Blighted by problems in the striking department prior to their World Cup qualifier in Lithuania on Saturday, France will once again be forced to look to the in-form Thierry Henry for inspiration.
Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka was forced out of the squad with a toe injury on Monday and his departure leaves the 109-cap Barcelona forward as the only senior striker in Raymond Domenech’s squad.
Anelka was replaced by Paris St-Germain’s uncapped frontman Guillaume Hoarau, who joins fellow novice Andre Pierre Gignac of Toulouse in a pool of forwards that makes 20-cap, 20-year-old Lyon striker Karim Benzema look like a veteran.
Domenech has yet to reveal his tactics for the Lithuania clash, but that Henry will play a pivotal role is a certainty.
“I have lots of ideas, I have lots of options,” Domenech said on Tuesday.
“If there are no more problems, it will be a system with one striker and three attacking midfielders behind, or two strikers.
“But with ‘Titi’ (Henry), we can use him anywhere, except as a right wing, where even he doesn’t feel comfortable.”
France’s all-time leading scorer with 48 goals, Henry has frequently proved his country’s saviour and his experience will be crucial against European qualifying group seven joint-leaders Lithuania, who France trail by five points.
But it is not just his track record that makes him indispensable. Out of all France’s strikers (Henry, Gignac, Hoarau, Benzema and Rennes’s Jimmy Briand), the former Arsenal man is the only one currently playing at the top of his game at the highest level.
After a difficult first season in Catalonia, Henry has finally rediscovered the path to goal.
He notched three times as Barcelona disposed of Lyon over two legs in the last 16 of the Champions League and he has racked up 15 strikes in the league as Barca have soared to the La Liga summit.
His form is in stark contrast to that of the feted Benzema, who has not scored in the league since February 21 and who has yet to really convince in a France jersey.
“We can’t say that we are at our best at the moment, except for ‘Titi’, who is sensational,” said Domenech, who must also contend with an injury concern surrounding Gignac.
With Hoarau and Briand too untested for a match of such importance, all roads, for France, appear once again to lead to Henry.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!