Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 75 – The Hand of Frog (2009)

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The French has been ordinary for 90% of the time under the reign of Raymond Diomench. They fought their way to the final of Germany ’06 after initially looking next to useless and then crashed out pathetically at Euro 2008 with one draw and two losses in what was a tough group.

In the 2010 World Cup campaign Diomench amazingly kept his job and they again frustratingly limped along in qualifying with the talent that they had in their group with only a 1-0 over the Faroe Islands and a home draw with Romania which meant Serbia topped the group with Les Blues finishing second. Following the shambles that was Steve Staunton’s reign as the coach of Ireland they had found some form again under the always interesting Giovanni Trappatoni. The former Italian and Bayern Munich boss made the team a cohesive unit again with the side matching Italy in their group and holding off Bulgaria to finish second in their group.

With FIFA wanting to see more money spinning countries get to the World Cup, seeding was introduced for the four play-off matches for the final four teams to qualify from Europe. This would mean your French and Russian types would be paired against alleged weaker opposition and like a lot of other FIFA moves it was roundly criticised yet ignored. The Russians drew Slovenia, the Portuguese drew Bosnia, Ukraine drew Greece and the Irish would play France home and away.

The first leg was tight at the GAA stronghold Croke Park (Lansdowne Road was being rebuilt at the time) but France prevailed 1-0 when Nicolas Anelka scored in the second half. France would take the advantage back to the Stade De France in Paris for the second leg.

In the second leg Ireland were fantastic and the French, still missing the injured Franck Ribery, were dominated by the Irish who tied it all up on aggregate with a goal to Robbie Keane in the first half. The French went off at half time to jeering from their own supporters. The 2002 veterans Keane and Duff continued to dominate the French in the second half but Ireland couldn’t get the all-important second goal despite many chances so it would go to extra time. Seven minutes in to extra time and what should have been a penalty to France wasn’t awarded. Anelka dinked in to the box and Given brought him down with a sly hand to the ankle. A controversial decision that kept Ireland in the game and perhaps take it to penalties; but this was nothing compared with what was about the happen.

Deep in the first period of extra time France got a free kick that was lofted downfield with two French players offside, but the referee didn’t give it. Henry tried to collect the ball near the by-line on the left hand side of the pitch and was well covered by a defender and looked like he couldn’t get a cross in to the box. Henry then controlled the ball with his hand to keep from going out for a goalkick and then controlled with his hand again before he crossed with his right foot to William Gallas who headed the ball past a bewildering Irish defence to put France ahead without a foul being blown for the blatant handballs by Henry.

Half the Irish team including an emotional Shay Given ran to the referee to claim handball which the whole world had seen but the goal was given and Ireland had it all to do. The referee (to quote the brilliant Guardian writer Barry Glendinning) had ‘Kicked Ireland in the bollocks’. In the second half of extra time with the chants of ‘CHEAT! CHEAT! CHEAT’ from the Irish fans every time Henry went near the ball France held on against a deflated Irish side who let the emotion of the decision overwhelm them. The final whistle went with the French crowd now adoring their heroic French team which they had jeered at half time; while Thierry Henry chatted with Richard Dunne in the penalty area about the weather, handballs……..who knows. France was through in the most evil of circumstances with Damien Duff and Shay Given crying tears of blood on the pitch knowing that was probably their last chance to make it to another World Cup.

The aftermath made huge headlines. There were Irish backpackers in the November morning sunshine being interviewed outside pubs such as the Celtic Club in Melbourne going on about the injustice of it all on Australian television. Henry and the referees were the villains in the controversy. Henry admitted that he did touch the ball with his hand but it was up to the referee to blow the whistle. He also released a statement saying there should a replay, the French striker’s PR team had kicked in to top gear. The referee later claimed he cried after the game after what he did. It also turned out that he could not have seen the hand ball with three Irish players blocking his view while the linesman was on the other side of the pitch. The referee also admitted he thought about giving the game away, such was the backlash.

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) was apoplectic along with the team’s captain Keane. Keane claimed that FIFA ensured that France would be in there and Sepp Blatter was talking to Michel Platini right now congratulating the former French star. Trapatonni, a man with the temperament of a Taiwanese parliament session more often than not, didn’t demand a replay but said that incidents like this showed that video technology was needed.

The FAI took up the chance on the fact they had the sympathy vote and demanded for a replay, that was rejected. The FAI then considered legal action, that was rejected. The FAI then went to FIFA asking for a 33 team World Cup, that was also rejected. The cause of the Irish (thanks to the usual ineptitude of the always next to useless FAI) had gone from sympathetic to noble to embarrassing to pathetic as they dragged the issue on. Roy Keane had also even given a voice of reason claiming that Ireland had enough chances to win, and they did, the Duff and Keane chances especially.

A tumultuous incident considering what was at stake for both sides that everyone had a say on. Karma perhaps that France crashed and burned in the World Cup they had qualified for.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

Comments

  1. Unjust results are just about the best thing in sport.

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