Euro 2016: France team have united country - Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry praises French unity
Portugal v France
Date: Sunday, 10 July Venue: Stade de France, Paris Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC Radio 5 live and text commentary online & on BBC Sport app

The France team have brought the nation together during Euro 2016 and restored a bond lost after the 2010 World Cup, says former striker Thierry Henry.

France finished bottom of their group in 2010 amidst a player revolt, but on Sunday they face Portugal in the final of their home European Championship.

"We have a team again," Henry told BBC Sport. "People can relate to them, everything is back on track.

"You can see that it is beyond football, beyond sport."

In South Africa in 2010, the players refused to train after Raymond Domenech, the manager at the time, threw striker Nicolas Anelka out of the squad for verbally abusing him.

"We had to reconnect, have that relationship again with the fans that was lost after 2010," added former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Henry. "That is back on track.

"Six years ago everyone was laughing at us. Now we need that cup at the end to show how far we have come."

You can see the happiness

In November, attacks in Paris left 130 dead, with several explosions taking place outside the Stade de France, where France will play Portugal in Sunday's final.

The explosions took place while France were playing a friendly match against Germany, who they beat 2-0 in Thursday's semi-final in Marseille.

"We were looking for a team again," said Henry.

"Situations like that [Paris attacks] bring people together. Everyone is behind the team, I didn't see that for a long time and it helps. We won games in the group stage very late, people didn't give up and were still pushing us forward and the team reacted to that.

"People can relate to that team. They are proud to be French. You touch a bit of the whole country. That's France. They are all proud to wear the shirt, sing the anthem, proud to have the flag. When you create that togetherness it's difficult to stop.

"Is it going to change everything? I don't know, but togetherness and happiness you can see at the moment.

"I am very proud because we needed it."

'The mentality is like in 1998'

The French team line up ahead of the 1998 World Cup final
France defeated Brazil 3-0 at the Stade de France in the 1998 World Cup final

Thierry Henry was in the France squad that won the 1998 World Cup on home soil and started the final in 2000 as the team won the European Championship in the Netherlands.

"The winning mentality is the same," said Henry, who won 123 caps between 1997 and 2010.

"Against Germany I was worried. I knew Germany would have the ball and we would have to defend well - but it didn't look like Germany would score, we were strong.

"There was a feeling that we weren't going to concede, that's what we had in 1998. In 2000 we were a team going forwards - more offensive - but in 1998 we were hard to beat, resilient. A plan, an identity that you could relate to, you can see that now.

"That's what fans want, a team that they can see themselves in. The same thing now, with 98. The different ethnicities in the team also."

Deschamps sets the tone for the team

France are coached by Didier Deschamps, who won 103 caps as a player and captained the side in both 1998 and 2000. A defensive midfielder, he was once described as a "water carrier" by compatriot Eric Cantona.

France celebrate winning the 2000 European Championship
Didier Deschamps was the captain of the team that won the European Championship 16 years ago

"When you have a guy who has won battles before as a leader, you are going to follow him, simple as that," said Henry.

Didier Deschamps battled adversity very young. He went to Juventus in 1998, he was one of the first of his generation to play abroad. Always he had to fight adversity. He wasn't the most skilful player, people were laughing at him - but he was always skilful up here. The biggest skill you can have is in your brain. He had that to a T.

"He was very clever on the field and off the field. Before Euro 2000 he was questioned. They said he shouldn't start but he won it. He had to prove why he should be there. You could see that he would be a coach when I played with him. He guided you. He always wins.

"He made some mistakes through the group stage - but he wasn't afraid to change at half-time, to leave players on the bench. He has a winning mentality. On top of everything, when he gives you the plan and it works, you follow that guy until you die. Hopefully we can then win the war.

"If you have a plan, a philosophy and a leader, you can be calm when things are going wrong. There is security in the group. It helps when you win."

Portugal can make the final ugly

Cristiano Ronaldo will captain Portugal in Sunday's final. Portugal scored late in extra time to defeat Croatia, knocked out Poland on penalties and beat Wales 2-0 during the knockout stages. Ronaldo opened scoring against Wales with a towering header.

"Portugal can make the game ugly. They know how to play like that.

"Wales did a good job against Ronaldo. He was nowhere to be seen - and then 1-0. It looked like he was getting annoyed, but how do you stop that?

"You know in the game he will have chances. Sometimes you have players who need to grow into the game, get the rhythm. Ronaldo can be anonymous, lose a lot of balls, but he still knows that he can score. He stays focused.

"I played with striker David Trezeguet, who was outstanding at that. He might not touch the ball all game but he could score a goal.

"We won the Euros in 1984 and 16 years later in 2000. Now it is 16 years later from then. We have a habit of winning tournaments at home. There is something about our culture.

"When we are at home and we want to do something together, with all the diversity we have we are hard to beat. There is definitely something happening. Now for the last hurdle: Ronaldo and Portugal."

France's players celebrate their semi-final win with their fans
Thierry Henry says France have rekindled a relationship with their fans that was lost after the 2010 World Cup

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