Belfast Telegraph

Not this time Henry - French handed a lesson by Uruguay

Move over Les Bleus, enter Les Miserables

Bt Steven Beacom

We may not know who will win the World Cup in South Africa, but after last night’s game in Cape Town, we know one of the nations who won’t — France.



Don't be surprised though.

Face it, they are lucky to be in South Africa. We’ll come to that shortly. First though the match. Dreadful.

Some 0-0 draws can be exciting. This one wasn’t. Dull as dishwater? That’s an insult to dishwater.

If the opening game of the tournament between the hosts and Mexico, which ended 1-1, showed promise this clash between France and Uruguay lacked commitment, composure and any degree of class.

Much of the pre-match build-up, of course, centred around Thierry Henry, who has displayed all those qualities down the years.

It’s another C word — cheat — that Republic of Ireland fans would use though.

He arrived on the scene last night with just 19 minutes left.

Cheers rang out from the fans inside the Green Point Stadium.

Not too many Irish in then.

From Leitrim to Limerick they would have been jeering the famous Frenchman as he strode on to the pitch.

Henry’s sparkling feet have earned him a wonderful living, medals galore and plaudits from around the world.

His left hand, used in conniving fashion against Giovanni Trapattoni’s side in the play-off in Paris last year, earned France their World Cup spot.

Some felt he should have been suspended for last night’s Group A clash against Uruguay, but that would have deprived us of the tremendous irony when excellent Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura turned down his penalty appeal for a handball in the box.

Bet you Trap and his boys would have enjoyed that.

I know Henry has had a difficult season at Barcelona and certainly his powers, at their height when he was at Arsenal, have decreased in recent times, but if he can’t get in the starting line-up of the current French side, his form really must have gone to the dogs.

Then again, maybe the team selection says more about the bizarre decision making of eccentric boss Raymond Domenech.

Henry wasn’t the only big name omission from the French starting line-up with Florent Malouda, Chelsea’s best player in the last three months of their double winning season, also left out.

Every day stories of in-fighting emerge from the French camp with Malouda apparently the latest in a long line of players fuming with Domenech. It’s clearly not helping their cause.

Franck Ribery and Nicolas Anelka were largely anonymous and even when Henry and Malouda came on they offered precious little.

In the last 10 minutes they had the opportunity to go for the throat, when Uruguay’s Nicolas Lodeiro became the first player in the tournament to be red carded, but failed abysmally.

For most of the game Uruguay, boasting a much vaunted attack of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, were extremely disappointing.

They were the first winners of the World Cup back in 1930 and lifted it again 20 years later.

Put it this way, there is more chance of Gerry Adams cheering on England than there is of these South Americans making it a hat-trick in 2010.

Group A is wide open now. Hopefully the South Africans will make the knockout stages. If I didn’t see France and Uruguay again it wouldn’t bother me.

It’s saying something when the best man on the pitch turned out to be the referee!

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