Exclusive | William Gallas on Thierry Henry’s handball, France’s centre-back conundrum and the difference between a Classique and a North London derby

Get French Football News recently had the chance to put questions to former France international William Gallas. We talked about France’s defensive talents and derby days – but first, we asked about that goal…

Everyone forgets that it was actually you who scored the goal against Ireland after Thierry Henry’s handball. Were you aware of what had happened at the time? With hindsight, do you think anything could or should have been handled differently?

I knew it when I went back to the dressing room at the end of the game. On the pitch, I didn’t know it was a handball, so when I was in the box, I scored the goal. It was very important that we qualified for South Africa, playing the match in France. To play at the World Cup was so important in my career, and I was so excited on the pitch. When we went back to the dressing room, we were celebrating and that was when we heard that the referee didn’t see the handball.

It was the referee’s mistake, and that’s why we’re seeing more technology in football, and normally it would now have been VAR looking at that situation. As a fan, when you are watching some games, you can be frustrated because referees are making mistakes and not using the technology when it’s needed.

Who do you rate most highly amongst France’s current young centre-backs?

France have so many talented young centre-backs. It’s always the same question, though, and that is which one is going to be consistent? Which ones are going to be the starters?

Unfortunately, it’s difficult for William Saliba to be in the starting XI because you have Ibrahima Konaté from Liverpool and Dayot Upamecano from Bayern, and sometimes Saliba can be magnificent, but sometimes he can be a disaster as he’s not consistent.

That’s why it’s a big problem for Didier Deschamps to know exactly who is going to be the number one, or the partnership at centre-back! For every other country, Saliba would probably walk into the XI with ease, but with France, it’s different and that is very tough for him – especially as they have been so successful in recent years. We have some great young centre-backs in the French team, that’s for sure.

Compare the atmosphere playing in a North London derby as opposed to a Classique between PSG and Marseille.

How do I compare the atmospheres in the north London derby to PSG vs Marseille? To be honest, both of them are crazy. I don’t know how to explain it, they are very different, but both of them are just: Wow. When I was at Marseille, their fans were really, really crazy. The football fans are crazy about their club and when they play PSG, they are talking about it for weeks before.

All the fans just speak about that game and that game only, but the problem is that in France, Marseille are not on the same level as PSG. When I was playing, that was different, the difference between the two teams was much smaller. But for Marseille vs PSG,  OM fans know that they will lose against PSG most of the time. That’s why when Arsenal play against Tottenham, it’s a different level, most of the time you don’t know who is going to win.

William Gallas was answering GFFN’s questions on behalf of Gambling Zone

GFFN | Jeremy Smith

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