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Ireland cheated out of World Cup by Thierry Henry handball

Richard Dunne said last night that Thierry Henry had privately owned up to cheating after a blatant handball from the France striker set up the goal that eliminated the Republic of Ireland in the World Cup Finals play-off in Paris.

In an incident reminiscent of Diego Maradona's infamous "Hand of God" handball against England in the 1986 World Cup finals, Henry controlled a free-kick into the Ireland area twice with his hand and cut it back to William Gallas for the decisive extra-time equaliser that made the game 2-1 on aggregate to France.

The goal meant that France qualified for the World Cup finals next summer in South Africa at the expense of Ireland. Dunne, the Aston Villa and Ireland defender, said that Henry confessed to the "Hand of Frog" incident when the France captain sat next to him on the Stade de France turf at the final whistle – and said that Henry had claimed he had not meant to do it.

Dunne said: "He told us we deserved to win. How is that supposed to make me feel? It makes me feel worse. He's admitted he cheated. We should have won. He just said, 'That's it'. He just said he handled it, he didn't mean it. Looking at it, it's quite obvious he did mean it. It's there for everyone to see and they're not going to change it now. So what can we do? They're going to the World Cup and we're not. That's it."

Dunne said that the Swedish referee Martin Hansson also missed the fact that Henry was offside in the build-up to the goal. Until the France goal went in, Ireland, who lost the first leg 1-0 at Croke Park last week, were back in the tie. Robbie Keane had scored to give them a 1-0 lead on the night and take it into extra time at 1-1.

Dunne said: "The referee said he was 100 per cent that he didn't handle it and then Henry came and told us that he did. I think it's quite blatant we were cheated. It's not a difficult one to see, so that's the annoying thing.

"The linesman is in line with it and he should give offside to start with. Surely one of them can see it that he's handled it, everyone else has seen it. It's one of those that wouldn't even need a replay.

"At the stage of the game and the way it was going, it's the biggest decision I've ever suffered. We deserved to win the game, we could have scored a couple of more goals. It's one of those things. It gives them a lift and knocks the stuffing out of us. To give big decisions on that in big games is wrong. [Michel] Platini wants France there."

Giovanni Trappatoni's assistant Liam Brady also suggested there had been a conspiracy. Ireland were originally angry that countries had been seeded in the play-offs, meaning that none of the bigger nations such as France and Portugal risked drawing one another. Claiming it had been "a bad day for football", Brady said: "When it comes to the crunch, the big teams always seem to go through. With the draw, they were wanting Portugal and France to go through and they did. That's all that has to be said."

Robbie Keane said that it was typical of the decisions that go in favour of what he said were the bigger football countries. "It was an easy decision to do the seedings, wasn't it? They're all probably on the phone to Sepp Blatter [Fifa president] now, texting each other over the result. France and Germany are massive countries. There's no way in a million years there was going to be a fair draw. And it wasn't!"

Keane added: "There's no question or doubt in my mind, we won that game. The handball was so obvious. We've seen the replays, but we knew anyway from the reaction of the players."

Before then the referee had been excellent, correctly identifying that Nicolas Anelka had dived when he had attempted to take the ball around Given.

Lloris; Sagna, Gallas, Escude (Squillaci, 9) Evra; Lassana Diarra, Alou Diarra, Gourcuff (Malouda, 90); Anelka, Gignac (Govou, 59), Henry. Substitutes not used: Mandanda (gk), Remy, Sissoko, Benzema.

Republic of Ireland (click here for player ratings)
Given; O'Shea (McShane, 65), St Ledger, Dunne, Kilbane; Lawrence, Whelan (Gibson, 63), Andrews, Duff; Doyle, Keane. Substitutes not used: Joe Murphy (gk), McGeady, Kelly, Hunt, Best.

Referee: M Hansson (Sweden).

2010 World Cup: The teams

Africa Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, South Africa (hosts).

Asia Australia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea.

Europe England, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland.

North, Central America and Caribbean Honduras, Mexico, United States.

Oceania New Zealand.

South America Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay/Costa Rica (second leg played last night)

Finals Draw Friday 4 December, Cape Town

Finals Friday 11 June - Sunday 11 July 2010

Belfast Telegraph