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France Is Rude to Japanese Hosts in 5-2 Win

Associated Press
Monday, February 9, 1998; 7:10 a.m. EST

NAGANO, Japan (AP) — France disappointed a tumultuous partisan crowd that included Japanese royalty with a 5-2 victory today, giving coach Herb Brooks his first Olympic win since 1980.

The loss ended Japan's slim hopes of advancing past the preliminary round and assured Belarus the Group B title and a berth in the next round against teams packed with NHL stars.

If Japan (0-2-0) had won, it could have won the bracket by defeating Belarus on Tuesday. France (1-1-0) was eliminated earlier today when Belarus beat Germany 8-2.

Christian Pouget scored the game-winner with 2:55 left on a backhander and France added two empty-net goals. That assured Brooks the victory in his first Olympics behind the bench since leading the United States to a gold medal 18 years ago.

Prince Hironomiya, the son of the Japanese emperor, watched the game with his wife, Princess Masako, in a section of Big Hat arena reserved for Olympic officials and dignitaries.

Although that sector of the arena remained somewhat dignified, the rest of the place rocked throughout the game. But for the second time this Olympics, the locals had to be content with watching Japan play well in a losing effort.

Japan took a 1-0 lead at 7:36 of the first period when Kiyoshi Fujita scored from between the circles.

France tied it at 14:42 when Phillippe Bozon stole the puck from defenseman Takayuki Kobori, skated in alone and faked out goaltender Dusty Imoo before scoring into the left side of the net.

Fifty seconds later Ryan Kuwabara tapped in a pass from Akihito Sugisawa to put Japan back in front, but France made it 2-2 on a goal by Stephane Barin at 3:51 of the second period.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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