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01/06  /2002 

 

Senegal upsets Les Bleus to open World Cup

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - The colony beat its former conqueror as the first World Cup in Asia opened with a historic upset.

Making its first appearance in soccer's showcase event, the West African nation of Senegal defeated defending champion France 1-0 on a 30th-minute goal by Papa Bouba Diop Friday night (Friday morning EDT).

Half a world away in the oceanside capital of Dakar, people ran and danced through the streets, carrying the nation's red, green and yellow flag - a celebration that highlights the enormous impact the World Cup has just about everywhere but in the United States.

"We have realized our dreams," Senegal coach Bruno Metsu said. "We are very happy with this incredible feat."

Starting seven of the 11 players who opened its stirring victory in the 1998 World Cup final over Brazil, France looked slow and old on a cool, damp night at Seoul World Cup Stadium.

Les Bleus missed the creativity of playmaker Zinedine Zidane, the hero of their victory four years ago. He tore a thigh muscle last weekend, and it's unclear when he'll return.

"There's nothing miraculous about Senegal's win. The team was very well organized," France coach Roger Lemerre said. "I knew that Metsu had cooked up some plan."

Diop scored after El Hadji Diouf sped down the left side and turned around defender Frank Leboef, who stumbled. Diouf then crossed in front of the goal and Emmanuel Petit failed to clear it, kicking it off the left arm of goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, another of the stars of '98.

Diop was on the ground, almost in a sitting position right in front of the net. He managed to swing out his left leg, whacking the ball into the goal.

"It made me very happy. I've always dreamed of this," said Diop, 24, who will be remembered at home for this goal for the rest of his life.

Diop took off his jersey, put it on the ground, and teammates formed a circle around it, as if to worship the garment. Then they boogied in an impromptu conga line.

"Today's victory is a victory for all of Africa and Senegal," Diop said. "No one expected that Senegal will beat France. But we did."

The result was reminiscent of the 1990 opener in Italy, when defending champion Argentina was stunned 1-0 by Cameroon, which advanced to the quarterfinals.

Senegal, which gained independence in 1960, in a way is more French than Les Bleus. Just one French starter plays in his home league, but all 11 of Senegal's starters do.

France, frustrated by goalkeeper Tony Sylva and the crossbar and posts, couldn't come up with the tying goal. That will put severe pressure on the French to win their next game, against Uruguay on Thursday.

Each team plays three games in the first round, and Senegal next plays Denmark. The top two teams advance.

"We take comfort from the fact that nothing's finished," Lemerre said. "There are two more matches to win. If we can win, we'll have six points and we'll be through."

Security measures starkly reflected the global changes since France won its first title in July 1998 at Saint-Denis, its futuristic home in a Paris suburb. South Korea mobilized about 38,000 police for the tournament, and stadiums were protected with anti-aircraft missiles, portable land-to-air rockets and fighter jets.

Before the game, the crowd of 64,640 was treated to a 40-minute spectacle of sound, light, fireworks and technology, with 2,500 colorfully dressed performers welcoming them to the first World Cup game played outside Europe or the Americas.

Because of the time difference, when the game began it was 1:30 p.m. in Paris, where brasseries on the Left Bank were filling for lunch; 7:30 a.m. in New York, where Wall Street brokers watched at work; and 4:30 a.m. in California, where alarm clocks roused people from their slumber.

It was 11:30 a.m. in Senegal, where the celebrations were certain to carry long into the night.As Diop put the ball into the net, kids ran into and started dancing in the streets of Dakar. The government had called off school for the day to celebrate the World Cup debut.

Several thousand fans came to Seoul from France, and during the "Marseillaise" they unfurled a giant tricolor, with the Korean flag in the middle section. At the other end of the field, only about two dozen fans from Senegal - banging drums and tambourines - appeared to be among the yellow-clad fans supporting the African team. The rest were South Koreans, recruited by organizers for cheering squads.

This is the first World Cup with co-hosts, the 64 games split evenly between Japan and South Korea, nations that have struggled to warm to each other.

South Korea President Kim Dae-Jung and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi were cheered as they raised their hands together, but FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who won a bitter re-election campaign earlier in the week, was met with scattered whistles. Also on hand were Japanese Prince Takamado and his wife, Princess Hisako - the first members of the imperial family to visit South Korea since the republic was founded in 1948.

While tickets sold briskly in Japan for its half of the tournament, South Korea struggled, and about 1,300 tickets for the opener were put on sale Friday after FIFA returned them to organizers.

For South Korea, the World Cup is the biggest sporting event since the 1998 Seoul Olympics, and the nation built 10 new stadiums at a cost of more than $2 billion. About 38 percent of schools in Seoul have stopped classes for the tournament.

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Source: eurosport