Henry shrugs off poor French World Cup start

15th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

HAMLIN, June 14, 2006 (AFP) - If Thierry Henry was concerned about his and France's spluttering start to the World Cup the Arsenal legend certainly wasn't showing it as he walked into the lion's den here Wednesday.

HAMLIN, June 14, 2006 (AFP) - If Thierry Henry was concerned about his and France's spluttering start to the World Cup the Arsenal legend certainly wasn't showing it as he walked into the lion's den here Wednesday.

Appearing relaxed the consummate showman handled a tough grilling from the French media pack with the dexterity and skill that has made him the Gunners' all time top scorer.

But it was his and his country's performance under the spotlight in the Rattenfanger Halle 24 hours after the 1998 champions' lacklustre goalless draw against Switzerland.

That stalemate in Stuttgart extended to four the number of games at the World Cup finals in which France have failed to score - a sorry sequence they know will have to end against South Korea on Sunday to ensure they avoid a repetition of 2002 and another humiliating first-round exit.

Henry's mysterious inability to replicate his free-scoring Premiership form for les Bleus is at the root of the problem, but he for one was unperturbed.

"Ever since I was seven it's been at the back of my mind when my Dad used to give me aggro if I wasn't scoring, and it's the same when it happens at Arsenal but I won't be losing any sleep over it.

"It's not the end of the world.

"Am I afraid of the Korean game? I'm afraid of dying, not about playing a game of football.

"We haven't scored in four games at the finals but you know as well as me how close it can be. Look at yesterday's game - if Frank (Ribéry) had passed the ball in front of me rather than behind me that time I would have scored and we'd be having a very different press conference this afternoon."

He added: "Was it a bad start? I don't know. We didn't achieve what we wanted to achieve against Switzerland and now we've got two games but it's not always easy.

"Look at Sweden, they were held 0-0 by Trinidad and Tobago."

He rates the looming Koreans highly, suggesting the Dick Advocaat-managed Asians who saw off Togo 2-1 to lead Group G represent an altogether trickier team to crack than Switzerland.

"Korea are talented, they have a lot of technique, they run a lot, they're a team that play without asking themselves questions.

"They attack altogether, and defend altogether."

Just beside Henry was a board where French fans had written messages of encouragement to Raymond Domenech's team.

One read: "A toi marquer 'Titi' Henry" (It's up to you to score..) You can be sure he will be only too relieved to oblige in Leipzig.

Henry had his own words of encouragement for Ribéry whose first full cap thrilled France fans who have taken the young Marseille midfielder to their hearts.

But the player anointed as the new Zinedine Zidane in the main failed to leave such a deep impression on the game as he had done when coming on as 'a joker' in France's three friendlies.

"It wasn't easy for Frank," said Henry.

"It's not easy always to play well on your first match."

Ribéry himself, who has enjoyed a rapid rise from France's amateur ranks, reflected: "My performance was positive even if it wasn't easy. There'll be other games where I'll feel more at ease."

Asked how he felt about the 'Ribérymania' sweeping France he smiled: "I don't think there is any Ribérymania but I'm happy that people rate me highly.

"That proves that I'm doing a good job, that I'm someone straightforward, who enjoys being with everyone, whether it's the players or in every day life."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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