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Nov 30, 2009

Blatter: Irish asked for extra spot

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has claimed the Football Association of Ireland asked to be included in the World Cup finals as an extra team following the Republic of Ireland's controversial play-off exit to France.

Although Blatter ruled out the possibility of allowing a 33rd team into the competition, he admitted that the World Cup play-off system must be examined as a result of Henry's handball and resultant controversy.

The FAI confirmed that the issue was discussed at a meeting with Blatter in Switzerland last week.

A statement from the governing body read: "The Football Association of Ireland today confirmed that it attended an hour and a half meeting, at its request, with Mr Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA on Friday in Zurich.

"A lot was discussed at the meeting and at one stage the FAI asked if Ireland could be accommodated into the World Cup 2010.

"Other suggestions were also made to mitigate against further occurrences of such incidents, including the use of additional goal line assistant referees for FIFA international matches, further use of video technology for matches at the highest level, stronger provisions to discourage players from engaging in such blatant breaches of the Laws of the Game and provisions to strengthen referee selection for such important matches.''

FIFA will hold an extraordinary executive committee meeting on Wednesday. Convened to deal with a of number pressing issues, fair play and accurate decision-making now tops the agenda.

Speaking at the Soccerex conference in Johannesburg two days before the Cape Town meeting, Blatter acknowledged the current rules required serious examination.

"On one match it is decided if you are in or out and this is not the spirit behind this World Cup,'' said Blatter. "We must have a look at this. There is so much at stake.''

Once a replay had been ruled out - thought to be due, at least in part, to the reticence of France coach Raymond Domenech - Blatter claimed the FAI had instead requested to be included in addition to the 32 countries already qualified for this summer's tournament.

"Naturally they were unhappy with what happened and asked very humbly whether they could be team number 33,'' said Blatter. "I will bring it to the attention of the executive committee but if we do that, we will also have to bring in Costa Rica.''

The Costa Ricans were also eliminated following a refereeing error - the goal Uruguay scored to knock them out should have been disallowed for offside - but Blatter insisted there were no plans to rectify the situation by inviting the Central Americans to South Africa.

Blatter did, though, suggest that the use of two extra officials behind the goal - currently being trialled in the Europa League - could be introduced in time for the World Cup.

"It's possible we will make additional officials for the World Cup but we have to see if it is feasible or realistic. Something has to be done in terms of match control.''

If Wednesday's meeting gives this the green light for any rule change, it will have to go the International FA Board's annual meeting in March for final approval.

"How can it happen that all over the world, through tv cameras, we have seen through a cheating handball that a pass was given for a goal?'' said Blatter.

"Everyone is asking what is and what isn't fair play. The highest crime in football is touching the ball with the hands.''

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