Loyalties 'in conflict' for French squad

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/W/Worldcup2002.jpg' class='caption'> French midfielder Patrick Vieira will begin his team's World Cup title defense against Senegal, where he was born and lived until the age of seven.

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:27 IST
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"Vieira, oh-oh-oh-oh! Vieira, oh-oh-oh-oh! He comes, from Senegal! He plays for Arsenal! And for France too!'' Okay, so that doesn't rhyme. But what the bards at Arsenal's Highbury stadium omitted from their chant -- sung to the air of Italian hit Volare -- will be glaringly obvious in Friday's opening World Cup match. French midfielder Patrick Vieira, whom many see as a future leader of Les Bleus, will begin his team's World Cup title defense against Senegal, where he was born and lived until the age of seven. "France vs Senegal for the opening match of the World Cup, it's extraordinary,'' Vieira said ahead of the match in Seoul. "My grandparents were born there, my parents were born there, my culture is still Senegalese.'' In a French squad with diverse ethnic origins, it's not so rare to come up against the nation of one's ancestors. For some, this can be a painful experience. Zinedine Zidane, the son of Algerian immigrants, spoke of a "small ache" in his heart before meeting Algeria in an October friendly, which France won 4-1. But if Vieira was feeling conflicted about Friday's game, he wasn't letting it show. "We will try to smother them, and score early on to take control of the match,'' the 6-ft-4 player said. "They all play in the French first division, and it won't be a typically African team,'' he said. "Tactically they won't be bad. Physically and technically the team will be above the African average. It will be a big battle.'' Vieira said he has met Senegal's star striker El Hadji Diouf, who plays for French side Lens, and Sedan midfielder Salif Diao. France captain Marcel Desailly, who was born in Accra, Ghana, said he was pleased to see an African side playing in the World Cup, but like Vieira, wasn't thinking about it too much. "You have to learn to put your feelings to one side to reach your best level,'' Desailly said. (AP)

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