France, Italy Lose in Warmup Games

Sunday, May 19th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Defending World Cup champion France lost for the first time in eight months Saturday, falling to Belgium 2-1 at home in an international friendly while three-time champion Italy got beat by the Czech Republic 1-0 in Prague.

In other World Cup warmups, Germany crushed Austria 6-1, Nigeria beat Jamaica 1-0, Poland topped Estonia 1-0 and four-time winner Brazil downed Catalonia 3-1.

In Saint-Denis, France, Marc Wilmots scored in injury time as Belgium beat the reigning European champion less than two weeks before the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan.

``There's no immediate danger,'' France coach Roger Lemerre said. ``You have to accept defeat and get back to work.''

``My Belgian friends were very motivated and organized.''

France was missing star player Zinedine Zidane, who was with his wife for the birth of their third child.

Defender Glen De Boeck headed in a free-kick by midfielder Johan Walem to leave France trailing after 20 minutes. Goalkeeper Ulrich Rame was nowhere near the ball.

``Our boys knew how to shut angles and position themselves,'' Belgium coach Robert Waseige said. ``We rely on collective play.''

Marseille's Frank Leboeuf leveled in the 41st minute with a close-range shot.

It was France's first loss since its 2-1 defeat to Chile last September.

``Les Bleus'' play South Korea in a warmup on May 26 and open the World Cup against Senegal on May 31 in Seoul. They meet Denmark and Uruguay in other first-round matches.

Belgium _ with several players out of the World Cup with injuries, including top forward Emile Mpenza _ plays Russia, Tunisia and co-host Japan in the first round.

In Prague, Czech Republic, Vladimir Smicer scored a first-half goal to give the Czech Republic a 1-0 victory over Italy.

The match was Italy's last friendly, and coach Giovanni Trapattoni aimed to test his team play and avoid injuries.

``Without doubt we played a bad match,'' Trapattoni said. ``It was a defeat which could have been avoided. ... With Francesco Totti and Cristiano Doni, we should improve in the next matches.''

With the absence of AS Roma's Francesco Totti, who still has not recovered from injury, the Italian offense proved harmless.

Christian Vieri and Filippo Inzaghi led Italy's attack in the first 45 minutes. Alessandro Del Piero and Vincenzo Montella came on in the second, but failed to create any decent scoring opportunities.

Smicer also beat Italy's defense in the 30th minute, but Buffon made a stunning save to stop the midfielder's point-blank attempt.

The match was watched by a crowd of 11,877 spectators at Prague's Sparta Stadium. Italy, a three-time World Cup winner, is in Group D along with Ecuador, Croatia and Mexico. The Czech Republic didn't qualify.

``Ecuador will be less aggressive than the Czech Republic, but is more technical. We will find difficult opponents in Japan,'' Trapattoni said.

In Leverkusen, Germany, striker Miroslav Klose scored three goals and midfielder Marco Bode added two to help Germany beat Austria 6-2. But the good performance was overshadowed by the injury of midfielder Sebastian Deisler.

Deisler suffered a knee injury after 19 minutes and was taken to a hospital for a scan. The extent of the injury was not immediately known.

``The first prognosis is not so dramatic and we hope we can take him along,'' team chief Rudi Voeller said.

Klose, now likely to be a starting striker at the World Cup, opened the scoring after 15 minutes and added two more in the 29th and 53rd. Midfielder Marco Bode put the Germans three goals up in the 36th and scored a second in the 70th.

Substitute Daniel Bierofka, who is not on the World Cup roster, notched the sixth in the 83rd.

``When the team scores six goals, I have to be happy with our attack, but I am not so happy with our defense,'' Voeller said.

Rene Aufhauser scored in the 37th and Roman Wallner scored just after halftime for Austria.

In London, James Obiorah fired World Cup-bound Nigeria to an edgy 1-0 victory over non-qualifier Jamaica.

The midfielder, who plays for Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow, netted the only goal five minutes into the second half after the Reggae Boyz had threatened an upset victory over the Super Eagles.

Nigeria, which will play in the World Cup's toughest group along with Argentina, England and Sweden, beat Ireland 2-1 in Dublin on Thursday.

In Warsaw, Poland, Maciej Zurawski scored the only goal of the match in the 57th minute as Poland beat Estonia 1-0.

``It was visible that the players had heavy legs, they were lacking the speed and lightness, but they won and I'm very happy about it,'' Poland coach Jerzy Engel said.

Tomasz Klos had a chance in the 56th, but his shot hit the post.

Poland, which was the first European team to qualify for the finals, will play co-host South Korea, the United States and Portugal in the first round.

In Barcelona, Spain, Ronaldinho Gaucho hit two brilliant first-half goals to help Brazil beat Catalonia 3-1 at the Camp Nou stadium.

Ronaldo came on as a substitute after a half hour. He was replaced in the 68th.

Ronaldinho, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, struck in the 22nd and 45th minutes while defender Edmilson netted the third in the 76th.

Luis Garcia scored for Catalonia, which was composed mostly of Spanish first division players, in the 61st.