Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

French reject calls to replay Ireland match

Thierry Henry controls the ball with his hand during the build up to France's goal in Paris

The France Football Federation believe the controversy of their World Cup qualification should be put aside following FIFA's decision that the play-off against the Republic of Ireland will not be replayed.

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) had formally requested a replay after Thierry Henry's clear handball in the build-up to William Gallas' decisive goal which secured France a 2-1 aggregate victory in the World Cup play-off.

FIFA today ruled that the result cannot be changed and the match cannot be replayed.

And the FFF believe they should now concentrate on looking ahead.

"FIFA is the ruler of the game and we have to abide by what they say," an FFF spokesman told Press Association Sport.

"What they decide we have to do and they have ruled it will not be replayed. So we should move on.

"The federation's president and the coach and all of us involved feel that it was a bitter qualification. But we don't decide how we qualify.

"We played poorly and it came down to a referee's mistake, but that's the way it went. It happened on our side, in our favour, but sometimes in history it goes against you.

"The Irish were really great, they played brilliantly and we played poorly. We were awful. And then at the end we achieved the qualification in this particular way thanks to a referee's mistake.

"If it had favoured the Irish side well you can imagine how people would have felt and reacted here, the French media, the French team, the FA, everyone."

The controversy has sparked fresh calls for video replays to be brought in.

However, the FFF claim the outcome might well have been the same even if that had been in place.

"You can say that we could have had a penalty just before the end," added the spokesman. "Whether video is used or not is up to FIFA. It's not up to us or to the FIA.

"Obviously it's hard to swallow and we would have felt the same. When you produce a play or a film, you write it before, you know how it's going to end. But no-one knows with a football match or any sporting game.

"You do not decide before to use a hand. It comes on you and it's not something that you can control.

"We are sorry and we understand that the Irish fans are sad and angry. What else can we say? That's the way it goes."

France's dismal performance in the play-off has given Raymond Domenech's critics more ammunition.

Many feel that if Les Bleus are to have any chance of bringing home the Jules Rimet trophy Domenech has to go, following a poor Euro 2008 showing and a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign.

However, the FFF insist he will still be at the helm next summer.

"We qualified," said the spokesman. "For sure he will be our coach.

"When you manage a team and win you don't change the coach. Sometimes you do in club football but not in an international team."

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