France-Uruguay Preview

France-Uruguay Preview

Published Jun. 11, 2010 1:07 a.m. ET

Thierry Henry's feet helped France reach the World Cup final four years ago. His hand is the main reason Les Bleus are in South Africa.

France begins its quest for a second World Cup title when it faces Uruguay in Cape Town on Friday.

Henry helped France win the 1998 World Cup as host, scoring three goals. He added another three in 2006 and was named to the tournament's All-Star team as France fell to Italy in the final on penalties.

While Henry is the national team's all-time leader with 51 goals in 121 games, it was his hand that earned France a fourth consecutive World Cup appearance.


A clear handball allowed Henry to keep control of a pass before delivering a cross to William Gallas, who scored the winner in extra time of a 2-1 aggregate victory over Ireland in the qualifying playoffs in November.

FIFA rejected Ireland's demands to replay the game due to the missed call.

The controversy only intensified the scrutiny on France, as it struggled through qualifying with a 6-1-3 record to finish second to Serbia in a seemingly favorable group. That came after the team exited the 2008 European Championship early, going 0-2-1 with one goal.

"I won't say we're used to it, but we haven't had it easy for two years," forward Sidney Govou said. "We're getting criticized quite a lot and it's not easy, so we try and gain strength from within the squad."

Coach Raymond Domenech changed the team's formation from a defensive 4-2-3-1 to a more attacking 4-3-3. The change produced a 2-1 win over Costa Rica two weeks ago before a 1-all draw with Tunisia and a 1-0 defeat to China last Friday.

"We have problems in a collective sense, (problems) playing collectively all the time," Govou said.

France, which is in Group A with Mexico and South Africa, may have problems scoring with Henry expected to be a reserve due to fitness concerns. The next highest scorer for France is forward Nicolas Anelka, who has 14 goals in 67 games.

Uruguay forward Diego Forlan isn't putting much stock in France's recent performances.

"I look at the friendly games just to analyze how they were playing," Forlan said. "It was a friendly match and the result doesn't count. The World Cup is another competition and they will not play the same."

Forlan is a big reason Uruguay shouldn't have any problems scoring as it tries to reach the knockout phase for the first time since 1990. Forlan and four teammates accounted for seven goals as Uruguay won its last two friendlies.

He's scored 56 goals for Spain's Atletico Madrid over the last two seasons and is expected to start up top with Luis Suarez, the Dutch Eredivisie's leading scorer with 35 goals for Ajax this season.

These teams last met in the World Cup in 2002, playing to a scoreless draw as both were eliminated in the group stage.