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Dec 7, 2009

Marcel Desailly: Thierry Henry did not have to apologise

Marcel Desailly has told ESPN Soccernet that if he was Thierry Henry, he would not have apologised for the deeply controversial handball that helped to extinguish Republic of Ireland's World Cup dreams.

• Desailly: World Cup heading to Europe

FIFA is investigating the incident that saw Henry clearly handle the ball before squaring for William Gallas in the play-off second leg in Paris, and the Barcelona striker may yet face a possible ban at the World Cup finals.

Henry apologised for the incident and admitted that the fairest solution would be to replay the fixture - something that FIFA had already ruled out - but that has not stopped him from becoming the target of sustained criticism.

Castrol ambassador Desailly, who played alongside Henry when France won the 1998 World Cup on home turf, does not feel that the striker should have made his public show of contrition as the incident was just part of the game.

"I would not have apologised like Henry," said Desailly in an ESPN Soccernet webchat. "He is a player who is a role model but it is football. There are rules, referees and it is good as a role model that he said he used his hand. But I would have not apologised.

"Ireland played very well against France, at a high level, but there is no need to answer if Ireland deserve it, because France have qualified. Only the victory is beautiful at the end of the day."

Desailly played a crucial role as France won the World Cup in 1998 and then again two years later as they followed up that success by emerging victorious at Euro 2000. As such, his is a voice of real authority when it comes to Les Bleus.

The suitability of Raymond Domenech for the head coach's role has been a major point of controversy amongst the French media and public since the country's disappointing performance at Euro 2008 was followed by an unconvincing qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup.

But Desailly does not think that the French Football Federation will opt to replace Domenech in the build-up to the finals in South Africa, no matter how low his popularity rating has sunk in recent months.

"They did not sack him after the Euros so they will not sack him now after he achieved the minimum of qualifying," Desailly said. "People don't like him but his team have huge potential.

"After '98 we struggled to qualify for the Euros. When you look individually, the players have to be aware of their possibilities and then France will be good."

For Marcel's expert opinion on the World Cup draw, visit the Soccernet Castrol Predictor site. Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles and Ruud Gullit will also be putting forward their opinions on the 2010 finals this week.

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