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Defending World Cup Champion France out of Contention - 2002-06-11

Defending champion France has been knocked out of the World Cup football finals.

The four teams in Group A concluded play Tuesday near Seoul and, surprisingly, it is Denmark and Senegal that will go through to the second round.

After its 1-0 upset loss to Senegal, in the opening match here, and a scoreless tie against Uruguay, France needed a two-goal victory over Denmark to advance. Instead, it was Denmark beating France in Incheon, 2-0, to finish atop the group with seven points. Amazingly, France did not score a single goal in its three World Cup games.

The French thus become the first defending champions since Brazil in 1966 to fail to reach the second round.

Star French playmaker Zinedine Zidane was back in the line-up, after missing the first two matches with a leg muscle injury, but it was just not be for the French, who had two shots hit the crossbar.

Danish coach Morten Olsen said his players deserve a lot of credit. "Normally France, especially would have confidence [knowing] that Zidane was back on the team," he said. "We knew that was a very big stimulant for France. But we marked him very well, I think. It was awful difficult for him to come in the game [get his rhythm]. But I think it was very good for our team, the performance. I think the team played with a lot of confidence and especially a lot of discipline."

So the Danes' 2-0 win over France puts them into the second round as the first place team from Group A. Senegal - making its first-ever appearance at the World Cup - finishes second in Group A, behind Denmark with five points. Playing in Suwon, Senegal led Uruguay 3-0 at the half, then had to withstand a courageous comeback, as the Uruguayans netted three second half goals. Uruguay needed a win to advance, but it ended as a 3-3 tie, putting Senegal into the second round.

An interpreter translated the post-game remarks by Senegal's French coach Bruno Metsu. "It's a big day for African football, especially for Senegal," he said. "He's very satisfied. It's the first participation by this country in a World Cup and now they're among the 16 best teams in the world. He feels extraordinarily well, of course. They made a draw and he feels like this draw is like a victory. And now they want to go with a lot of courage and they are eager for the next match in the Round of 16."

The second round opponents for Senegal and Denmark will not be determined until after Wednesday's Group F matches in Japan. Argentina, Sweden and England remain in contention for the two berths from that group.