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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 20:40 GMT 21:40 UK
French players dodge fans
Manchester United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez
Fan Alicia Coste wanted to see Barthez
The shocked French squad slipped back into France on Wednesday ignoring 500 fans who had turned up at Roissy airport to greet them on their early return from the World Cup.

World Cup winners in 1998, France exited the 2002 finals in the first round, having failed to win a game or score a goal.

Police ushered the players to connecting flights to their home towns.

Only Chelsea's Emmanuel Petit and star player Zinedine Zidane faced the fans, but he remained tight-lipped.

The low-key return was a stark contrast to events four years when a million supporters came out to cheer "Les Bleus" as they paraded down the Champs Elysees.

"I was already disappointed by the defeat and now I'm even more disappointed," said disgruntled fan Stephane Faisy, 34.

"If they are not even prepared to meet their supporters who are here to encourage them after their defeat than that's a real shame," he added.

Meliza Richer travelled from Nancy in eastern France to see her favourite player Christophe Dugarry.

"I'm gutted. I thought I would go home having seen Dugarry... They had no right to do this," she said.

Earlier, fans had sung the national anthem as they waited to thank the team.

France's Thierry Henry
Henry had a miserable tournament

"Whether they win or lose, we'll still root for the French team," said 16-year-old Alicia Coste, who had wanted her shirt signed by Zinedine Zidane and goalkeeper Fabien Barthez.

Other fans said the team had been guilty of arrogance.

"They were at the top of the sport and had won everything, so maybe they did go out there thinking it was already sewn up," said 29-year-old Stephane Gantiez.

"But I've come here to thank them anyway because they did their best and they're great players."


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