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France honors World Cup winners
Goverment gives Legion of Honor to players, coaches
Posted: Tuesday September 01, 1998 03:29 PM
PARIS (Reuters) -- France's World Cup winners received the Legion of Honor, the country's highest decoration, from President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday.
In a ceremony at the presidential Elysee Palace, Chirac decorated coach Aime Jacquet and his 22-man squad as well as World Cup organizer and former France captain Michel Platini and leading French football officials.
Praising and thanking the team for its victory in the tournament which culminated in a 3-0 win over previous champion Brazil in the Stade de France final, Chirac said: "Let the breath of the World Cup rest always in our hearts."
Jacquet's successor Roger Lemerre, his World Cup right hand man, was also decorated on the day his squad got together for the opening match of a new challenge, qualifying for the 2000 European championship finals.
France meets Iceland in its opening group four match in Reykjavik on Saturday. Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Andorra are also in the group.
Fourteen of Jacquet's World Cup 22 were in an 18-man squad named last week and due to gather with Lemerre at France's Clairefontaine national team headquarters southwest of the capital later on Tuesday.
Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit pulled out of the squad over the weekend because of a sinus problem. He is due to undergo surgery.
Lemerre called up AS Roma defender Vincent Candela as he already has cover in midfield with Petit's Arsenal teammate Patrick Vieira and Alain Boghossian of Parma.
Defenders Laurent Blanc and Marcel Desailly are both missing due to suspension.
Blanc, who had been considering quitting international football, said on Monday he will carry on.
"I couldn't go out on a red card. I'm convinced I can still play at the highest level for several years," he said. He was sent off in the World Cup semifinal against Croatia and suspended for two matches.He and Desailly, sent off in the final against Brazil and banned for one match, missed last month's 2-2 friendly draw in Austria.
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