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'Do a Jospin' French coach urged

Crestfallen: French coach Roger Lemerre is escorted by police to the plane  

PARIS, France (CNN) -- French coach Roger Lemerre has been asked to take part at an unscheduled meeting on Friday of the federal council of the French Football Federation.

Lemerre is widely expected to quit or be replaced following the worst performance in the World Cup by the holders in the history of the tournament.

One leading commentator urged him to follow the example of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, another leading Frenchman recently "unable to survive a fateful first round."

On Wednesday "Les Bleus" flew home early after being ignominiously dumped out of the World Cup without scoring a single goal.

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Former national stars Didier Deschamps and Jean Tigana and Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger are names being mentioned as French media launched a furious inquest into their team's ignominious demise.

Lemerre, 60, who had been criticised for sticking to the same tactics an d players as previous World Cups, knew what to expect on his return to Paris.

After France were beaten by Senegal on the opening night of the World Cup Lemerre admitted: "There is the truth of the moment: if the French team wins then I am right, if it loses then everyone jumps on the scapegoat."

The French team took an Air France flight from Incheon airport outside the South Korean capital, Seoul. Striker Thierry Henry, who missed the defeat to Denmark on Tuesday through suspension, took a separate Korean Air flight to London, where the Arsenal player is based.

The French team, which became the first titleholder to exit a World Cup in the first round since Brazil in 1966, met with applause from other travellers. The players were accompanied by about 300 police officers at the airport.

Commentator Martin Couturie compared Lemerre with former Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who said he would quit politics after his defeat by far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round of the presidential elections on April 21.

"There is no need, no urge to pull out the daggers today," said Couturie. "But for the sake of honour, the team's trainer must follow the path traced by Lionel Jospin, another 'trainer' unable to survive a fateful first round."

The Communist daily L'Humanite agreed, calling France's 2002 World Cup campaign "an incomprehensible fiasco."

"No group can suffer such a Waterloo without the responsibility of the trainer being called into question," it said, referring to the site of Napoleon's final defeat in 1815.

France's goalkeeper Fabien Barthez sums up the feelings of a nation  

The French press cast the blame in all manner of directions, including poor tactics, bad team selection, the absence of Zinedine Zidane and Robert Pires from the opening matches, the commercial interests of the players and the number of matches leading footballers are compelled to play.

"It was a true failure," said Le Monde. "It was a stinging reverse which can be explained by a whole range of phenomena: an ageing team, tired players, poor planning, dispersion of the group and blunted motivation."

Saying "Adieu Les Bleus" the leading football paper L'Equipe later spoke of "the end of an era" for the nation's once illustrious football team, accusing the players of arrogance on the pitch.

"The same arrogance that pushed them to win the 1998 World Cup, this time blinded them," L'Equipe said.

The traditionally sober Le Figaro talked in terms of a death of a member of the family.

"We need to carry out an autopsy of a failure that has marked the end of a glorious adventure," it said.

"Twisted and blinded by success and money, the players and those around them neglected the most important thing: the football field.

"They arrived in Asia, puffed up with pride and ambition and fell from a great height. It is a sad story for 'les Bleus', a calamitous end of an era and, to say the least, the entire nation is in disarray," Le Figaro added.

Zidan challenges Toftig
Zidane, right, only played in the last of France's three games  

France-Soir lamented the "growing weariness" and "insidious lack of fervour" displayed by the squad, which it said was proof of "complacency and several players on the decline".

Similar comments resonated around the French-speaking world.

Saying the last match was "fatal" to France Le Matin of Algiers remarked that the team had "raised the most insane hopes among the French."

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