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Football: Pires injury blow for Arsenal and France.

Byline: Ian Coyne

ARSENAL'S chances of winning the Premiership and France's hopes of World Cup glory were both dealt a hammer blow yesterday when Robert Pires was ruled out of both competitions with knee ligament damage.

Stanley trimmed the Gunners to evens from a best-priced 11-10 for the champ- ionship yesterday, and France are still no better than 9-2 to retain the World Cup this summer, but while bookmaker's remain unmoved by the news that the in-form winger faces at least four months out of the game, the length of his lay-off will give punters holding Arsenal and France vouchers cause for concern.

Pires himself was remarkably upbeat yesterday, saying: "I know I'll have to watch the World Cup from the sidelines, and obviously it's tough, as every player wants to play in such an event, but I'm not going to cry over myself. That's life and I'd better be philosophical about it."

But France coach Roger Lemerre could not hide his disappointment at such a cruel twist of fate with the finals in Japan and South Korea just 66 days away.

He said: "It is sad news for the world of sport. Pires symbolises the values, and the qualities of the French team. And to be honest with you, I'm finding it difficult trying to get over the news." Thierry Henry admitted he was shocked when told of the gravity of his colleague's injury but insisted it would not stop Arsenal's

title campaign, saying: "We're going to miss him a lot at

Arsenal - and we will try to win something for him.

"I'm very disappointed. It's hard to find the words to express myself. I felt the injury from the stands, but when I went to see Robert in the dressing room he told me that the knee was all right, and that he didn't feel so much pain."


Robert Pires Out for season
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Mar 26, 2002
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