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France star Henry to meet Sarkozy after World Cup exit

By the CNN Wire Staff
Thierry Henry, once France's main striker, was reduced to a minor role at the World Cup in South Africa.
Thierry Henry, once France's main striker, was reduced to a minor role at the World Cup in South Africa.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Thierry Henry to meet French president this week to discuss World Cup debacle
  • France crashed out at the first-round stage following defeat by host South Africa
  • Defeat came after falling-out between coach Raymond Domenech and his players
  • Henry, once France's star striker, was reduced to a minor role at the tournament

Paris, France (CNN) -- France footballer Thierry Henry will meet his country's President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday to explain the national team's behavior during the World Cup, Sarkozy's office said Wednesday.

The meeting, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. ET), is at Henry's request, Sarkozy's office said.

France was eliminated from the World Cup on Tuesday after a 2-1 loss to tournament host South Africa.

French media slams 'shameful' exit

It followed an apparent collapse in relations between coach Raymond Domenech and his players that saw captain Patrice Evra left out of the match and the team refusing to practice on Sunday.

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Henry, once France's main striker and a World Cup winner in 1998, was reduced to a minor role in this year's tournament as he started all three matches on the substitutes' bench.

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France, traditionally among the strongest national sides in world football and the losing finalist in Germany four years ago, become one of the first to be eliminated this time around.

Striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home after confronting Domenech at halftime during France's 2-0 defeat by Mexico last week.

Evra was then involved in a public training ground dispute with the squad's fitness coach on Sunday and is reported to have led dissent over Anelka's expulsion from the squad, with the entire squad boycotting the training session.

Adding to the confusion, French team director Jean-Louis Valentin then publicly announced his resignation to the media, while French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot has been in France attempting to mediate between Domenech and his players.

France's World Cup nightmare ends in defeat

But on Monday night Bachelot told journalists the French players had "tarnished the image of France," according to French sports newspaper L'Equipe.

In an indication of the extent to which relations had broken down between Domenech and his squad, the coach on Monday described this players' decision to strike as "unspeakably stupid," and called their actions "an aberration and an imbecility."

"Nobody can behave in such a way in the dressing room or elsewhere and high-level sportsmen and women have to lead by example through football," Domenech told reporters.

"We tried to convince the players that what was happening was irregular, that their actions were unspeakably stupid. I told myself this masquerade had to be stopped. No way would I back this action."

France's problems at the World Cup had exacerbated long-standing dissatisfaction with the controversial Domenech, who is due to step down as national coach after the tournament to make way for former World Cup-winning defender Laurent Blanc.

The French only qualified for South Africa by virtue of a tight playoff win over Ireland, sealed with the help of Henry's controversial handballed assist for William Gallas' goal.

Exit at the group stage in South Africa marks a second successive failure in the opening stages of a major tournament, with France having crashed out of Euro 2008 without winning a match.

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