Slick French Cruise Past Danes With 3-0 Victory




BRUGES, Belgium -- World champion France strolled to a 3-0 victory over Denmark on Sunday in Group D, the toughest in the tournament with four former champions.


Goalkeeper Fabien Barthez had to make good saves in the first 15 minutes to deny Danish strikers Ebbe Sand and Jon Dahl Tomasson, but for the rest of the game it was all France.


A 16th-minute goal from defender Laurent Blanc set France on its way and a superb individual effort from striker Thierry Henry sealed victory.


Henry raced from inside his own half to score in the 64th minute. Substitute Sylvain Wiltord scored in the dying seconds to underline France's superiority after being presented with an open goal by a pass from another substitute, Patrick Vieira.


The French fielded seven of the players who won the World Cup two years ago against Brazil in Paris. Their solid defense was such an important part of their '98 campaign but there were gaping holes in it early on.


Barthez blocked Tomasson's close-range effort with his foot in the second minute and had to dive low to the right to deny Sand 10 minutes later.


But the French, inspired by a confident performance in the middle of the park by Zinedine Zidane, settled down to dominate play even if they were too complacent at times.


The Blanc goal came after a penetrating run by striker Nicolas Anelka into the box that forced Danish keeper Peter Schmeichel to dive at his feet.


Schmeichel could only deflect the ball to his left and Blanc pounced to score into an empty net.


Henry had threatened the Danish with his pace several times in the first half and he left the Danes floundering midway through the second half with a weaving run into the box from the left before placing the ball in the opposite corner.


Henry had been unleashed by another clever pass from Zidane.


Before Blanc's goal, Anelka had a superb chance in the ninth minute when he rounded Schmeichel on the right hand side of the area but could only strike the ball into the side netting.


French coach Roger Lemerre said he was satisfied with the 3-0 scoreline.


"When a team wins 3-0 against Denmark, you can only be satisfied," he said.


"The Danes deserved better, they caused us a lot of problems in the beginning. But the world champions have an extraordinary will to do well."


Denmark head coach Bo Johansson rued some missed chances early in the game.


"I think we tried very hard and we had some good chances early on," he said. "That was our best period in the match.


"Then we tried again [to up the tempo] early in the second half when we were 1-0 down."


Johansson added: "My impression was that we believed that we could win on counterattacks but in fact it turned out that it was France who won on their counterattacks."


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GROUP D


France 1 1 0 0 3 0 3


Netherlands 1 1 0 0 1 0 3


Czech Republic 1 0 0 1 0 1 0


Denmark 1 0 0 1 0 3 0


France 3, Denmark 0


Netherlands 1, Czech Republic 0


Friday


Czech Republic vs. France, 8 p.m.


Denmark vs. Netherlands, 10:45 p.m.


Wednesday, June 21


France vs. Netherlands, 10:45 p.m.


Denmark vs. Czech Republic, 10:45 p.m.