'We got robbed': Irish demand replay with France

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/i/ireland-coach.jpg' class='caption'> Ireland appealed to France and football authorities to replay their World Cup playoff in Paris after a handball by Thierry Henry produced the winning goal.

Updated: November 20, 2009 16:54 IST
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Ireland appealed to France and football authorities on Thursday to replay their World Cup playoff in Paris after an obvious handball by Thierry Henry produced the winning goal.

Ireland's government and football association united in demands for Wednesday's 1-1 draw in France to be replayed, but Irish coach Giovanni Trapattoni dismissed the prospect as "impossible."

In extra time, Henry twice handled the ball to prevent it going out of play, then passed to William Gallas in the Irish box for the deciding goal.

France advanced to next year's World Cup finals in South Africa with a 2-1 aggregate score. At the time of Henry's unpunished handball, the match was 17 minutes from reaching a penalty shootout.

"If that result remains, it reinforces the view that if you cheat you will win," said Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern - who also pointed out that two French players appeared to be offside from a free kick that preceded the goal.

"Millions of people worldwide saw it was a blatant double handball, not to mention a double offside," Ahern said. "We should put the powers that be in the cozy world of FIFA on the spot and demand a replay."

The Football Association of Ireland said it expects the world's governing body to follow what it called FIFA's own 2005 precedent, when it declared invalid the result of a World Cup qualification match between Uzbekistan and Bahrain following a referee's critical error.

"The Football Association of Ireland is hoping that FIFA and its disciplinary committee will, on behalf of football fans worldwide, act in a similar fashion so that the standards of fair play and integrity can be protected," the Dublin organization said in a prepared statement.

However, even as that statement was being distributed, Trapattoni was telling a Dublin press conference that he didn't expect his squad to get another crack at France.

"I know it's impossible to repeat the game," Trapattoni said.

Instead, he called on FIFA and the European governing body UEFA to consider video-replay reviews because the injustice suffered by Ireland "can be repeated in the future. That's why we have to stop it."

In Switzerland, FIFA declined to comment on Ireland's protests.

Earlier, Ireland assistant manager Liam Brady and several players appealed to France's sense of honor.

"If the game's going to survive, it's got to be an equal playing field," Brady said. "If we're going to have integrity and dignity in the world game, the game should be replayed. And we'll go to Paris to play it."

Some Irish players accused Henry of lying when he told them that his handball had been accidental and instinctive, and criticized Swedish referee Martin Hansson for missing the infraction.

Irish left back Kevin Kilbane said replays showed conclusively that Henry "handballed it once and it's still going out of play, so he's handled it again to make sure it doesn't go out of play. ... I asked him on the pitch: Did you handball it? And he said, 'Yes - but I didn't mean it.'"

Kilbane said he also asked Hansson after the final whistle if he had seen the incident.

"He said: 'I can 100 per cent say it wasn't handball.' When he said that to me, I knew full well that he was just lying to me because he hadn't even seen it."

Irish lawmaker Joe McHugh said France should follow the 1999 precedent set by Arsenal's French manager, Arsene Wenger, who volunteered to replay a match in England's FA Cup after Arsenal won on an unfair goal.

"Throughout the country today there is an air of bitterness. We were beaten unfairly and there is general disgust in France too," McHugh said. "Friends of mine who attended last night's game phoned me this morning from a cafe in Paris to report that the French people are ashamed and do not regard this as an honest victory."

Ahern said he doubted that FIFA would sanction a replay. He reflected the widespread Irish view that the sport's powers were biased in favor of ensuring France's qualification.

"They probably won't grant it as we are minnows in world football," Ahern said, "but let's put them on the spot anyway."

Several Irish players were in tears after Wednesday's match and rued their own missed scoring chances after outplaying France for much of the night.

"We got robbed," Ireland defender Sean St. Ledger said. "We feel cheated. We were the better team."

Henry's handball, he said, "has cost a lot of us our dreams."

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