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Soccer: France Beat China But Lose Cisse
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China's national soccer team wrapped up their friendly matches in Europe with two losses after they were defeated by their hosts France 3-1 at the Geoffroy Guichard Stadium, Wednesday.

France appeared unable to find their normal pace and rhythm early in the first half and after just 11 minutes Djibril Cisse injured his right leg in a clash with China's midfielder Zheng Zhi. He was substituted by David Trezeguet and taken to hospital.

Zinedine Zidane, the 33-year-old Real Madrid player, who announced last month he'd be hanging his boots up after the World Cup finals, missed a penalty in the 14th minute after he was brought down in the box. But David Trezeguet got the opener scoring from a Thierry Henry bye-line cutback in the 31st minute.

China drew level in the 69th minute with a penalty from midfielder Zheng Zhi after he'd been tackled from behind by Eric Abidal in the box.

The second half saw a more aggressive defensive style from China and the game was in the balance until an own goal from substitute Wang Yun put France back into the lead. A 30-yard effort from Henry in the 92nd minute wrapped things up for France.

Cisse has fractured his right fibula and tibia and was in hospital undergoing surgery, according to French coach Raymond Domenech. He said Cisse's injury was a "vicious blow" because the 24-year-old forward would miss the entire World Cup campaign.

Zhu Guanghu, China's head coach commented that he regretted the incident but pointed out that there'd been nothing malicious intended by the tackle.

In their first friendly game of their short tour China were beaten 4-1 by the Swiss on June 3. Interviewed afterwards about China not qualifying for the World Cup finals while the Swiss and French will be heading for Germany, the coach said that his side were assisting other countries warm up for the competition. However, the aim was to change things in readiness for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. 

Zhu suggested that if his squad had 20 high-level games like those in Europe each year the players would show great improvement pretty quickly.

The FIFA conference opened in Munich, Germany, yesterday and today's discussion of the world soccer governing body is focusing on age limit reform which suggests abolishing a rule allowing participation of three over aged players in Olympic soccer tournaments. This was raised by FIFA President Sepp Blatter last year.

On December 8, 2005, he said in Leipzig, Germany, that his executive committee had reached an agreement to make men's soccer at the 2008 Beijing Olympics an under-23-only tournament. The official acceptance of the age limit proposal requires FIFA approval.

The U-23, plus three over aged players first came into effect at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics as FIFA's concession to the International Olympic Committee, who'd been pushing to improve the quality of Olympic soccer as well as to make it as prominent as FIFA's cash cow -- the World Cup itself.

The executive committee was reportedly responding to complaints from European clubs that their players weren't able to rest to prepare for domestic league matches and national team games as the Olympic soccer tournament begins at the same time as various European leagues. 

However, it makes for less impressive Olympic soccer, according to Zhang Jilong, vice president of the China Football Association (CFA) and the only Chinese member at the 2006 World Cup organizing committee.

In sporting circles, it's felt the absence of big names like David Beckham and Brazil's Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos in Beijing in 2008 is sure to dilute at least some of the Olympic buzz.

There are obvious possible knock-on effects such as lower television audiences and spectator numbers, less sponsorship and perhaps financial losses for the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG).

As the Olympic hosts, China automatically qualify for the tournament, but will have to do without some top players including Zheng Zhi, Li Weifeng and international player Sun Jihai.

Zhang noted that members of the Asian Football Confederation had reached an agreement on reserving over aged players in the Olympics and they would try to persuade other members during this conference.

On the World Cup in Germany it was explained by Zhang that all the players, coaches and staff had to sign a guarantee not to be involved in violence, gambling and other illegal activities. As well as anti-doping tests some players will also have their hearts monitored.

The opening game of the 2006 World Cup will kick off at 6 PM tomorrow between hosts Germany and Costa Rica.

(China.org.cn by Li Xiao, June 8, 2006)

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