France 1-1 Ireland AET: The Game That Got the Whole World Talking

Yoosof Farah@@YoosofFarahSenior Writer IIINovember 19, 2009

It was expected by many that France would win fairly convincingly at the Stade de France in Paris in their World Cup play-off second-leg match against Ireland, and smoothly qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

This assumption was fairly logical after all, considering the French had a star-studded cast of players who play for the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Lyon, etc.

On top of that, Nicolas Anelka scored the only goal of the game at Croke Park in Dublin to give France a 1-0 away win and that very important away goal.

Therefore, the result in Dublin meant that Ireland needed to make history and win at the Stade de France, something no team (even Brazil) has done in many, many years; thus it was high unlikely Ireland would be going through to the 2010 World Cup.

However, as we all know, France were very poor on that Wednesday night and ashamed their 62 million population.

Ireland on the other hand, were brilliant, executing Giovanni Trapattoni's tactics to perfection, as well as carving out the majority of decent goalscoring opportunities and making the most of their possession.

It was an all-round brilliant performance from the Irish, who were also incredibly good defensively, a performance that should make proud the 4.2 million inhabitants on the Emerald Isle, as well as the millions of Irish citizens around the world.

So instead of being a boring and convincing win for the French, the match turned out to be one of the most entertaining, gripping and heart-stopping encounters in recent years.

From Robbie Keane's goal to level the aggregate score at 1-1, to Damien Duff's glorious winning opportunity, and Nicolas Anelka's penalty appeal at the start of extra-time, this match had it all.

"Had it all" meaning that it had a vital ingredient to make it the most memorable World Cup play-off match in history.

This football encounter was extremely controversial; so controversial it made the definition of controversy, Formula One (the pinnacle of motorsport), pale in comparison.

The picture above shows the very moment at which the international uproar commenced.

Ex-Arsenal striker Thierry Henry handles the ball twice before laying the ball off to William Gallas to put into the net, and give France an all important match equaliser and aggregate lead minutes from the end of extra-time.

That moment was so controversial, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) have written to the France Football Federation (FFF) requesting a replay, and launching an official complaint to the sport's world governing body, FIFA.

But why has Thierry Henry's handball incident caused so much international controversy?

Firstly, it was a blatant violation of football's universal and standardised rules that went completely unnoticed by the officials, whose primary concern is to ensure that the laws of the game are enforced.

Whilst on the topic of officials, referee Martin Hansson proved in that match why, contrary to current media talk, he is one of, if not the best referee in world football.

France's goal was not his problem. Why? Because when there are human bodies that obviously are not transparent in the way of the referee's line of vision for the ball, how on earth is he meant to see what is happening?

So whose problem was it? The assistant referee's problem, because that man has a duty to assist the referee and make decisions when the referee is unable to.

The referee was unable to make that call as he could not see the ball. The assistant referee could see it very clearly, and has disgraced himself by not flagging up to indicate to the referee that a law of the game had been violated, and the player deliberately handled the ball, which by law of the game is a cautionable offence.

Martin Hansson had a brilliant game and got every other decision correct; it's such a shame that his reputation has been tarnished by an incompent member of his officiating team.

Anyway, a second reason why Henry's handball was so controversial was that it re-opened that age-old debate of whether video technology should be introduced to further enhance the sport of football.

The handball incident was perfect evidence as to why the technology should be introduced, as it would stamp out incorrect indecisions and enable officials to penalise those who violate the rules of the game.

Had video technology been used in this match, the goal would not have stood, Henry would have been shown a yellow card, and Shay Given would have kicked the ball forward from the resulting free-kick as opposed to ruefully picking the ball out of his own net (after the inevitable, desperate appeals to the referee of course).

And lastly, a third reason is that it highlighted how cruel of a sport football can be.

For all the effort, determination and dominance Ireland showed in their performance, they were ultimately undone by an incorrect decision from the referee.

They undoubtedly deserved to win, and yet they lost, not through a legitimate goal from France by brilliantly carving open the defence, but through an illegal handling of the ball, all created by another opponent player who touched the ball onto Henry when being in an offside position (further incompetence by the assistant referee).

The whole world was watching as France took on Ireland at the Stade de France in Paris.

The whole world saw the moment at which Thierry Henry disgraced not only the entire French population, but also the sport of football.

It shows what this sport has succumbed to; players deliberately cheating in order to reach the pinnacle of football.

There was a time in football's past where moral integrity rose high above success.

Now in the modern era, this sport has adopted the Lombardian ethic: winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.


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