PARIS: France striker Thierry Henry said his two-goal performance for France against Malta on Saturday was partly thanks to being given some bench rest by his club Arsenal.
Henry produced a superb performance in the 6-0 thrashing of the Mediterranean island side and put it down to feeling fresh. He was left on the bench in Arsenal's 3-1 victory at Chelsea in an FA Cup quarter-final replay last Tuesday.
“I had fresh legs because I didn't play from the start on Tuesday,” Henry said. “And therefore I was not tired when I arrived at Clairefontaine (training camp).
“I was able to train normally with the other players from the first day of our preparation.
“If I had played for the whole match (against Chelsea) I would have been out of my stride. As I was spared I was able to prepare myself.”
Apart from scoring twice Henry set up another for Juventus striker David Trezeguet as France romped to their fourth consecutive victory in their Euro 2004 qualifying campaign.
The French players have often complained about the lack of time to prepare for international matches and they raised the issue after the 2-0 defeat by the Czech Republic in a Paris friendly last month.
“When you are involved in a tough game with your club on the Sunday, you can't expect to produce a great performance the next Wednesday,” Henry said.
Henry's Arsenal team mate Robert Pires, who missed the World Cup with a knee injury, had to pull out of France's clash with Malta, and Wednesday's trip to Palermo to play Israel, after he sustained an ankle injury at Chelsea.
Another Arsenal player Patrick Vieira, who was considered as a possible captain, said he was exhausted and asked for rest.
Coach Jacques Santini decided to spare him against Malta, although he could be back against Israel.
“If Patrick is feeling better we would like to have him back into the team against Israel as we can expect a stronger challenge on Wednesday,” Santini said. – Reuters