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Les Bleus held scoreless by Switzerland

France are now just one match short of Bolivia's record of five matches in finals without a goal.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2006 00:55 IST

France were held to a scoreless draw by Switzerland on Tuesday, extending their dismal record of not scoring a goal at World Cup finals since winning the trophy eight years ago.

The 1998 champions, who had drawn with their neighbours twice in World Cup qualifying, could not find a way through a well organised Swiss side on a hot evening. It was the first time Switzerland have kept a clean sheet in 23 matches at finals.

The French went out in the first round four years ago without scoring a goal. France are now just one match short of Bolivia's record of five matches in finals without a goal.

Things could have been worse for the French as Switzerland's Alex Frei and Daniel Gygax both missed excellent chances.

South Korea lead Group G after they overcame Togo 2-1 earlier on Tuesday.

Both European sides will need to improve dramatically if they are to go anywhere in the tournament.

Switzerland missed the best chance of the game on 65 minutes with a header from close range by substitute midfielder Gygax that France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez somehow managed to save with his foot.

French coach Raymond Domenech criticised Russian referee Valentin Ivanov who handed out eight yellow cards.

"I found the referee rather fussy (eight yellow cards). I did not always understand his decisions. That's new refereeing, I'm told. We have to live with it," Domenech told French television.

"It's a draw that had its good moments but we were not able to take the edge. We knew it wouldn't be easy but there are matches left. We deprived our main rivals of two points." SWISS CONTENT

Swiss coach Koebi Kuhn was happy with the point his team and did not dwell on the missed chances.

"France were able to dictate the game and we made mistakes so we have to be happy with sharing the points. We won't be leaving Stuttgart with our heads hanging low," he told reporters.

The first half was fairly even with arguably the best opportunity for Switzerland, when striker Frei wasted an effort from close range in the 24th minute after a long-range Tranquillo Barnetta free kick bounced through untouched to hit a French post.

The French contingent shouted for a penalty after a shot towards goal by Thierry Henry hit defender Patrick Mueller's hand on 37 minutes.

The good news for France was a decent performance from ageing maestro Zinedine Zidane, who will retire after the finals.

Top prospect Franck Ribery, starting a match for France for the first time after three sparkling performances as a substitute in warm-up games, showed his class on occasions but could not quite live up to huge expectations.