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Defiant Domenech condemns Henry backlash

France coach Raymond Domenech has condemned the backlash against Thierry Henry following his part in the controversial goal which secured the country's World Cup qualification.

Henry's handball in the build-up to William Gallas' extra-time goal earned a 2-1 aggregate win for Domenech's team against the Republic of Ireland last Wednesday, and ensured the French would be on the plane to South Africa next summer.

The Barcelona forward has since been subjected to a barrage of criticism - much to the ire of Domenech. "It made me furious that Thierry can be treated this way,'' the France boss told

"I have not slept for two days and I am just starting to get over it. When France were given an unjustified red card against the Serbs, Serbia did not launch a campaign to denigrate our team.''

Henry has admitted he considered retiring from international football following the uproar, but Domenech does not believe he was ever likely to have gone through with the idea of quitting. "No, I do not think so,'' he said. "But when I called, he was like all of us - surprised, stunned. I have tremendous respect for him as a man and a footballer.

"Titi (Henry) is one of the most talented players in the history of French football. We qualified for the World Cup. For months now, despite his injury, he participated in all our matches at the risk of being yelled at by his club, Barcelona. 'Les Bleus' is his reason for living as a footballer.''

Sepp Blatter yesterday called an extraordinary meeting of FIFA chiefs following the World Cup play-offs but the world governing body are not considering a U-turn over their decision to refuse a replay. Domenech agrees with FIFA that it would have been "impossible'' to replay the match.

Both captains, Henry and the Republic's Robbie Keane, as well as respected figures in French football such as Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, called for the game to be replayed following the fallout.

But, when asked if that would indeed have been the "fairest solution'' as Henry suggested, Domenech replied: "No, it would have been impossible. Or it should be done after every incident that goes unpunished. Let's solve the problem of refereeing - that is the real debate.''

Domenech also responded to criticism aimed at him from former players including Eric Cantona and 1998 World Cup winner Bixente Lizarazu. Cantona claimed Domenech was the worst coach since Louis XVI, while Lizarazu shared a heated exchange with the coach on live radio moments after France's triumph.

"I did not know that Louis XVI had been a coach,'' quipped Domenech. "I put Cantona in the same batch as the others. He is coach of a beach soccer team and failed to qualify his team for the World Cup. He should show decency!''

Of Lizarazu, he continued: "It's nice, the lessons of Bixente Lizarazu... It is fun, he won something and I'm happy for him, but he must not forget that he too has experienced difficult times - in 2002, for example.

"Lizarazu also claims that I refuse to talk football, tactically and technically. He is wrong. I speak, but with my players, not with him. Anyway, he does not ask questions, he merely gives advice. Former players who act as coaches and have never coached a team leave me indifferent.''


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