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   June 14, 2002 | 1220 IST


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Zidane blames tough season for exit

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The physical demands of the football season were to blame for the French team's demise in the group phase of the World Cup, midfielder Zinedine Zidane said on Thursday.

"I think that we lacked confidence and were not physically fresh," he told Spanish sports daily Marca .

Zinedine Zidane signs autographs on return from the World Cup."You have to take into account the wear and tear the players have been subjected to in a very tough season. We also lacked that little bit of luck at crucial times in the games."

Zidane also said in an interview on the web site of his sponsor, Orange, that he was planning to retire from the international game after the European championships in Portugal in 2004.

"My aim is to do the European championships and then stop. But we'll see," he said.

But France's return to competitive international football would require rebuilding the team as well as rethinking the approach.

"Now we have to start from scratch again. Many of the players who were here may not be at another World Cup," he told Marca.

"It is very hard to suffer our first serious setback after four years in which we have won everything possible. I am really disappointed and hurt because I never imagined we would be knocked out of the World Cup in the first phase.

"Now we need to put it behind us and try to understand why it happened, but over-dramatising the situation won't help."

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