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France Crestfallen After World Cup Loss

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

As if losing wasn't tough enough for France, there was a moment in the game that may well haunt French soccer fans for years. The team's captain and national star, Zinedine Zidane, was expelled from the game after a flagrant foul. Eleanor Beardsley sends this report from Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF DISAPPROVING CROWD)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Many believe Zidane, an excellent penalty kicker, could have saved the match for France. Twenty-four-year-old Johann Zalo(ph) says it was also a sad way for the 34-year-old retiring soccer star to end his career.

JOHANN ZALO: (Through translator) It's too bad that Zidane did that, for the World Cup and for him. We want to remember him for his great play and not for something like that.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)

BEARDSLEY: Spectator Pierre Coulier(ph) says it doesn't matter that France lost the World Cup final in the very end.

PIERRE COULIER: (Through translator) I think it's good for France to come (unintelligible) final. I think everybody's sad. And I think it's good to see the country, you know, being all cheered up, because the mood was pretty bad over the last, you know, six months or year.

BEARDSLEY: But unlike eight years ago, no one believed this would change French society and help end discrimination.

ABDEL KEEN: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Twenty-year-old Abdel Keen was in the street waving a French flag after the game. Keen says he doesn't feel let down by Zidane.

KEEN: (Through translator) We played a great match and a great World Cup and Zidane is the color or France. He's a French Algerian and the best player in the world. He let us dream and he brought us together at a difficult time.

BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.