in 1994 the world was only two results away from a final between Sweden and Bulgaria.

The 2002 competition is continuing that trend. This time the surprises might continue right through to the end.

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