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   June 28, 2000 | 1845 IST


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Team doctor: France too tired to win

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World champions France did not have the physical and mental means to retain their title and their elimination in the first round of the showcase event was not a complete surprise, French team doctor Jean-Marcel Ferret said on Friday.

"I could not tell this to the players openly but I knew that their physical shape was insufficient to win (the trophy)," Ferret was quoted as saying by daily Le Parisien.

"I've found them exhausted mentally and physically. The tests we made in April were already worrying. Much of the data about their shape was bad then," he said.

France finished bottom of their group with two defeats and a draw and they failed to score a goal in three matches. It was the worst record by defending champions in the World Cup's history.

"More than half of the players were off form. They were really tired," Ferret said. "I could not tell them what the situation was as we needed to spare them.

"Most of them were fed up and many things they bore two years ago were unbearable this time. They only had two weeks to prepare when they needed at least a month."

Deprived of inspirational playmaker Zinedine Zidane because of a thigh injury, France lost 1-0 to first-timers Senegal in the World Cup's opening match.

They drew 0-0 with Uruguay before stumbling to a 2-0 defeat against Denmark to finish with just one point.

They were the first title holders to fail to qualify for the second round since Brazil in 1966.

But Ferret said that weariness was not the only reason for the mishap and blamed a lack of modesty from the World and European champions.

"The atmosphere in and around the squad was not favourable. And I think we must admit that almost everybody lacked humbleness," he said.

"I was certain that at one stage or another we would have been in trouble but I did not imagine we could be ousted like this, at least not so early."

Coach Roger Lemerre who was blamed for the defeat has not resigned yet but the French soccer federation is to hold a meeting on July 5 and could decide to replace him.

Lemerre holds a two-year contract running to the end of the 2004 European championship.

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