France break Irish hearts to seal World Cup slot

November 18, 2009

France ensured the likes of Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Thierry Henry will be at the World Cup in South Africa next year after winning through with a goal that has left Irish fans seething.

There was nothing wrong with the finish from William Gallas, but Thierry Henry admitted using his hand to keep the ball in play and commentators and Irish supporters are already talking of “The Hand of God II” and “The Hand of Henry” in reference to Diego Maradona in 1986.

“Yes, there is handball but I am not the referee,” Henry told reporters. “I’m in the box, there are two defenders in front of me. The ball bounced off my hand, the referee did not see it and I played on.”

Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni called the goal a “great mistake” by Swedish referee Martin Hansson but he chose not to accuse Henry of cheating.

“I told the referee that it is possible to make great mistakes,” Trapattoni told a new conference after the game at Stade de France. “It is a bitter evening.”

Trapattoni said he felt the referee should have talked to his assistants and to Henry before awarding the goal.

“I am sad because the referee had time to ask the linesman and I am sure he should have asked Henry as well,” the Italian said.

The result, 1-1 on the night, gave France a 2-1 aggregate win and saw them join Portugal, Greece and Slovenia as the successful sides on the final night of European qualifying.

So Ribery and the rest will join Cristiano Ronaldo and Deco at the finals, after Portugal booked their place with a more convincing performance away to Bosnia.

Joining the list of big name players to miss out are Andriy Shevchenko, after Ukraine were denied by Greece, and Andrei Arshavin, following Russia’s elimination against Slovenia.

With Algeria winning through 1-0 against Egypt in Sudan, 31 of the 32 places have been decided, with Uruguay v Costa Rica to decide the one remaining issue.

France wining through against Ireland was by no means a shock but the manner of their victory will be painful to take for a team that played out of their skins in the French capital.

(Post updated with quotes)


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

It was a blatant handball. Can’t believe it was given. Unbelievable.

Posted by danny ballboy | Report as abusive

Pasting this across from Bob on the other World CUp blog: “Football has shown itself to be pointless – it’s not the best team that wins, its the team that gets away with cheating”. You can see it here: decision_day

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Very very upsetting to be beaten by a blatant cheat..not only was the ball handled but two French players were offside prior to the goal. Superb effort by a ‘never-say-die’ Irish team. Very proud of them and they should hold their heads up high. Go raibh maith agat.

Posted by Ashley Birdthistle | Report as abusive

The Irish were robbed, first with the seeding of the playoffs at the last minute. Then with Henry cheating!!! Platini, Henry and the French nation should be proud when they take their place in South Africa.Congratulations!!!

Posted by Pat Comiskey | Report as abusive

Thierry Henry will feel guilty about that tonight. Its so cruel after the Irish played with all their hearts and souls tonight. So cruel.

Posted by ollie | Report as abusive

After firstly being deprived of an open draw by FIFA for these play-offs, it was bitter pill to swallow to lose in such fashion. The handball definitely played a significant part in the goal. And I suspect Henry knew what he was doing since he has been around a long time.

Posted by darren | Report as abusive

Why can’t you tell it as it is? Henry cheated. Period. Why phrase it as you do? This article is a cop-out.

Posted by bert | Report as abusive

why are we always told to play fair. our coaches always tell us, play the game fair. i not playing fair any more, if fifa can cheat, then why should we not cheat. fifa cheat to suit themselves and tell us not to so as they can win. from now on i doing what ever it takes to win, until i caught. hope they ban him like edwardo was for trying to win by cheating, but they wont cause it will show them up for qualifying by cheating..from u-13 very annoyed boy

Posted by u-13 boy | Report as abusive

Still struggling to believe this. It is the most cruel of World Cup exits ever.

Posted by vava | Report as abusive

Typical cheating French. The only way to get to the World Cup was to cheat a tiny country. Boy, I bet they’re proud.

Posted by Jeff | Report as abusive

reality is henry cheats to get a goal harsh as hell on ireland, but any one person is his shoes would do the same, if it was me and i needed to do that to get my country to the world cup i would if it happened like that, he hasnt planned it, hes tryed his luck and the ref missed it, we need video refs or everybody has to stop moaning because its just boring week after week people moaning about cheating!

Posted by nevillebartos | Report as abusive

FIFA is on trial now…Paris is the home of FIFA…a French player has admitted to cheating…where are the officials comments…Henry needs to be banned for 1 year or we have a do-over as the game and the world cup itself becomes meaningless…France has disgraced themselves if they don’t fix what FIFA won’t…formal apologies to Ireland by government and!

Posted by Sean | Report as abusive

I’m stunned the goal was allowed, to say the least.Anyhow, Uruguay have made it to South Africa after winning 2-1 on aggregate against Costa Rica. It’s 1-1 in the second-leg.

Posted by diana | Report as abusive

Nicolas sarkozy, micheal platini, napolean, jaques chirac, louis pasture can you hear me…. your boys are a bunch of cheating B*******!!Now the dust has settled, Fifa and Uefa must be pretty pleased with themselves, the seeding worked in 75% of the games and most of the poster boys will be on show in south africa.Henry looked pretty pleased with himself when he ran off celebrating that “goal” dispite that fact he knew he had cheated, even after the game he refused to accept it was deliberate, no class in the man at all.I am really getting disillusioned with alot of aspects of football.Our boys showed at showed

Posted by Ollie, Belfast | Report as abusive

To the French nation: You should be ashamed of your national football team. Henry, Anelka will forever be remembered for their dishonesty and lack of integrity: The French are thieves who stole an Irish dream. I will forever look upon the French with disgust an distant: I wish the French Football Federation, team and supporters bad luck for World Cup 2010. Your day will come. Barry Ireland.

Posted by Barry | Report as abusive

It’s a shame that things like this happen when there is an obvious evidence that Henry cheated. I think, as nowadays there is so much money involved, we should go the same way as the Americans, when having the Superbowl. Each coach has three time the possibility to demand a video-review by the referee.However it is always the same, that the “better” team and not the underdog has to win. Just remember the world cup 2006 in Germany, when Italy won against Australia, because of a goal scored in the last seconds. Also this was a controversy decision by the referee, but again the “better” team won.We can’t change it anymore. Let’s just look forward to south africa and support every team playing against the french. Their participation is not rightful !!!

Posted by Moritz | Report as abusive

As an Irish supporter I am sad this morning. We will not be at the Worl Cup, the French will. I will not repeat what has been said previously but I will tell you about something that happenened after the match. I came across two young Irish Boys after match, both very upset. I asked if they were so upset at not qualifying. One said to me I am sad at not qualifying but I am upset at Henry. He was my footballing hero and I have his posters on my wall at home, I can’t believe that he would do such a thing! What do you say to to these children, any ideas Henry?!

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

What sort of message does this send to the world of football? With no action from FIFA, the stain from the Ireland/France game will remain forever and the sport will become just a money sport with no legitmacy. The French Sports Minister needs to stand up and honour his position – call for a rematch or resign from the 2010 World Cup, not surrender his post as so many Frenchmen have done before him.

Posted by Colm | Report as abusive

I am utterly disgusted with last nights result! Ireland played one of there best games ever just to be undone by terrible refereeing. Hang your head in shame thierry you’ve done football no favours!

Posted by rory | Report as abusive

its quite unfortunate that FIFA has continue to reject video replay like its been done in tennis, unless it is introduce, cheating will continue to exist in our football. Thienry “hand of god” is no surprise and no big deal, more cheatings are still coming.

Posted by olayinka | Report as abusive

Why on earth can could FIFA not impose a ban on Henry.True sportmanship such as I would demnad from my 15 year old woudl require Henry to walk up ot the referee and admit what happened. Of course that is too much to ask of professionals. Talk about bringing the game into disrepute.

Posted by charlie | Report as abusive

David Ginola on CNN just stated that “of course Henry is not at fault, he should do what he can get away with” . Unbelievable position for any “sportsman” to take. Fair play is what you can get away with !!!!!! I am not an Irish supporter but I now really want to cancel by Fifa 2010 tickets.

Posted by charlie | Report as abusive

All I can say is congratulations to michel platini as I am sure that he had a HUGE part to play in the seeding plan that came to save his over-rated nation (full of non-french nationals) from their own blushes at home, its just such a shame that he is going to be at the helm of Uefa for some time to come. From an england fans point of view I feel bad for ireland and wish them every success in the future as they were truly cheated out of south africa 2010. Shame.

Posted by maid | Report as abusive

So painfull!!! So unfair !!! I feel extremely sorry for the Irish, they deserved it more than anyone ever.How come, that substitutes have seen the hand from the bench and 3 referees haven’t? Shame on Blatter, shame on Platini, but mostly SHAME on HENRY !!!I have allways hated Henry for his attitude. It could have changed, if he had found the courage to confess to the referee. It could have changed football itself, it could have been an example to be followed by many players for the years to come. It could have been a PRECEDENCE. He could have gone down in history as a HERO. If he had confessed, the game wouldn’t have been lost, it was still a draw, heading for the shootout.Now, Henry will go down in history as an example of everything I hate about football, and he takes the entire French football with him.Shame on France !!!! Shame on Henry!!!

Posted by Miroslav | Report as abusive

Shame on FIFA – they got most of what they wanted but the lengths they had to go to… When we remove the level playing field and take out the fairness of an equal chance for every country to qualify you bring the game into disrepute. They panicked when potentially France, Portugal, Greece, Germany… may not be in South Africa and so introduced a rigged ‘seeding’ draw. Following that I have no doubt that officials were instructed to ensure France went through last night. When people 60+ meters from the hand ball incident could see it why could three trained officials not? Unfortunately for FIFA the officials in Slovenia couldn’t manage the same feat. Reinforces my strong conviction that soccer is all fixed/rigged. If the governing body cheats why will people bother with it in the long run?????

Posted by ko | Report as abusive

its terrible, this is one of the reasons why video replay evidence should be adopted like its been done in tennis.

Posted by olayinka | Report as abusive

What if Ireland had the same opportunity? how would we talk about it now?Henry is not to be blamed for what any soccer player instinct he had on the moment, i believe any soccer player would have chanced it too!and what about the penalty that should have been awarded?france has nothing to do with this , nor Henry!referees surely.

Posted by Georgio | Report as abusive

Hello everybody,As a french I am not happy the way France qualified and I would have preffered they loose.But reading those comments make me change my mind.Barry “will forever look upon the French with disgust an distant” ok and ?Do you really think we care ?

Posted by Franck | Report as abusive

Most Irish people don’t hold the French people accountable, like some of the earlier posts seem to suggest. Our gripe is with fifa authorities. It was a massive decision and it was the wrong decision. It’s sickening. I’ve been heartened by French people’s general reaction, they are honest in their appraisal of the game and say Ireland deserved at least a fair chance to qualify. There is anger though and at the moment a lot of it is directed the wrong way. Don’t blame the French, don’t even blame Henry (it’s not his job to tell the ref he handled it). Vent your spleen at fifa ’t make the slightest difference but at least the anger is pointed in the right direction.

Posted by Ed | Report as abusive

There are a lot of very interesting points here. I agree with the last one from Ed that it would be tough on Thierry Henry to direct all the anger and frustration at him. Certainly the first handball might easily have been unintentional and he might argue that even the second was a reflex action. And it’s hard to imagine any player in the circumstances running over to the ref and telling him not to give the goal.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Having said that, I can perfectly understand the feelings here. Every football fan has had to endure such injustices for their team at one stage or another but it hurts even more in a game with such high stakes.We are now running the story that the Irish FA are asking FIFA for a replay. I think that’s very unlikely to happen but I guess even making the request makes a point to FIFA and France. rticle/-/6494536/irish-fa-calls-france-p layoff-replayed

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Yo Barry do us a favour ! get some tea and chill the f** out!!

Posted by Ringo | Report as abusive

The only thing I want to remember from that embarrassing night is Trapattoni’s reaction. So graceful.

Posted by julien pretot | Report as abusive

This anti-Henry reaction is really over the top and ridiculous. Anyone who plays the game knows what he did was prely instinctive, first the ball hits the hand and then the tendency is to save the ball in that split second. Tv replays slow a split second things down by hundredths and everyone is talking about it like it was a calculated two-part assault. Players do it all over the pitch, even Keane handled the ball twice last night. Only difference is it resulted in a decisive goal. Let’s not be hypocrites. Deal with it, it happens – all the time!

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

Now that the dust has had time to settle it’s time for perspective.There’s no sense having a go at Henry, if it was Robbie Keane in that position he would not go to the referee to say he handled..That argument is nonsense. Thierry Henry is not a cheat..there are far worse culprits out there than him. He got away with it handling the ball but it’s the referee who missed it. As an Irishman I’m gutted but I don’t blame the French nation and you can’t blame FIFA either. Yes they wanted all their big nations at the tournament but they didn’t make Keane, Doyle, Duff etc miss golden chances. We didn’t go through because we didn’t score twice and they did. Had we scored 1 more it would have got us through on merit. And to the French fan who thinks Anelka should have got a penalty…he dived and should have been booked for cheating.

Posted by Ken | Report as abusive

I have read two many times people saying ‘what if’ – what if Ireland had the same chance…what if you had the same chance…and the worst: anyone would have done the same thing! Dishonest people would do the same – people who have no respect for the game would do the same thing – France going to the World Cup means little now as the cloud and the permanent mark of the beast will go with them – does anyone understand that or has the world purged itself of self respect and integrity.

Posted by Sean | Report as abusive


Posted by DAVID O’NEILL | Report as abusive

would we win a replay, was that a once in a lifetime preformance, could an irish team play as well as that again against the french. feel the sense of injustice, we were robbed, we will be the dark horses of the euros watch this space…………….

Posted by Alan Matthews | Report as abusive

Irish fans should take comfort that these things even out in the end. Hopefully it will not take too long for it to happen.Just a bit of history to prove the point: Argentina had this bitter episode that they called ‘the robbery of the century’ at the hands of the English team in 1966. Fast forward to 1986 and you get ‘the hand of god’. Payback!The history of the sport is full of injustices and the better team has not always won. There have been outcries of match fixing, referee bribing, vendettas, conspiracy theories. This is nothing new.One thing you can count on: football will take you to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and it will make you cry of joy, sadness, anger, despair. But the game moves on, and so should we.Cheers

Posted by Pico | Report as abusive

I like many football supporters last night watched the match, nothing unusual about that fact. The difference being that I watched the match in France, where I live with the French supporters and I’m English.When this incident happened with “Thierrygate” Henry keeping the ball in play during extra time the mood changed after they celebrated the to the realization that it was handball, to shock! They were happy that France won obviously, but as I discussed with the locals they agreed that this was very bad for the game as he must have known that there are so many cameras in the ground that it would have been picked up later. Would this have been different if it had happened to England instead of France, in the English pub?What is this telling our children. It’s hard enough coaching as it is without this happening. It will happen again until the TV replay system is brought into play. Rugby & cricket to mention two sports use it and football at the moment has a bizarre fact that my mum can watch a replay of the incident with seconds but the referee who makes the decision knows nothing about it.There was a quote saying “Don’t blame Henry”. Don’t make me laugh, who’s fault is it then?Both sets of fans, clubs, teams, players, management want the correct decisions at the end of the day so use the technology.http://jonnyontheball.blogspo

Posted by jonny on the ball | Report as abusive

To the French football supporters’France hang your head in shame …. Henry is a cheat who should now? get a life time ban. France can’t say they got to South Africa on Merit ‘ They got there with arrogant cheating!’ Anyone who says he did not mean it “SHOULD HAVE THERE EYES CHECKED”. Its not good enough for FIFA to preach Fair Play and not allow a rematch!!Regards John in Ireland

Posted by john farrrell | Report as abusive

Get a grip everyone!Keane, the Irish player handled the ball 3 TIMES, 3 TIMES during the game, nothing said!It happens in football. Ireland need to get over themselves.And if the goal didn’t count….the game would still just gone to a lottery on penalties — they lost NOTHING.Seriously, doesn’t Ireland have more problems like chronic unemployment (10%) and a city like Dublin city which has officially “the highest murder rate in Europe” to worry about, a lot more than this?Embarressing.

Posted by franky71 | Report as abusive

I came back to say sorry because the world recession is not an excuse for cheating been justified and if indeed Ireland is the murder Capital of Europe i hope to see you lot for the rugby match ..and you should boycott all French goods

Posted by frankly 72 | Report as abusive

I just want to hear what Platini comments on this, He as an UEFA president give lot’s of comments on Fair Play, how come now he is so quite. I am a French supporter but the way they win the game make me sick. Go Irish you deserve the win and you play better football than French.

Posted by Shen Jung Wong | Report as abusive

This business of saying that it is all part of the so called ‘beautiful’ game is pathetic. It was cheating finish and clar. Blatter and his FIFA cronies have every right to over turn the referee’s decision in this particular case as it was cheating for all the world to see. What example is FIFA’s decision to the children of the world? Now France will be going to South Africa as a bunch of cheats because FIFA did not have the common sense to instruct that the game be replayed in Paris.

Posted by Frank Hartry | Report as abusive

Fifa as a group are tarnished.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

I m frenchi m not proudit’s a shame for uswe don t support this sportsorry IRELANDin FRANCE the most of people regret the fifa decision

Posted by seb | Report as abusive

to be honest, i dont know what all the controversy is all about.even though it quite clearly hit his leg, even if henry handballed it, it was ball to hand and therefore the game should have continued.henry’s control and gallas’ anticipation of henry’s cross was brillaint

Posted by paddy | Report as abusive

I demand vengenceTed (Irish fan)

Posted by Gubu World | Report as abusive

“Seriously, doesn’t Ireland have more problems like chronic unemployment (10%) and a city like Dublin city which has officially “the highest murder rate in Europe” to worry about, a lot more than this?”Perhaps this maybe why the millions of euros that the FAI (Football Association of Ireland)has lost because of a faulty decision bothers them so much? More money into the economy to provide jobs, increased funds for sports to “get kids off the streets.”

Posted by Tjackson | Report as abusive

[…] Blame Henry for handball? Blame the unsighted referee? November 23, 2009 WineCape Leave a comment Go to comments Ireland’s World Cup play-off with France and its chances to reach South Africa 2010 is no more, courtesy of a handball (twice) before the ball entered the luckless Irish goals. (Reuters) […]

Posted by Blame Henry for handball? Blame the unsighted referee? « WineCape's Referee Blog | Report as abusive

Yes, it’s a shame, even I as a Premier League fan have to says I am sad to see the Irish beging kicked. It looks like the big bosses want The French National Team in the World Cup 2010 no matter what… I feel a bit for Henry though as I always liked him and if you look at what is going in the regular matches there are so many things that are not correct but are still tolerated

Posted by revasoccer | Report as abusive