JOHANNESBURG – He is the man responsible for The Hand of Fraud.
And now Thierry Henry finds himself embroiled in yet another controversy.
The French would not even be in this tournament had match officials done their job properly in a World Cup qualifying match against Ireland. Had they seen what everyone else in the stadium did – that France’s winning goal was set up by a Henry hand ball – the Irish could be here, not France.
Months later, the French will open up their South Africa 2010 schedule against Uruguay Friday. And head coach Raymond Domenech has hinted that Henry, France's all-time leading scorer with 51 goals, might not be in the starting lineup, a decision that reportedly has left the team in turmoil.
Not that this is a rare occurrence for the French, who finished as runners-up to Italy in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Consider the insinuations that came out of a recent World Cup tuneup against Costa Rica, which included suggestions that Nicolas Anelka would not pass to teammate Yoann Gourcuff, a potential replacement for Henry. Franck Ribery also was accused of doing the same thing.
Forward Florent Malouda said the team must find some unity, definitely a requirement if the French don’t want to implode.
“We have to create links between players, we can’t just think, ‘I’m not interested in what others do’,” Malouda told reporters.
“We are going to look ridiculous if, as we did at Euro 2008, each player stays in his comfort zone aiming only for good marks from the media to the detriment of the team.”
The French barely made it to South Africa 2010, severely underachieving en route to Johannesburg. While they have some good talent on the roster, this is a team that might implode at any moment.
URUGUAY vs. FRANCE
Friday, 2:30 p.m. (EST)
Greenpoint Stadium, Cape Town
ALL-TIME SERIES: Uruguay has two wins, one loss, two draws.
FREE KICKS: France stumbled its way into the tournament and best beware of a Uruguayan squad that had to be good to emerge as a representative of South America. While a Uruguay victory would be unexpected, it certainly would not be a shock.
OF NOTE: Will French striker Thierry Henry start the game on the bench?