France's Henry: Play the Team, Not the Legend

HAMELN, Germany (AP) - Stop to think about the quality of Brazil's players — its record five World Cup titles, or its two Golden Ball winners — French striker Thierry Henry says, and already you have lost the match.

"If you go on the pitch with that on your mind, then there is no reason to go on the pitch," Henry said.

Henry says Les Bleus will not be thinking about Brazil's achievements in Saturday's World Cup quarterfinal. "We are going to go there with the right spirit," he said Thursday.

France will be a decided underdog in Frankfurt when it goes up against former three-time FIFA Player of the Year Ronaldo, also a former Golden Ball winner, and the reigning two-time FIFA winner Ronaldinho, the current Golden Ball holder.

However, France has won two of three World Cup meetings with Brazil - a 3-0 victory in the 1998 final, and in a penalty shootout in the 1986 quarterfinals when Luis Fernandez converted France's winner after Michel Platini shot over the crossbar.

"I know they respect us, and we respect them," Henry said. "When you are playing Brazil ... you know they have five stars on their shirt. They always reach the final."

However, Henry is fine with France's outsider tag.

"It's never easy when everybody is waiting for you," the Arsenal striker said. "It's the same task as when we played Spain ... A lot people thought we were going to lose. If you want to win, you have to win against them (Brazil). That's the way it is."

Henry has two goals so far, adding to the three he scored in 1998 when he appeared in every match except the final. That gives him a share of France's World Cup record with Platini, and second-most for Les Bleus overall, six behind Platini.

Aside from 1958, when Just Fontaine set a World Cup record with 13 goals in one tournament, France has struggled for a consistent scorer - a problem magnified in 2002 when it exited the tournament in the first round without scoring a single goal. Other than Fontaine, only Henry and midfielder Alain Giresse in 1982 have managed to score three goals during a World Cup for France.

Henry, regularly caught offside in Tuesday's 3-1 win against Spain, feels the team still needs to play more to his strengths, as at Arsenal.

"If we play a little bit quicker, I would have had some better opportunities against Spain," Henry said.

France playmaker Zinedine Zidane often slows play when Henry likes to make an early run. In their 60 matches together, Zidane has not assisted on one of Henry's goals.

Against Spain, the contrasting styles led to Henry being caught offside.

Brazil's tendency to push forward almost ceaselessly sometimes leaves defensive gaps, and could play to Henry's strengths by giving him pace.

"It's sure that when you attack like that, when you go forward, sometimes teams can exploit that," Henry said.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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