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   June 11, 2002 | 1350 IST


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Denmark send France crashing out

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Adrian Warner

France suffered the acute embarrassment of becoming the first defending champions to be knocked out of the World Cup in the first round for 36 years when they were beaten 2-0 by Denmark on Tuesday.

After dominating world and European football for the last four years, the French finished with the worst record of any champions in the 72-year history of the tournament after a 22nd minute goal from Danish striker Dennis Rommedahl and a 67th minute effort from Jon Dahl Tomasson.

Dennis Rommedahl scored the opening goal for Denmark.France finished bottom of group A after failing to score a single goal in three games and getting just one point. They suffered a shock 1-0 loss in the opening game to newcomers Senegal, were held to a draw by Uruguay and lost to the Danes.

After Rommedahl's first-half goal with a neat half-volley from eight metres after a deep cross by Stig Tofting, the European champions needed to put three goals past the Danes in the second period to have any chance of going through.

It was too high a mountain to climb for a French team that has failed to sparkle at the finals in South Korea and Japan.

Inspirational midfielder Zinedine Zidane returned after injury for his first game of the tournament but the hero of France's 1998 triumph could not rescue the French.

Tomasson got on the end of a cross from Jesper Gronkjaer to fire under French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez to finish the issue although the Dane appeared to pull French captain Marcel Desailly as he ran into the box.

Denmark clinched top spot in the group, with Senegal also qualifying for the second round as runners-up. France went out along with Uruguay, who drew 3-3 with Senegal in Tuesday's other group A match in Suwon.

The French became only the third country to go out so early in the defence of a title. Brazil failed to get past the first round in 1966 and Italy also suffered the same fate in 1950 although the Italians had not been able to defend their 1938 title for 12 years because of World War Two.

But both Brazil and Italy managed to win a match in the first round.

Rommedahl took his goal well, half-volleying the ball with the outside of his foot to the left of Barthez after a cross from the right from Stig Tofting.

The Danes deserved their victory after a shrewd performance tactically. Despite the warm weather, they pressed the French persistently in midfield with Christian Poulsen and Tofting giving Zidane little space.

Zidane, returning after a thigh injury, produced a few clever touches which gave the French more creativity in the middle of the park than in their previous matches. But they missed the clinical finishing of suspended striker Thierry Henry up front.

The French threatened a comeback in the 51st minute when their captain Marcel Desailly hit the bar with a header in the 51st minute. But after Tomasson's goal it was all over although David Trezeguet hit the bar in the 73rd minute.

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