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   29 May, 2002 | 1425 IST



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France can cope without Zidane

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France will not find Zinedine Zidane's absence a major problem when they begin their World Cup defence against Senegal on Friday, according to midfielder Youri Djorkaeff.

The inspirational Zidane was ruled out of the Senegal game and, possibly, France's other group A matches against Uruguay and Denmark after tearing a thigh muscle on Sunday.

"A player like Zidane can't be replaced and we are not trying to replace him," Djorkaeff said on Wednesday. "It's always annoying to lose your best player but it doesn't mean we are going to let anything go.

Zinedine Zidane "In Zidane's absence, the team will have to display more solidarity and more will. Actually, everything will be multiplied by two as France have the duty to perform well."

Djorkaeff, who could slot into Zidane's position, thinks the French team are more than capable of compensating for his absence.

"If France have often won in tight situations, it's because everyone has always pulled for everyone else," Djorkaeff said. "This is the whole team which makes the players perform well.

Djorkaeff played in Zidane's position in their recent 2-1 defeat by Belgium and during the second half of the 3-2 victory over South Korea on Sunday.

"I am fit, I have played very few games this year and I'm really eager to start," Djorkaeff said. "But I'm not looking to emulate Zidane. I'll play my own way, I'll play like Youri.

"Our main goal today is to qualify for the second round and have Zidane back at his best. Actually, there will be two World Cups in this championship, one in the first round and one in the knock-out round."

Zidane missed two matches in France's successful World Cup campaign in 1998 through suspension, returning to the side for the quarter-final against Italy.

"Don't be misled," Djorkaeff said. "This World Cup is going to be a marathon. It has not started yet and almost all teams have to deal with injuries."

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