Blanc worries about French fitness as Dutch turn on style

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The Independent Online
WITH just eight days to go before the World Cup finals start, alarm bells are starting to ring about the fitness of the hosts, the French national team.

The defender Laurent Blanc said he feared his team-mates were tired and losing the ability to dominate opponents with the sheer force of their physical presence. He added he was worried by the performances at last week's King Hassan tournament in Morocco, particularly the match against the hosts, which finished in a 2-2 draw.

"The French team has a quality which is to be able to raise their physical level to stifle their opponents," Blanc said. "Against Morocco we didn't have this capacity."

Blanc added he was concerned that the hard work done in the French training camp has left the team drained. "I hope all we've done physically up until now will pay," he said.

"The three matches in the first round of the World Cup will be identical [to the Morocco match]. The teams are going to play against us to the death."

The French coach, Aime Jacquet, did not seem worried, though. "In a week, a decisive week for closing the gaps, everything should come together," he said. His side play their last warm-up in Finland on Friday.

The Netherlands overcame conceding a surprise early goal to beat Paraguay 5-1, with Arsenal's Marc Overmars leading thefightback.

Less than two minutes into the game, a header from Paraguay's Jose Cardozo fell to Jorge Campos, who beat the Dutch goalkeeper, Edwin van de Sar, to put Paraguay ahead.

Led by Overmars on the left wing, the Dutch side pushed forward, but it was midway through the first half before their efforts finally bore fruit when the Arsenal winger beat three defenders before slipping the ball past Jose Luis Chilavert.

Overmars, showing tremendous pace, then reached a rebound off Chilavert from a Patrick Kluivert shot to score the second. He also had a hand in the third goal, slicing the ball through a defender's legs for Kluivert to tap in.

In the second half, Frank de Boer scored after being set up by Boudewijn Zenden, who had taken over from Overmars on the left. Zenden performed well and, while he failed to match Overmars's two goals, he hit the woodwork twice. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who came on midway through the second half, scored the final Dutch goal of a performance that left their coach, Guus Hiddink, with numerous options for his World Cup 22.