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Metsu takes his hat off to Senegal heroes

© Reuters 2002

By Bill Barclay

OSAKA, Japan, June 22 (Reuters) - Senegal coach Bruno Metsu hailed his players as heroes after their World Cup adventure came to an end with a 1-0 extra-time, quarter-final defeat by Turkey on Saturday. "I take my hat off to the players, not just as players but as men - they are marvellous men and it is no wonder everyone has fallen in love with them," the Frenchman told reporters.

Senegal shocked the soccer world when they defeated World Cup holders France in their opening game and followed that with draws against Denmark and Uruguay and a second-round win over Sweden. The also won the hearts and minds of many fans outside Africa with their fluid displays and relaxed attitude off the pitch, and commanded most of the neutral support at the Osaka Stadium.

"The support we have received from the Japanese has been remarkable," said Metsu. "It is extraordinary what we have done. We have learned a great deal form our games against France, Denmark, Uruguay, Sweden and Turkey. "Yes, we lost to Turkey but if we made any mistakes they were down to the errors of youth and over-enthusiasm.

"I am very proud of the players. It is a great honour to coach such a nice, flexible team. They were heroic." Ilhan Mansiz's golden goal put paid to Senegal's hopes of becoming the first African team to reach the World Cup semi-finals. But they still matched Africa's best performance in a World Cup - Cameroon also lost in extra time in the 1990 quarter-finals - and Metsu said their run had done wonders for African soccer.

"We came up against a very good Turkish team - luck and maybe talent made its choice tonight. "I think it (Senegal's progress to the last eight) gives us a lot of hope for the future, for football in Senegal and in Africa in general."

He continued: "I'm very, very proud that a small country like Senegal can come to the World Cup and rock the boat among the hierarchy of world football. "We have had an exceptional adventure here at the World Cup but our next objective will be to capture the African Cup of Nations (in 2004 in Tunisia)."

Senegal lost to Cameroon in the final of the African Nations Cup in February. Metsu was generous in his praise of the Turks, despite becoming embroiled in a war of words with their coach Senol Gunes before Saturday's game.

"Turkey are a very, very good team. They have a lot of individual talent playing in some of the biggest clubs in Europe and, of course, we know their own teams like Galatasaray," he said. "In their matches they have only lost one against Brazil possibly against the run of play and they were unlucky. We know there is a lot of quality in this Turkish team.

"We are going to take some time to rest, to take some holidays. It's almost 50 days that we have been together. It has been a long adventure and now it has come to an end."

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Metsu takes his hat off to Senegal heroes
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