UPDATE: Ireland plead for World Cup slot as the 33rd team

November 30, 2009

Sepp Blatter revealed this morning that Ireland have appealed to FIFA to be allowed to compete as a 33rd team in next year’s World Cup.

“I will bring it to the attention of the Executive Committee,” Blatter told (stunned) journos. “I cannot confirm what will happen, but I will report it.”

I cannot confirm what will happen either, but I have a pretty good idea. In any case, aren’t the referees the 33rd team? Or if not, what about our idea here at Reuters Soccer Blog to put together a squad of players whose teams failed to make it.

We’d give Shay Given and Robbie Keane places…

Here’s Mike Collett’s view having heard Blatter speak in Johannesburg:

FIFA president Sepp Blatter greeted a delegation of very disgruntled Irishmen on Friday. FA of Ireland officials went to Zurich to have a little chat about the upcoming World Cup finals they will not be taking part in.

As the whole of the soccer world knows, Thierry Henry’s infamous handball in the build-up to France’s goal meant the French drew 1-1 with Ireland on the night and sealed a 2-1 aggregate playoff victory earlier this month. France in. Ireland out. Fair Play kicked into touch.

The Irish delegation came up with the intriguing notion of being admitted to the finals in South Africa as the 33rd team — and even more intriguingly, Blatter will put the idea forward to the FIFA Executive Committee when they meet in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The Irish, and everyone else, know full well that their audacious suggestion has no real hope of being accepted. For a start extra matches would have to be organised, one group would consist of five teams not four — but more importantly it would set a precedent that would leave the world of soccer in some considerable confusion.

But the Irish delegation also discussed some other issues with FIFA — including additional officials to help the referee, use of video technology for matches at the highest level and stronger punishments for cheats among them.

Not much good came out of Henry’s handball for the Irish — but something good might have come out of it for the game at large.

If FIFA does sanction extra officials for the World Cup to help the referee make the right call, if players think twice about their behaviour in the penalty area, the game can only benefit.

A UEFA experiment with additional officials has been conducted in the Europa League this season — if Henry’s handball and the efforts of the Irish delegation can persuade FIFA to now introduce the idea on a permanent basis, then the type of defeat Ireland suffered may become far rarer in the future.

That would be one small step for soccer, even though, unfortunately for the Irish, there will surely still only be 32 teams in South Arica next year.

PHOTO: FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrives at a news conference in Mexico City November 9, 2009. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar


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I am Irish and this is now getting quite embarrassing, our reputation for fair play is going down the drain to be replaced by a reputation for being sore losers.Let us just move on, justice will hopefully be served by France being kicked out in the early stages as they showed they are a fairly average team

Posted by Ian OFlynn | Report as abusive

Don’t laugh, it could happen. But I thought the ballboys were the 33rd team.

Posted by Jumbo | Report as abusive

The president of football’s world governing body Blatter said “that goal-line technology and extra referees would be considered for the South Africa finals”.At last, a little bit of common sense!http://jonnyontheball.blogspot.com  /

Posted by jonny on the ball | Report as abusive

Hi Ian. The FAI have released a statement clarifying their position, and it seems the request for 33rd team status was only part of a wider series of proposals. Here’s the statement:”A lot was discussed at the meeting and at one stage the FAI asked if Ireland could be accommodated into the World Cup 2010.”Other suggestions were also made to mitigate against further occurrences of such incidents, including the use of additional goal line assistant referees for FIFA international matches, further use of video technology for matches at the highest level, stronger provisions to discourage players from engaging in such blatant breaches of the Laws of the Game and provisions to strengthen referee selection for such important matches.”

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Spotted on twitter: From ScotFootBlog: Scotland should ask Fifa if they can be 34th team in the draw. Not our fault we had a rubbish manager after all.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Now that FIFA are laughing at us, and frankly I don’t blame them) I trust this entire ignominious affair can be brought to an end with the entire FAI board resigning????………. no I didn’t think so.Thank God for Rugby!

Posted by Frank McCaffrey | Report as abusive

Let’s get one thing straight. If the referee had seen the handball and the goal had been disallowed, Ireland still wouldnt be in the World Cup. The game would have gone to penalites and the French would have been favourites as they were at home.Before making ridiculous requests for an extra World Cup berth, Ireland should think about this fact for a moment. Dont lose away from home in a playoff if you think you deserve to be at the finals….

Posted by Boris | Report as abusive

Boris you ain’t got a clue do ya? To suggest France would have been favourites in the shootout is as unfounded as it is ridiculous. A shootout is a lottery, and if anything, the French would have had a lot more pressure on them in that shootout than Ireland.

Posted by Niall | Report as abusive

What a load of losers!Are they going to replay the match against Georgia, where they got a non-existent penalty?

Posted by African | Report as abusive


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becoming the 33rd team is a great idea! No team deservesit more than Ireland.

Posted by chris finlay | Report as abusive

good idea

Posted by book review | Report as abusive

As an Irish man i am becoming embarrassed by this, a plea to the FAI, please let it lie. And Bono, please shut up.

Posted by Ollie, Belfast | Report as abusive

Its a pity and a shame that referees and their assistants are not sanctioned for any error commited in the field of play. Thienry is not to be blamed cos its an instinct that makes him handled the ball. if the referee could not see the hand of henry what of the linesman? until FIFA adopts video replays, cheating will continue and controversial decisions wil continue to rear its ugly head. Tennis video replay is a good example for FIFA. Have u ever hear of controversial decisions in tennis?

Posted by olayinka | Report as abusive

Ollie, Bono will never shut up..

Posted by Melanie | Report as abusive

To be frank, even though I understand the upset Thierry’s hand ball caused to the Irish, their wish to be the 33rd team, is really laughable(even though Blatter should not have laughed out loud) and pathetic.Dress it with endless supply of sugar syrup if you will, still nothing really can change the fact that the Irish have gotton too big headed for their tiny, insignificant country. It is about time for them to learn how little they mean outside of their own country. Really.

Posted by European | Report as abusive

Niall up there who seems so sure that Ireland would have come out on top if they had gone into penalty shoot outs with France.Stop any 8 year old child in any street in any country in the world, and ask that precise question. The answer? Of course it’s multiple worldchampion France. They have not even heard of Ireland. Is that a country? They ask.

Posted by European | Report as abusive

Well if we can’t enter the tournament as the 33rd team we should ask him can we play the winner.

Posted by Donal | Report as abusive

You goofed, popularity does not play football the irish team are more tactical than france, they were simply unfortunate. few kids or even adult might not have heard of serbia, slovania, slovakia, yet they made it to the mundial.

Posted by olayinka | Report as abusive

its great to see that that some people think that 33 can be divided equally by 8….and i thought that the english state educational system had the prize for the best mathematicians in europe!!

Posted by neville watson | Report as abusive