Boumsong concerns over Henry PT

BY foxsports • March 1, 2010

France defender Jean-Alain Boumsong fears Thierry Henry's lack of playing time at Barcelona could hurt the French team's chances at the World Cup.

Less than four months before the World Cup starts, the France captain has lost his regular starting spot in Pep Guardiola's team this season.

Henry, France's all-time leading scorer with 51 goals in 117 internationals, has played only 113 minutes in the past six matches in all competitions. He stayed on the bench on Saturday during Barcelona's 2-1 win over Malaga in the Spanish league.

"If in the two coming months, he only plays one game a month, he will be short of match fitness," Boumsong said Monday, two days before France takes on European champion Spain in a friendly.

"It will be a problem if he doesn't play more in the next six weeks. When you don't play for a long period before a competition, it's always a handicap. He will have to work more at training to find his rhythm."

France qualified for the June 11-July 11 tournament in South Africa following a playoff win over Ireland last year steeped in controversy because of Henry.

France went through 2-1 on aggregate after drawing 1-1 at Stade de France thanks to Henry's handball in the buildup to William Gallas' equalizer, and coach Raymond Domenech has indicated he will keep faith in the striker.

"When a player doesn't play for three or four months, it's certainly a problem," Domenech said Sunday on French TV. "But when a player misses two or three matches because his team is rotating players, that is absolutely not the same thing."

The 30-year-old Boumsong, a member of France's squad that reached the 2006 World Cup final but who didn't play in any game of the tournament, said Henry's experience will help him overcome any lack of playing time - as will the demands of his position.

"Don't forget, he is a forward - so things are different," Boumsong said. "And on the other hand, it is also important not to play every three days before the World Cup to keep some freshness. It's almost recommended to play only a match a week."

Boumsong, who started his international career seven years ago but hasn't played for France since last June, thinks a string of good performances with Lyon - including a 1-0 win over Real Madrid in the Champions League last month - helped earn a recall.

"It gave me some credit," he said. "I'm really happy to be back here and if I can be part of the 23-man World Cup squad, I will be delighted. As long as I can feel that I'm useful to the team, I'm happy. If I can add my experience to the squad, it's fine with me."

Boumsong knows this is his last chance to impress at a World Cup, and is eager to make the most of any opportunity.

"Africa is the continent where I was born," Boumsong said, referring to his Cameroon birthplace. "My parents were born there, too. This will be the first World Cup to be staged in Africa, and probably my last one."

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