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Jul 21, 2010

Henry's agony at France's World Cup woes

Thierry Henry has spoken of the frustration he felt during France's ill-fated World Cup campaign. Appearing as a guest on ESPNSoccernet Press Pass, the 32-year-old said he felt "powerless" during the tournament, which ended at the group stage for les Bleus.

Exclusive Thierry Henry interview.

"I don't know what happened," said Henry when he was asked of his thoughts on the World Cup. "Sometimes there are things that get out of control and you don't know why and suddenly you are going home. I don't know why I didn't play, I had no explanation. I had to accept it and will always respect the decision of (Raymond Domenech) but it was difficult."

Henry amassed just 53 minutes of time on the pitch during two substitute appearances in South Africa and believes his peripheral role in the squad hindered him from being as vocal as he had been during qualifying when, as captain, he could more effectively act as a middle man.

"Sometimes, on the bench - I remember against Mexico - you feel powerless. During the qualifiers I could come forward and talk and be a bridge between the boss and the team. When you are not involved that role is harder."

The man who replaced Henry as captain, Patrice Evra, has been criticised in some quarters for his behaviour in South Africa. For example, Marcel Desailly, has called for him to be suspended for two months but Henry, who played with Desailly in France's 1998 World Cup-winning side, believes the left-back was simply doing what he thought was right. "Evra did it with his heart. He didn't do anything bad but sometimes doing it with your heart means you don't see things. He is an honest guy and didn't do anything wrong. People don't know what happened. The press did invent things - not everything - but a lot of stuff."

Henry, who recently announced his retirement from international football last week having scored a national record 51 goals in 123 appearances, believes that, under Laurent Blanc, the next crop of French players can return their country to the top of world football.

"Some people are killing the new generation but France missed the 1990 and 1994 World Cups and then we won it four years later. You can never know about the young players but Blanc has good players in the next generation like Franck Ribery and Yoann Gourcuff." Talent alone, however, is not enough and Henry points to Spain as the benchmark for how to mould outstanding players into an effective unit. Henry recently swapped La Liga for MLS and the New York Red Bulls, bringing to an end a three-season spell during which he won seven trophies with Barcelona.

Six of those came in 2009, during which he was part of a fearsome forward triumvirate which also featured Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o. The latter man, in particular, helped to get the best out of his French compatriot.

"In my first season, it was hard to adapt because my game is about getting in behind and movement. I played on the left a lot while Eto'o got hurt and struggled for rhythm. However, in the second year I had more freedom because (Eto'o and I) have kind of the same game so we were able to switch positions."

Henry's departure from Barcelona means that only Messi remains from that all-conquering group of strikers. Meanwhile, David Villa's arrival has increased speculation that Zlatan Ibrahimovic's stay with the Blaugrana will not last beyond one season but Henry believes that the Swede will prove his doubters wrong

"When you play for Barcelona you have to score two goals every game! The motto is 'more than a club' and it is. Zlatan is a winner and I think he will stay. He is a brilliant striker."

Though he describes his time with the Catalan giants as 'amazing', it is apparent that a large part of Henry's heart remains in North London. Because of that, Arsenal's all-time leading goalscorer can empathise with Cesc Fabregas' current situation. Speculation continues to link the Gunners' captain with a move back to the Nou Camp and Henry understands what his former Emirates Stadium teammate is going through. "You never actually leave Arsenal and it is hard to explain the bond I had with the fans and everyone at the club. I still get goose bumps when I go back. Cesc has a similar bond and that is the dilemma he has. As a fan you don't want him to leave but you can understand a guy that wants to go back home."

While Fabregas' future remains uncertain, Henry's is set. With a tumultuous summer, as well as an illustrious international and European career, behind him, the striker can turn his attention fully to the next chapter of his club career and he looks set to begin against a familiar foe. Before he makes his MLS debut for the Red Bulls, he is expected to feature in friendly on Thursday against Tottenham.

• ESPNSoccernet Press Pass airs five times a week across the ESPN family of networks. Check local listings for full details. Follow the show on Twitter at twitter.com/ESPNPressPass

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