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   31 May, 2002 | 1800 IST



France get the blues

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Senegal shock France

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Debutants Senegal produced one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history when they beat defending champions France 1-0 in the opening match of the tournament on Friday.

A 30th minute goal by midfielder Pape Bouba Diop helped Senegal make a sensational start to their tournament history in a physical first round group A game accompanied throughout by the constant beat of African drums in the crowd.

"It was great to score -- I've always dreamed of that, scoring against the champions of the world," Diop said.

Senegal players celebrate their victoryFrance coach Roger Lemerre paid tribute to Senegal, who created one of the biggest upsets in the tournament's 72-year history as the champions lost the first match of their defence for the first time since 1990.

"They were well-organised with a five-man midfield," Lemerre said. "When a team are well-grouped together, you need speed and spontaneity and we were not able to cut through their defensive net.

"They had one counter-attack and they scored. That's football but we would have liked a happier start."

Lemerre remained optimistic about his side's chances of progressing from group A, which also includes Denmark and Uruguay.

"Nothing is ruined, there are two more games to play," he said. "If by chance we won those two matches, we'd be in the round of 16."

The tiny West African nation of Senegal, whose team all play their club football in France and are coached by Frenchman Bruno Metsu, proved they are capable of getting past the first round at least.

The athletic Senegalese, whose odds to win the tournament were around 300-1 before the match, frustrated a French side containing eight of the team that beat Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final, by giving them little space in midfield. The French missed the inspiration of injured playmaker Zinedine Zidane


Diop took his goal well after a superb run and cross from the left flank by forward El Hadji Diouf. French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez failed to grasp the ball after it rebounded off Emmanuel Petit and Diop poked in the rebound from close range.

France's only real chance of the first half came in the 23rd minute when striker David Trezeguet hit the post.

The French created a handful of chances in the second half and forward Thierry Henry hit the bar with a shot on 66 minutes, while Patrick Vieira went close with a header shortly after.

But Senegal were worth their victory.

Khalilou Fadiga, placed under investigation by South Korean police on suspicion of stealing jewellery just days before the game, cast aside the controversy with an excellent performance in midfield.

He went desperately close to scoring Senegal's second when he hit the bar after a weaving run down the left in the 65th minute, but France also created chances to equalise in the dying minutes.

Metsu tried to keep a clear head amid the celebrations by saying Senegal now had to build on this victory.

"It's no use beating France unless you do well afterwards. The players have to believe now they can go through to the next round."

It was the first defeat suffered by defending champions in the opening World Cup match since Cameroon upset Argentina 1-0 in Italy 12 years ago. The African side went on to reach the quarter-finals, while Argentina recovered to finish runners-up.

It was also France's first defeat at the World Cup finals since 1986 when they lost 2-0 in the semis to the former West Germany, although they failed to qualify for the 1990 and 1994 tournaments.

Starting line ups:

France: Fabien Barthez; Bixente Lizarazu, Marcel Desailly, Frank Leboeuf, Lilian Thuram; Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Sylvain Wiltord, Youri Djorkaeff, David Trezeguet, Thierry Henry.

Senegal: Tony Sylva, Ferdinand Coly, Oumar Daf, Aliou Cisse, Lamine Diatta, Papa Malick Diop, Moussa N'diaye, Salif Diao, Papa Bouba Diop, Khalilou Fadiga, El Hadji Diouf.


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