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   27 May, 2002 | 1735 IST


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Zidane will miss first two matches

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France will begin the defence of their World Cup title without Zinedine Zidane, the man behind their 1998 triumph, French Football Federation head Claude Simonet said on Monday.

Simonet told France Inter radio he had been informed of Zidane's absence by the French team in South Korea, where the star midfielder was to undergo on a scan on his left thigh just four days before the world champions play their first match.

Zidane leaves the field after suffering a thigh injury against South Korea"I have some slightly worrying news," he said. "I've just been told the results of the x-ray and Zinedine Zidane will be absent for two matches.

"For the moment, that's the result of the x-ray. If you want to be world champions, you have to be prepared to play from time to time without one of your stars," he said.

Zidane limped from the field before halftime during Sunday's 3-2 win over co-hosts South Korea. France meet Senegal in Friday's opening match in Seoul.

"We hope to have him back as soon as possible but I can't say much about his injury," coach Roger Lemerre told a news conference earlier on Monday. "France are obviously stronger with Zidane...without Zidane, France can't play the same way."


Lemerre, who said the team doctor would release details about the injury on Tuesday, was already preparing for the worst, saying Youri Djorkaeff would be a reliable replacement for the group A match if Zidane was ruled out.

"It's an option," he said. "Youri has proved he is physically and mentally strong at the moment."

Zidane's Real Madrid team mate Fernando Morientes said the World Cup, being staged jointly by South Korea and Japan, would be the poorer for the French maestro's absence.

"The World Cup would lose a lot without him," he said. "I just hope the injury isn't serious."


Three times champions Italy are already resigned to taking the field for their opening group G game against Ecuador in Sapporo, Japan, on June 3 without striker Filippo Inzaghi.

Inzaghi injured his left knee in Sunday's 2-1 victory in a warm-up match against Japanese champions Kashima Antlers.

"Our objective is for him to be ready for the second game," team doctor Andrea Ferretti said on Monday. "It will be difficult for him to be ready for the first game."

Injury-ravaged England, with only four automatic starters in their usual positions -- central defenders Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell, central midfielder Paul Scholes and striker Michael Owen, await a fitness test on their injured captain David Beckham before Sunday's group F game against Sweden in Saitama, Japan.

Beckham, who broke a bone in his left foot seven weeks ago, is crucial to England's chances in a daunting group that also includes Argentina and Nigeria.

"We think and we hope he will be fit for Sunday," said coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.

England are likely to play without midfielder Kieron Dyer, who sustained a knee injury two weeks ago

Russia playmaker Alexander Mostovoi has been training by himself in his bid to get ready for their opening group H match against Tunisia in Kobe, Japan, on June 5.

Mostovoi suffered a minor tear to his right hamstring in a friendly against Yugoslavia on May 19.

There was good news on the injury front for the Croatia camp at least.

Striker Alen Boksic, who missed the 1998 tournament through injury, now appears set to make his long-delayed World Cup debut against Mexico in Niigata, Japan, in group G on June 3.

A team spokesman said Boksic, 32, was training normally after recovering from an abdominal strain.

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