focus for Henry
With the Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League titles still
to fight for, Arsenal striker Thierry Henry cannot expect much
respite in the remaining months of the season.
first name on the team-sheet for Arsenal after a terrific
season in front of goal, the quick, powerful striker has also
been pounding the pitch for France with a view to showcasing
his skills at this summer's EURO 2004 finals. However, he is
wary that too much match practice in the next few months may
not necessarily work in his favour.
"You need to be fresh," he told uefa.com. "Look
at the 2002 World Cup, when so many great teams went out
early. The likes of Italy and Argentina, as well as France,
looked like they couldn't play the ball they were all so
tired. The team who can win EURO 2004 will be the one with the
freshest players. It makes such a difference in this kind of
A striker of Henry's quality and current form could also make
all the difference for France in Portugal. Named in uefa.com
users' Team of 2003 after a series of devastating displays for
Arsenal, the powerhouse forward now looks every bit as vital
to France's plans for EURO 2004 as the mighty Zinedine Zidane.
Revived under Jacques Santini, France have made a complete
recovery from their dismal attempt to defend their World Cup
title in 2002. Qualifying for Portugal with a 100 per cent
record and a flurry of goals, they sent out a clear message to
their opponents that Les Bleus are back in business. "We
had to respond," said Henry succinctly.
The striker knows his side must defend their European crown
with more guile than they did the World Cup. "Everyone is
expecting that," he said. "We all hope we won't fail
like we did in the World Cup. But one thing is sure, we can
win again or we can fail it again, you never know with
football. It is full of surprises."
With an embarrassment of riches in midfield and attack, the
only question mark hanging over France is the defence, which
has had to move on from the legendary unit which peaked in
1998 and 2000. Henry is not worried, though. "We conceded
only two goals in qualifying, so we have some good
defenders," he said.
However, Henry would like to see one more good striker join
the squad in the shape of Nicolas Anelka, whose rift with
Santini rumbles on. "I know Nicolas and I know what a
shame it is for his career that he is not in the national
team," said Henry. "I don't know what is going to
happen but I hope they are going to sort it out between him
and the coach. Things look quite good."
If Santini and Anelka can make peace, Henry could yet see the
glorious celebrations that greeted France's 1998 World Cup win
- which he watched from the bench - repeated again this
"The day after the World Cup final, I was watching TV and
saw, on the Champs-Elysées, guys in suits getting out of
their Mercedes to party with total strangers dressed in their
underwear, and letting them dance on their car bonnets,"
said Henry. "I said to myself: 'It is fabulous to see
Paris and the whole of France come together'." -