France gets by Ireland to qualify for World Cup
France qualified for its fourth consecutive World Cup, getting a disputed overtime goal from William Gallas in a 1-1 tie against Ireland on Wednesday night in Saint-Denis.
Les Bleus won the home-and-home, total-goals playoff 2-1, boosted by their 1-0 victory at Dublin last Saturday.
Robbie Keane put Ireland ahead in the 33rd minute, and Gallas got the decisive goal when he bundled the ball in from close range past goalkeeper Shay Given in the 103rd. Thierry Henry appeared to control the ball twice with his hand before knocking it into Gallas's path.
"He almost caught it and walked into the net with it," said Keane.
Gallas headed it into the net from about one yard out as Irish players raised their hands in protest at Swedish referee Martin Hansson.
"I will be honest, it was a hand ball. But I'm not the ref," Henry said. "I played it. The ref allowed it. That's a question you should ask him."
Gallas hardly knew what happened.
"It went so fast. I saw Thierry's pass. The Irish were surprised, and I put my head, my chest," he said as his voice trailed off.
Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni was livid and had to be calmed by officials, and Irish fans — about 8,000 in one section behind the goal — chanted "Cheat! Cheat!" at Henry.
"I'm not only disappointed tonight, I'm also very sad," Trapattoni said. "The referee should have asked Henry, I'm sure he would have admitted there was a hand ball."
At the final whistle, Given collapsed and lay on the ground in dejection for several minutes as France celebrated. Gallas jumped into coach Raymond Domenech's arms.
"It was difficult, arduous and sometimes miraculous," Domenech said. "It was a victory by the skin of our teeth."
Domenech felt it was a shame that Ireland didn't qualify, as well.
"I want to congratulate the Irish players for this battle," he said. "They gave us a very hard time."
"We suffered for two years. We have been having some problems with our press, our fans, with other people," Henry said. "It would have been better to do it in another way, but as I said, I'm not the ref."