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Rediff.com  » Sports » France end goal drought but held by Korea

France end goal drought but held by Korea

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June 19, 2006 03:05 IST

France were held to a 1-1 draw by a dogged South Korea side on Sunday that left Group G wide open after the former champions missed a series of late chances.

France ended a worrying goal drought at World Cup finals thanks to an early goal from Thierry Henry but Park Ji-sung grabbed Korea's equaliser in the 81st minute.

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The 1998 champions, who had started with a dull 0-0 draw with Switzerland, stepped up a gear in a bid to keep alive their chances of reaching the knockout stage.

Henry gave them a ninth minute lead with a cool left-foot finish after a Sylvain Wiltord shot took a deflection and broke into his path. It was France's first at World Cup finals since they beat Brazil 3-0 in the final in Paris eight years ago.

Les Bleus, the 1998 champions, went out in the group stage in 2002 without scoring and would have have matched Bolivia's unwanted record of five World Cup matches without a goal had they not scored on Sunday.

An ageing France team certainly did not look like title contenders on a dry, mild evening in Saxony and are still not sure of avoiding another embarrassing early exit.

South Korea were lively as ever but looked also naive and harmless against opponents a lot tougher than Togo, whom the 2002 semi-finalists had beaten 2-1 in their opening match.

Looking a lot fresher and more aggressive than in their opening match, France benefited from a convincing World Cup debut by midfielder Florent Malouda, who had missed the match against the Swiss suffering from haemorrhoids.

France had threatened after seven minutes with a close-range effort by Wiltord which Korean goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae managed to kick out.

The French contingent in the Zentralstadion shouted for a goal after 32 minutes when a header from a corner by Patrick Vieira appeared to cross the line before Korean keeper Lee Won-jae pushed it out.

The Koreans threatened on a few occasions but were never able to keep up any sustained pressure on the French.

The tempo dropped in a relatively sluggish second half until top prospect Franck Ribery came on for France and treated the fans with a few of his trademark exciting runs.

But it was Korea who proved the most dangerous when a cross was headed back into the area by Cho Jae-jin and Park popped up to steer the ball over Fabien Barthez for a priceless equaliser.

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