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Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Cafe society takes defeat in stride
A fan is upset at France's exit from the World Cup
Dejection shows on the face of a young fan in Korea

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Pierre the barman was dressed in a Zidane shirt, and he spent the match puffing on a long cigar and kicking in the woodwork.

Barman Pierre smoking a cigar
Pierre: The team lacked the will to win
It was not a good morning to be a French football fanatic.

"Just one little goal - please," piped up a voice from the line of coffees and brandies as the humiliation drew to a close.

That was what it had come down to - one goal just to save national honour. And they couldn't even get that.

Gallows humour

But you had to hand it to the denizens of Le Cadran bar in Montparnasse. There was no wailing or gnashing of teeth.

Open Quote
Theyr'e old, theyr'e tired and they have got too much money
Close Quote
Jo-jo, bar customer
No one had it in for the ref. There was no foul-mouthed denunciation of the foreigner.

Instead it was a bitter-sweet gallows humour, washed down - at 10 in the morning - with plenty of Cotes de Beaune.

Jo-jo, Dede, Greg and Pat made up the foursome who'd been at the wine from the start. By full time they were settling nicely into bar-stool manager mode.

Customers at Le Cadran
Wine, not tears, flows at Le Cadran
"They're old; they're tired; and they've got too much money," said Jo-jo, airing the common complaint that the team of stars has been lured astray by the temptations of Mammon.

Greg agreed. "We have the top goal-scorers in the British league, in the French league and in the Italian league. And yet we couldn't score a single goal. Why is that? Because there's too much money and too much advertising," he said.

There has been much muttering about how Le Boeuf and some of the others have been more prominent in pre-match TV ads than on the actual pitch. Zidane is still, however, above criticism.

Glory days gone

"It's very sad - getting knockcd out in the opening round when we are world champions. But they didn't play football. They didn't run for the ball.

Open Quote
Nothing lasts forever - not in sport and not in anything
Close Quote
Dede, bar customer
"They had no passion. We've got to change and get in some younger players. Like Jibril Cisse - but they brought him on far too late," said Dede.

"I'll tell you the one single thing that this team has been lacking from the very start," chipped in barman Pierre. "La niaque."

This is French argot, meaning an overwhelming desire to win.

France's glory days are over - the days of World Cup 98 and Europe 2000 are just memories now. But in Le Cadran the reaction was philosophical.

"It was the chronicle of a defeat foretold," said a businessman, taking his leave.

"Nothing lasts forever," said Dede. "Not in sport, and not in anything. It's all a big cycle. We couldn't always be on top. We've got to let the other countries have their turn."

"Look no-one's crying," said Jo-jo. "But yes, I will have another drink, thank you."


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