Evra defends teammate Henry
Former team-mates also have their say
Last Updated: 21/11/09 3:42pm
Manchester United full-back Patrice Evra has defended France team-mate Thierry Henry amid his handball controversy.
Henry admitted handling the ball in the build-up to William Gallas' equalising goal which sent France through in their World Cup play-off with the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday night.
The goal has been the talk of European football this week, with suggestions of a replay being rebuffed by both Fifa and the French Football Federation.
Despite qualification, the French side have been heavily criticised in their national press for the manner of their progression, with Henry at the forefront of the accusations.
Left-back Evra feels the criticism of Henry is harsh, and insists the Barcelona striker should be praised for helping his team reach South Africa.
"That is madness," Evra told French sports newspaper L'Equipe.
"I have one question to the people doing the talking - are you really proud to be French? We started controversy over Henry, but we should raise him a statue.
"I have no problem with the foreign press destroying Henry, but doing it in France, that is impossible.
"If Titi (Henry) would have asked to cancel the goal admitting his handball to the referee and we went on to lose, the same people would have talked about his ego, they would say 'he only thought of himself and his image'.
He added: "Frankly, if he had done that I would have told him 'you betrayed us'.
"I came back to Manchester and the Irish players themselves told me during the first leg the referee should have given us a penalty, due to a foul on me.
"But people forget about that. In football, there are always injustices."
Former Arsenal and France team-mate Patrick Vieira has also leapt to the defence of Henry, citing the referee as the villain for not spotting the incident.
"Frankly, to put Thierry under trial is scandalous. The referee didn't see the handball, that's all," Vieira said in L'Equipe.
"We can understand the Irishmen are disgusted, but it is not the first or the last time we can see refereeing mistakes in football.
He added: "Video assistance or a fifth referee could be solutions."
Amid the hype surrounding the controversy, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger preferred to highlight the performances of his former player Nicolas Anelka over the two legs.
The striker is enjoying the best spell of his career for both club and country and can expect to feature in his first World Cup finals next summer, and Wenger is not surprised by his resurgence.
Wenger told L'Equipe: "Talent always survives. Nico is now popular. What has changed the most is the fact that people look at him in a new light. He has also made concessions.
"He seems to feel good about himself. He has reached maturity, the age when players are happy."
Wengers views were echoed by Anelka's former Arsenal teammate Emmanuel Petit: "His antisocial image could have been heavy on him, but Nicolas has that amazing ability to never doubt.
"Manchester City, Turkey, Bolton - it was like he needed to spend time in the wilderness before joining Chelsea, a club that matches his dimension.
"That will allow him to finish with a flourish in his career as he makes up for lost time."