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Desailly pessimistic over France's World Cup chances

Written by: Staff
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PARIS, Mar 23 (Reuters) Former captain Marcel Desailly is pessimistic about France's chances at this year's World Cup.

''I'm kind of pessimistic for Les Bleus,'' Desailly was quoted as saying by French daily Le Parisien today. ''There are new talents in the squad but they still need to gain confidence.

''They have great potential but they still need to learn how to cope with the pressure. They all belong to great clubs but the World Cup is the most demanding (soccer) event. You can never take anything for granted there.

''In 2002, for instance, we had three of the best strikers in Europe and we ended up without a goal scored,'' he said referring to Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet and Djibril Cisse.

Desailly, a key member of France 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000-winning team, won a French record 116 caps in an 11-year international career.

The 37-year-old former libero, who retired last year, will comment for a French radio network at this year's World Cup in Germany, which kicks off on June 9.

France booked their trip to Germany by winning their qualifying group in a lacklustre campaign that improved only slightly towards the end with the return of Zinedine Zidane, Lilian Thuram and Claude Makelele.

BACKING BARTHEZ Coach Raymond Domenech's proteges conceded their first defeat in 19 months when they clumsily bowed 2-1 to Slovakia in Paris on March 1.

The result proved the French are vulnerable and can hardly be considered among the World Cup favourites despite being one of the eight seeded teams in the draw.

France are in Group G with Switzerland, South Korea and debutants Togo.

Domenech recently said he already knows the composition of his 23-player squad.

''I know which names should be on my list,'' he said. ''I even know what the starting team should be for the opening match against Switzerland (on June 13),'' he said.

For that game, Domenech will have to decide who is his first-choice goalkeeper, Olympique Marseille's Fabien Barthez or Olympique Lyon's Gregory Coupet.

Desailly said the 1998 veteran deserves to remain number one, saying: ''My preference goes to Barthez. What he did for France must inspire some respect. He is close to the end of his career while Coupet still has a few years ahead of him.'' Barthez, who has played 77 times for France, will be 36 in June.

''There is no risk for Domenech to opt for Barthez. He can rely on two top-notch goalkeepers,'' Desailly said.

REUTERS PDS PM1755

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