Fri, Jun 13, 2008 - Page 24 News List

Domenech mulls changes ahead of Netherlands clash


Raymond Domenech is a man for whom the expression “likes to play his cards close to his chest” was made.

A straightforward question will often illicit a reply that is an answer in name only.

A typical example was his handling of the inquiry before Monday’s Euro 2008 opener with Romania concerning the availability, after a minor injury, of star striker Thierry Henry.

Journalist: “Raymond, will Thierry play in Zurich?”

Domenech: “He might, or he might not.”

Mmmm, thanks a lot, that clears things up nicely.

On Wednesday, however, he lifted his habitual guard with the media, even it seems surprising himself with his frankness, when divulging that he could make as many as four changes to the side that must confront free-scoring Group C leaders the Netherlands in Berne today.

“For once, I will be honest and tell you that I’m hesitating over four positions,” Domenech said.

That inevitably raised a follow up inquiry — namely “is Patrick Vieira in your calculations?”

But by then, the guard was back in place and he playfully scolded the journalist, telling him: “Now you’re going too far.”

Both captain Vieira and Henry saw out Tuesday’s 45 minute game against a local side without mishap, Henry making four decent passes and scoring a goal.

A fully fit Barcelona forward could only be a benefit against the Dutch after Nicolas Anelka and the inexperienced Karim Benzema failed to cut the mustard in the goalless draw against the Romanians.

There’s been a lot of talk around the French camp about whether Domenech will give the in-form Manchester United defender Patrice Evra a chance in place of Eric Abidal.

Whilst acknowledging that some of the reserves may be playing better than the first 11, he stressed that he was reluctant to tinker with a defense that has not leaked a goal in 320 minutes of play.

“It’s especially important to have stability in defense. I rarely make changes there,” Domenench said. “One could consider that in certain positions we have reserve players who, individually, are stronger. But I’ll make the decision I think will strengthen the team collectively.”

On Henry and Vieira’s fitness he was far from forthcoming, only saying: “It’s getting better.”

His biggest headache though remains the goal drought.

“It’s not enough just to play well. Efficiency is the key and we’re having difficulty in this respect,” he said. “We’ve been playing good football, creating chances, but not finishing the moves off. But we have to believe the goals will come .... Our aim is to remain solid, but be able to score at any moment.”

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