France seek World Cup redemption after Henry handball

June 10th, 2010 - 4:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Thierry Henry Cape Town, June 10 (DPA) France take the field in their football World Cup opener against Uruguay Friday seeking redemption for the handball by Thierry Henry that bought their qualification against Ireland — at a high price.
Henry’s blatant use of the arm in setting up William Gallas for the winning goal in the play-off against Ireland, and his subsequent refusal to own up until too late, caused massive controversy.

The Irish were incensed, neutrals disgusted and even French fans turned on the former golden boy.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, several French players - including star man Franck Ribery - earlier this year became embroiled in a scandal involving an underage prostitute.

Suffice to say that Les Bleus enter the tournament with a sullied reputation.

They have the chance to redeem themselves when the action starts in earnest in their opening Group D match in Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium - although Barcelona’s Henry may find himself on the bench.

So far, though, there have been few signs they can perform better on-field than off.

A 1-0 loss to China in the warm-up campaign heaped more pressure on coach Raymond Domenech, who is already unpopular at home and will be replaced by former stalwart defender Laurent Blanc once the tournament is over.

There are also signs of discontent in the camp.

Gallas on Tuesday called off a press conference at the last minute, leaving the team spokesman to inform the press that the defender had decided “not to say a single word” during the whole tournament.

He is reportedly upset at being overlooked for the captaincy in favour of Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and is apparently refusing to follow Domenech’s instructions.

Of some solace to France is the fact they can call on the talents of Ribery - who should be doubly motivated after missing out on Bayern Munich’s Champions League final appearance through suspension - Bordeaux’s Yoann Gourcuff and Chelsea’s rejuvenated striker Nicolas Anelka.

Many feel this talent pool should be enough to see the French through a relatively weak group that also includes Mexico and South Africa.

Two-time winners Uruguay have not made an impact on the finals since 1970, when they reached the semifinals, but they should not be taken lightly.

Atletico Madrid’s Diego Forlan - who has brushed off concerns over a knock suffered in training - and Ajax’s Luis Suarez have been in free-scoring form recently and present a potent goal threat.

The South Americans thumped Switzerland (3-1) and Israel (4-1) during their warm up campaign and - with confidence high and expectations low - could well spring a surprise.

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