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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
Media inquest begins
Zinedine Zidane arrives at Incheon airport for the flight home
Zidane arrives at Incheon airport for the flight home
French newspapers indulged in soul-searching on Wednesday after France's humiliating exit from the World Cup.

Some mourned the fall of its football heroes while others called for coach Roger Lemerre to resign.

"France KO" was the headline of the tabloid Le Parisien, over a photograph of playmaker Zinedine Zidane face down on the pitch.

Open Quote
France is lucky enough to have training schools that are shaping the generation that will replace the fading stars
Close Quote
Liberation

"The cup runneth empty," said the left-leaning Liberation, using a close-up of the same picture.

Everywhere, pundits tried to make sense of the unexpected decline of a team that won the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championships in 2000, only to leave this year's tournament without scoring a single goal.

France's 2-0 defeat by Denmark on Tuesday earned it the dubious distinction of the worst performance by defending champions in the 72-year history of the tournament.

Some newspaper commentators accused the team of becoming arrogant and focusing on lucrative advertising contracts instead of their game.

Others pointed to the absence of Zidane, sidelined by a thigh injury in the early stages of the tournament.

"Stunned and dazzled by their success, sought out by sports and business, the team neglected the essential: the pitch," said conservative daily Le Figaro in a report headlined "Autopsy of a failure".

Thierry Henry checks in for his flight home with his girlfriend
Thierry Henry checks in for the flight with his girlfriend

Commentator Martin Couturie compared Lemerre with former socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who said he would quit politics after his defeat by far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round of the presidential elections on April 21.

"There is no need, no urge to pull out the daggers today," said Couturie.

"But, for the sake of honour, the team's coach must follow the path traced by Lionel Jospin, another 'coach' unable to survive a fateful first round."

The Communist daily L'Humanite agreed, calling France's campaign "an incomprehensible fiasco".

"No group can suffer such a Waterloo without the responsibility of the coach being called into question," it said, referring to the site of Napoleon's final defeat in 1815.

Liberation raised a glimmer of hope for the future, however.

"France did not win its second title as world champion, but it is lucky enough to have training schools that are successfully shaping the generation that will replace the fading stars of this World Cup," it said.

"It's just a question of time."


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GROUP A
  P GD PTS
DENMARK 3 +3 7
SENEGAL 3 +1 5
URUGUAY 3 -1 2
FRANCE 3 -3 1

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