0

Ireland to FIFA: 'We got robbed'

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

DUBLIN -- Ireland appealed to France and FIFA on Thursday to replay their World Cup playoff after an obvious hand ball by Thierry Henry set up the deciding goal.

Ireland's government and soccer association asked for Wednesday's 1-1 draw in the second leg at Stade de France to be replayed. France advanced to next year's World Cup in South Africa 2-1 on total goals.

FIFA said it received Ireland's request for a replay, though it was unclear if the governing body of soccer would seriously consider it.

Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni called the prospect of a rematch "impossible." Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said he would "have a chat about it" with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a meeting of the 27 EU leaders in Brussels.

"Fairness is part of the game," Cowen said.

FIFA declined to comment specifically on Ireland's protests but pointed to its rule forbidding second-guessing of on-field decisions by referees.

John Delaney, the Football Association of Ireland's chief executive, said he doubted FIFA would respond positively unless French soccer authorities agreed to Ireland's call for a rematch.

"It's up to them, in particular the French, to recognize there was a travesty last night, an injustice," Delaney said.

In extra time, Henry twice handled the ball, then passed to William Gallas in the Irish penalty box for the deciding goal. At the time, the game was 17 minutes from reaching a penalty-kick shootout.

In 2005, FIFA invalidated the result of a World Cup qualifier between Uzbekistan and Bahrain following a referee's critical error. Trapattoni appeared to immediately undercut that appeal by offering his own assessment of FIFA politics.

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

Instead, he urged FIFA and the European soccer's governing body to consider video replays, saying what happened to Ireland "can be repeated in the future. That's why we have to stop it."

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 hand ball had been accidental and instinctive.

"I asked him on the pitch: Did you hand-ball it?" Irish left back Kevin Kilbane said. "And he said, 'Yes -- but I didn't mean it."'

Kilbane said he also asked referee Martin Hansson after the final whistle if he had seen the play.

"He said: 'I can 100 percent say it wasn't hand ball.' 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 Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said he doubted FIFA would sanction a replay. He reflected the widespread Irish view that the sport's powers favored 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."

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.

Several Irish players were in tears after the game and rued their missed scoring chances after outplaying France much of the night.

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

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