By Simon Bailey.
What a lot of fuss. ‘Henri the thief”, as the Irish commentator for RTE called him for the last 20 minutes of the game, has unwittingly catapulted himself into the biggest footballing controversy since …erm, …uh, oh yeah, last Saturday when Shay Given tripped Evra and, shock horror, no penalty was given.
Yet again, the paucity of real football news has ensured that the proverbial molehill now has a base camp and requires a team of sherpas to navigate. It’s unfortunate that this contest for a place in the world cup finals was decided the way it was, and it definately deserves a mention, but what the press have missed is that, regardless of the incident, this was a cracking game of football. Ireland, underdogs before the first leg, were going to have to play out of their skins to get anything from this match.
Ireland had to score to cancel the away goal, and on the half hour, after sustained pressure, they did. It wasn’t a great goal, chipped back from the goal line to Keane who couldn’t fail to hit the barn door and didn’t. This woke the French up but to no avail, with the next hour filled with plenty of great football, a few good chances but no goals.
At full time Benzema was still sitting on the bench and Domenech was looking increasingly nervous. |Rumours of a bust up between Henri and Domenech were squarely laid to rest in the first period of extra time, after the former saved the latters job by contributing to the winning goal.
So, one all on the night, France go through 2-1 on aggregate. This is the right outcome. This is also now the only outcome.
It is the right outcome, because the referee says it is. Thats the rules of the game, like it or not, if we hand all the responsibility of seeing everything that happens (in 360 degrees and slo-mo) on the pitch to just 3 people, they are going to miss stuff. It may annoy the shit out of you, especially when your team is on the losing end, but it happens week in week out.
The draw for the world cup is on 4th December, two weeks time. Is there time to fit a replay in? Why would the French agree to a replay? Would FIFA sanction one? No, No, and thrice Nay. Of course not. Never. Your’e having a laugh mate.
After losing the Russian audience, (remember tv views = bums on seats = £$£$), can FIFA afford to lose the French Audience as well? Don’t forget that most people in Ireland will watch the world cup on UK satellite channels so the Irish market has to be worth next to nothing. Of course they can’t afford it, why else would they chenge their minds about not seeding the playoffs until they knew who was in it. FIFA is a business, and maximising profits comes before all else.
At the end of the day, when the dust settles, the top nobs at FIFA will roundly congratulate themselves and each other for a job well done; only one seeded team going out and a potful of free (any publicity is good) publicity. Large brandy anyone.
I emigrated to rural Ireland a few years ago and I was duly supporting my adopted country. However as an Arsenal fan, I had a feeling that France were going to qualify. I even broke into ‘Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry’. When the missus said that I shouldn’t support the French, I replied that I could probably go into the pub and sing it and the lads would be cool because Henry is such a class player, and the Irish were one up after all.
When the goal went in, I wasn’t at all surprised, but after the replays, I could see trouble brewing. I knew the Irish press would be all over it, and for the rest of the week at work, the radio talked about nothing else. The Irish, justifiably so, are pissed right off. Except Roy Keane. After the match the missus offered to drive me to the pub so I could sing my song.
I made the right decision in declining her kind offer, because he is enemy number one at the moment. He couldn’t be more hated right now if he was a long lost descendant of Oliver Cromwell. This hatred has been exascerbated by, what was to my mind, a genuine apology and offer of a replay. Instead it has been widely perceived as a get out of jail statement offered only when the issue of a replay had already been decided. All this despite the fact that had the hand been on the opposite team, as it were, the Irish would have been laughing all the way to the finals.
Maybe I’m a cynic, but what surprises me about this situation is how surprised people are that incidents like this happen. I thought the best moment of the match was a split second after, when Gallas put the ball in the net. He’s on form. Excellent.
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