Henry claims Domenech fall-out is 'vicious gossip'

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The Independent Football

Thierry Henry insists talk of a falling-out with Raymond Domenech is just "vicious gossip" and claims he still has confidence in the France coach.

The Barcelona striker scored the equaliser in France's 1-1 draw in Serbia last night that moved the hosts a step closer to automatic qualification for next year's World Cup.

It was a creditable point for the French, though, considering they had keeper Hugo Lloris sent off in the ninth minute.

It was certainly a better result than their 1-1 draw at home to Romania at the weekend, which was overshadowed by reports that emerged on Monday of a pre-match row involving Domenech and his players, led by Henry.

Le Parisien reported Domenech tried to spark a reaction from his players prior to the game by questioning their hunger and Henry was said to have responded on behalf of the squad by stating the players were uninspired by training sessions and the team had "no style, no guidance and no identity".

But, in an interview with L'equipe, he claimed reports of a bust-up were wide of the mark.

"It is annoying, for what came out is not the truth," he said. "What a pity for it was a constructive discussion.

"If the vicious gossip were true I don't think I would have been kept on as captain (for the Serbia game)."

Asked if he had confidence in Domenech, the former Arsenal man added: "Yes, I have said that, and it is also up to us to liven up.

"We did it well against Romania. You see that this team has a soul."

France certainly showed their spirit in Belgrade last night as Henry's effort after half an hour cancelled out Nenad Milijas' 13th-minute opener from the penalty spot.

Referee Roberto Rosetti awarded the penalty when Lloris felled Milan Jovanovic in the area and had no hesitation in handing the Lyon stopper his marching orders.

Henry said: "He (the referee) said to me that Hugo was the last man and had done it deliberately.

"Then I stopped discussing it and I said to the guys to stop thinking about it. Otherwise, you begin putting tackles in everywhere, anyhow, because you are annoyed.

"You often go into a spin when there is a sense of injustice. It was necessary to calm everyone down.

"I felt that we were fine. It was necessary to continue to play. We had a group of warriors."

Asked if he was surprised by how well France reacted to the sending-off, Henry said: "Not really. We were there to play our game. We succeeded in maintaining a lot of pressure, we were often in front of their goal. You had rather the impression that we could score and not them."

Yesterday's draw, though, still left Les Blues four points behind Serbia at the top of Group Seven with two games left to play.

With Serbia's remaining games coming at home to Romania and away to Lithuania, a play-off spot looks Les Bleus' best bet of making it to the World Cup.

But Henry is not worried by that prospect.

"Barring a catastrophic scenario for Serbia, we will be second," he said. "We played for first place, you saw that. We will go to the World Cup by going through what we have to go through.

"You have already seen Germany had to go through the play-offs in 2002 and reached the final. Spain needed the play-offs in 2006."