FIFA rejects replay request to end Irish hopes
Ireland's last hopes of reaching the World Cup finals have been extinguished by the news that FIFA will not consider ordering a replay of Wednesday night's controversial play-off second leg in Paris.
The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) lobbied hard for a replay after Thierry Henry committed a blatant handball, which was not spotted by referee Martin Hansson, before crossing for William Gallas to score in extra time and seal a 2-1 aggregate win for Les Bleus.
The incident provoked an outcry, with Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen even taking up the issue with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, but the FAI's representations to FIFA have met with no success.
As was widely anticipated, the governing body has confirmed they have no intention of agreeing to a replay and that the decision of referee Hansson is final.
FIFA said in a statement: "FIFA has today, 20 November 2009, replied to the request made by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to replay the 2010 FIFA World Cup play-off match held on 18 November 2009 between France and the Republic of Ireland in Paris.
"In the reply, FIFA states that the result of the match cannot be changed and the match cannot be replayed. As is clearly mentioned in the Laws of the Game, during matches, decisions are taken by the referee and these decisions are final."
FIFA's response will now be considered by the FAI's board of management, which sits for a pre-arranged meeting on Friday afternoon.
The FAI said in a statement: "Football Association of Ireland today confirmed that it has received correspondence from FIFA rejecting the Association's request for a replay of the World Cup play-off match between France and the Republic of Ireland.
"A previously scheduled meeting of the FAI board of management will take place this afternoon where the matter will be considered. No further comment will be made until this meeting has concluded.''
However, the FFF wants a line to be drawn under the matter and has rejected suggestions that Raymond Domenech's job could be at risk due to the unconvincing nature of France's qualification.
"FIFA is the ruler of the game and we have to abide by what they say,'' an FFF spokesman said. "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.
"We qualified. For sure he (Domenech) 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."
France coach Domenech stated on Friday that he was surprised by the level of criticism levelled at Henry and rejected calls for France to apologise. The incident has seen Henry's standing in the game questioned although a number of players, and Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni, have refused to condemn the striker.
Frenchman Arsene Wenger, who transformed Henry into one of the world's best forwards at Arsenal, was dissatisfied with the way his compatriots reached next summer's World Cup finals.
"For the sense of justice it is quite embarrassing to see," he said. "I think even France is embarrassed. We didn't play well at all and we won the game and won the qualification with a goal that was not a goal."
Wenger believes there were clear indications - namely the reaction of the players - that Swedish referee Hansson had made the wrong decision.
"For two reasons; first of all Henry didn't celebrate at the start, that gives an indication to the referee, but spontaneously 11 Irish players came to see the referee," added Wenger. "That doesn't happen if it's not something obvious. You have two, three or four but not 11 and that convinced him to go and see the linesman as well and say 'Listen, I didn't see what happened, can you help me?'"