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France in Shock After Elimination from World Cup

The defending World Cup soccer champion has been eliminated from this year's competition. France lost to Denmark 2-0 Tuesday to finish with no wins, a tie and two losses.

This is the first time since 1966 that a defending champion failed to reach the second round of the World Cup, and France set a record for futility: no wins, no goals scored, last in their group.

Since they were defending 2000 European champions as well, their failure was not expected and has stunned the country.

Even with the injury to their best player, Zinedine Zidane, that kept him out of the first two games and below par in the third, the French expected their team, known here as "les bleus," to advance by winning their third match.

In most workplaces, the television sets were tuned in for the morning match. A crowd gathered to watch on a giant screen in front of city hall in Paris. But after the second Danish goal, spectators just drifted away in disbelief. One woman said, "how could they not even score one goal."

The mid-day television news began with a funereal pronouncement that "the dream in blue is dead." An instant poll on a sports internet web page showed that two-thirds of the fans thought the team had become complacent and the coaching was poor.

Coach Roger Lemerre, who has two years to go on his contract, declined to say if he would keep his job. But there will be a shakeup of players. This is the last of the team that successfully blended players of African, Arab and French heritage and which, for many people here, symbolized not just football supremacy but also what they believe France is meant to be.