YOKOHAMA, Japan – No goals, no glory. No more World Cup for France.
The defending champions needed to beat Denmark by two goals Tuesday to reach the World Cup’s second round. Instead, the Danes won 2-0 in Incheon, South Korea, and Les Bleus became the first champions to go scoreless through a first round. They’re also the first defending titlist to exit after the opening round since Brazil did so in 1966.
“It’s the end of a beautiful story,” French striker David Trezeguet said. “That’s the law of soccer, you have to accept it.
“We had lots of ambition and we wanted to do a lot better. It’s a real pity.”
While the Danes won Group A, tournament newcomer Senegal rode three first-half goals into the next round. The Africans took a 3-0 lead and barely held on for a 3-3 tie against Uruguay in Suwon, South Korea.
Denmark plays Saturday in Niigata, Japan against either England, Sweden or Argentina. Senegal plays Sunday in Oita, Japan against one of those teams.
“I believe a small team can be big,” said Senegal’s El Hadji Diouf. “Today is a historic day for African countries.”
Those two joined four-time winner Brazil, Spain, three-time winner Germany and Ireland in the round of 16.
Germany, despite playing the final 50 minutes a man down when Carsten Ramelow was ejected at Shizuoka, Japan, knocked out Cameroon 2-0 on goals by Marco Bode and Miroslav Kohse, who now has five goals. The Germans will play Saturday at Seogwipo, South Korea against either Spain, South Africa or Paraguay.
“We showed our dedication and commitment and deserved to win,” Christoph Metzelder said. “Our minimum target was to get to the final 16.”
Ireland defeated already-eliminated Saudi Arabia 3-0 in Yokohama to finish second to Germany in Group E. The Irish, who had never scored more than one goal in a World Cup game, will oppose either Spain or South Africa in Suwon, South Korea on Sunday.
The Irish went through even though their best player, Roy Keane, was sent home after a feud with coach Mick McCarthy before the tournament began.
“We fight against doubters all the time, we fight against critics all the time,” coach Mick McCarthy said. We do it very well.”
With 1998 World Cup hero Zinedine Zidane on the sideline with a thigh injury, France opened with a stunning 1-0 loss to Senegal and then tied Uruguay 0-0. Zidane returned for the Denmark game, but nothing helped the French, who saw two shots rebound off the crossbar.
At the end, Zidane walked off the field with his head hanging down, followed by the rest of the French team.
“I didn’t expect to go back home like that after the first round,” Zidane said. “We’re all very, very disappointed, but we won’t stop here. We will have to turn the page, turn over a new leaf.”
Thousands of traveling Les Bleus fans fell silent, while Danish fans in the opposite corner of the stadium beat on drums and sang “Ole, Ole, Ole.”
“We had a good day,” coach Morten Olsen said. “The team played with a lot of confidence and, especially, a lot of discipline.”
Back in Paris, some reactions to the French loss were strong.
“I’m disgusted. They are the defending champions, and for four years they bragged and did nothing,” said architect Alain Goust, 32, as he held a French flag — which he wasn’t waving. “When they arrive back at the Champs Elysees, they’re going to have tomatoes thrown at them.”