Domenech: France deserve to be at World Cup

CAPE TOWN - France deserve to be at the World Cup and are both determined and aggressive before kicking off their campaign against Uruguay, coach Raymond Domenech said on Thursday.

The former world champions, who have done nothing to suggest they could make an impact at the finals, owe their presence in South Africa to a controversial play-off win over Ireland featuring Thierry Henry's infamous handball.

FEATURE: Handball, Henry, hysteria & history

Domenech, however, firmly dismissed a suggestion France should not be here.

"We finished second in our group and won a play-off, just like Uruguay," the stubborn 58-year-old told a packed news conference at Cape Town's Green Point stadium, the venue for his side's Group A opener on Friday.

"There are 32 teams who have qualified and all deserve to be here," he added.

The silver-haired coach with the bushy eyebrows, who has been under fire since his side's Euro 2008 flop and will be replaced by Laurent Blanc after the World Cup, started a brief meeting with reporters by telling them he was hungry and in a hurry.

Asked how his players, who slumped to an embarrassing 1-0 defeat by China in their final warm-up game, felt before facing Uruguay and their danger man Diego Forlan, Domenech did not sound a bit worried.

"I feel they are determined, even a bit aggressive and very impatient," said the coach, under a cloud of fan and media doubt before a tournament at which he has everything to prove.

Domenech, maybe feeling he has little to lose with many observers predicting another early exit, has experimented during his side's three warm-up games, leaving the talismanic Henry on the bench and handing over the armband to Patrice Evra.

Left back Evra, sitting next to his coach at the pre-match news conference, also looked in a hurry to leave the room.

"We feel we have something to play for here," said the new France captain. "We're confident, we believe in ourselves and want to go all the way."

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