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France flounders again in warmup loss

June 5, 2010 news services

France lost 1-0 to China in its final warmup match before the start of the World Cup in South Africa.

In other World Cup tuneups, Slovenia outplayed fellow finalist New Zealand 3-1 and Ivory Coast blanked Japan 2-0 in a match marred by an injury to Elephants captain and star Didier Drogba.

In Saint-Pierre, Reunion Island, Deng Zhuo Xiang scored in the 68th minute with a swerving free kick from 25 yards.

The result dealt a blow to France's confidence as the 2006 World Cup finalist has allowed a goal in each of its last three friendlies while scoring just three times.

"It's the type of match where you know that no matter what we do, it couldn't go in. That's too bad," France coach Raymond Domenech told TF1 television.

"I'm like everybody, I'm disappointed. But the World Cup isn't today, it starts the 11th," Domenech said. "We still have a week to put everything in place, study our options."

France drew 1-1 with Tunisia last weekend and beat Costa Rica 2-1 last month. It will open its World Cup schedule against Uruguay on June 11, before taking on Mexico and host South Africa in Group A.

"It's a solid team that will be tough to outmaneuver," Domenech said about Uruguay. "Then we face Mexico, which just beat Italy. So we know it won't be easy. But it won't be easy, either, for our opponents."

China failed to qualify for the World Cup and was missing several starters.

Zhang Cheng made some crucial saves to preserve the victory.

Sidney Govou nearly tied it for France in the 71st but Zhang denied him and Nicolas Anelka, who pounced on the rebound, had his close-range shot blocked by the China goalkeeper.

Then Zhang dived in the 82nd to send the ball wide on a long-range strike from Abou Diaby before stopping an angled shot by Andre-Pierre Gignac in the 85th. He came off his goal line to get the better of Thierry Henry in the 90th.

A very disciplined team which mainly relies on swift counterattacks to score, China spent most of the first half bending under France's pressure.

In Maribor, Slovenia, Milivoje Novakovic scored twice and Andraz Kirm added a goal in Slovenia's 3-1 victory over New Zealand.

Novakovic scored on a 25-yard free kick in the seventh minute, but Rory Fallon tied it with a 12-yard volley in the 20th. Novacevic put Slovenia ahead with another 25-yard free kick in the 30th, and Kirm got the final goal in the 44th off a rebound after Valter Birsa's initial shot went off a hand of goalkeeper Mark Paston.

Slovenia leaves Sunday for the World Cup, where it plays Algeria on June 13, the United States five days later and England on June 23. In its only previous appearance, Slovenia went 0-3 in 2002.

New Zealand plays Slovakia on June 15, defending champion Italy five days later and Paraguay on June 24.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.