Switzerland relying on Arsenal pair to stop Henry in French test

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The Independent Football

Thierry Henry could find himself up against not one but two Arsenal centre-halves when France open their Group G programme against Switzerland here today. Already expecting to have Philippe Senderos paying close attention to him, Henry learnt last night that another of Arsène Wenger's young protégés, the 19-year-old Johann Djourou, will be drafted in unless Patrick Muller recovers fully from injury.

It would be a dramatic elevation for Djourou, who has a Swiss mother but, like club-mates Kolo Touré and Emmanuel Eboué, was born in Ivory Coast. Touré's absence at the African Nations' Cup in January offered him the opportunity to start three Premiership games and after impressing there, the strapping young defender was given a full international debut against Scotland in March.

He was particularly impressive in the recent 1-1 draw with Italy, and Switzerland's coach, Kobi Kuhn, would have no qualms about throwing him into today's game, in the belief that his pace and power would compensate for Muller's greater experience.

The amiable veteran Kuhn is under no great pressure in either this match or the tournament as a whole, for which qualification was regarded as a bonus along the way to jointly hosting Euro 2008.

It was achieved in the "group of draws" that also included the Republic of Ireland, but holding France twice, 0-0 and 1-1, has convinced the thousands of Swiss supporters crossing the border that their team can do the same again, capitalising on the unconvincing form that has afflicted the 1998 world champions.

Defending that title four years ago, the French squad famously failed to score a goal, let alone garner a point. "We were simply exhausted," Henry said of that embarrassment. This time, like England, they have to prove they are in better shape.

Raymond Domenech freshened his ageing squad by summoning Wigan's right-back Pascal Chimbonda and Franck Ribery, the gifted Marseilles playmaker who could be given a chance if the plan is to bolster midfield rather than provide Henry with a second striker.

David Trezeguet, of Juventus, and Manchester United's Louis Saha will be in contention, though Henry has shown he is perfectly capable of leading from the front on his own, with Sylvain Wiltord lying deeper on the right flank. With temperatures remaining high in southern Germany, the old legs of Claude Makelele (33), Zinedine Zidane (34 this month) and Patrick Vieira (30 on the same day) might be better served by having Ribery to do their running now that Liverpool's Djibril Cissé is out with a broken leg.

Vieira had a poor second half of the season with Juventus and even Zidane now has his detractors.

Results improved in France's friendlies, which brought victories over Mexico, Denmark and China, after the shock of a home defeat by Slovakia in March. But it was significant that Domenech chopped and changed his striking options each time while keeping the rest of the side intact.

Last night he rounded on sections of the French media for allegedly spying on a closed training session, after reports appeared suggesting that Ribery and Wiltord would both start against the Swiss.

"Spying like that when we are trying to do our work is not good," he said. "It would be normal if the Swiss did that but for our own media to do it, I have to say that I find that a pity."

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