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France break Irish hearts to seal World Cup slot
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)