Jump directly to the content

News Corp is a network of leading companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, and information services.

DREAM TEAM

Your Sun

A News UK Company
TOP
SACRE BLEU!

Remembering France’s hilariously bad World Cup defence in 2002

Les Bleus failed to score a single goal at the tournament

Fair play to the frog-gobblers, they were a class outfit a few years back.

France won the 1998 World Cup on home soil before adding a European Championship crown two years later.

And so, in 2002, as Japan and South Korea prepared to host the first Asian World Cup, many thought Les Bleus would extend their dominance further.


DREAM TEAM WORLD CUP Click here to sign up for this summer’s brilliant game


So how did they end up being eliminated from the tournament without scoring a goal?

Your heart bleeds for ’em

AP:Associated Press
7
Your heart bleeds for ’em

In Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet and Djibril Cisse, coach Roger Lemerre had the top scorers of the Premier League, Serie A and Ligue 1 at his disposal.

However, Robert Pires had been ruled out with a long-term knee ligament injury, and nine of the 23-man squad were 30+.

Then were was the conductor-in-chief, Zinedine Zidane.

As one of the greatest players in the world at the time, Zizou was tasked with providing the inspiration for France’s World Cup defence.

The Real Madrid midfielder had finished the season in great style, scoring an unforgettable volley in the Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen.

An ill-timed injury…

AP:Associated Press
7
An ill-timed injury…

On the eve of the tournament, he limped off during a friendly with South Korea and was ruled out of France’s first two group games.

Enter Senegal.

El Hadji Diouf and co were one of the surprise packages of the tournament.

The West African side’s breakneck brand of football caught France unaware, with Papa Bouba Diop (aka ‘The Wardrobe) scoring the game’s only goal.

Centre-backs Marcel Desailly and Frank Leboeuf were exposed by Senegal’s pace.

While Youri Djorkaeff failed to fill Zizou’s shoes at No10 with lethargic, uninspiring performance.

The boys dancing on France’s grave

Reuters
7
The boys dancing on France’s grave

After one game, the pressure was cranked up to the max, as is the nature of World Cups.

France enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges against Uruguay, with Trezeguet straying a couple of inches offside for a disallowed goal.

Then the game changed completely in the 25th minute.

Henry was shown a red card for a lunge that lacked malice but was certainly ill-advised.

Game-changer

Reuters
7
Game-changer

Emmaunel Petit hit the post with a free-kick soon after but the extra man allowed Uruguay to get their bearings.

France needed a Man of the Match display from Fabien Barthez to ensure their first point of the campaign with an eventful 0-0 draw.

Serial short-raiser

Reuters
7
Serial short-raiser

Zidane returned for the last group game with Denmark, complete with industrial strapping on his torn quadricep.

It soon became obvious the great man was operating at around 50%.

Not even Zizou could produce a miracle at half-capacity.

Dennis Rommedahl and Jon Dahl Tomasson scored midway through each half as France limped out of the tournament without having scored a goal.

Classic belly button nose

Reuters
7
Classic belly button nose

Henry, Sylvain Wiltord and Patrick Vieria later admitted they felt the fatigue of Arsenal’s double-winning campaign.

As for the old guard, they proved to be liabilities, rather than pillars of experience.

Luck too was against France — they hit the woodwork twice in every game.

Love this game

Reuters
7
Love this game

Ultimately, they were unprepared for a tournament in alien conditions.

Zidane had been inspiration behind the 1998 final and all of Euro 2000.

His injury appeared a fatal omen from the moment he grimaced and after half-an-hour of the Senegal game, their premature exit seemed certain.

Still, at least they had a World Cup crown to defend…


DREAM TEAM WORLD CUP Sign up to this summer’s brilliant game below