UEFA and FIFA both got their wishes tonight. France and Portugal both will be in South Africa next summer. But the Republic of Ireland were left fuming as Thierry Henry’s handball earned France a 1-1 draw and a trip to South Africa.
France had won the first leg 1-0 in Dublin on Saturday, but Ireland when Robbie Keane scored just after the half-hour mark at the Stade de France, the tie was level. That is the way it stood until extra-time when a Florent Malouda free-kick was handled not once but twice by Thierry Henry, who squared the ball to William Gallas to head in on the line.
After the game Henry admitted it was a handball saying:
“I will be honest, it was a handball. But I’m not the ref.”
How the referee and linesmen missed that call I will never know, but the Irish believe that their was a UEFA/FIFA conspiracy at work here to ensure that a big name like France woulds be playing in next summers World Cup. The handball can be clearly seen here
Elsewhere, Portugal secured their place at next summer’s World Cup with an impressive 1-0 victory against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Zenica.
Portugal were not impressive on Saturday in the first leg, but they played much better tonight as Raul Meireles scored the only goal of the game as his team-mates missed several clear chances.
The big shock on the night was that Russia will not be going to South Africa after they lost 1-0 to Slovenia thanks to Zlatko Dedic’s 44th-minute goal. Russia, who had Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Yuri Zhirkov sent off in the second half, will be thinking about that late, late goal they conceded in the first leg, a game that they had totally controlled.
Greece was another country qualifying for the World Cup as they won 1-0 victory against the Ukraine in Donetsk. Dimitris Salpigidis was the goal scorer for Greece, but the Greek hero was goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas, who made a string of fine saves throughout the game.
In the most highly charged game of the night, Antar Yahia’s spectacular goal earned Algeria the final African qualifying spot in South Africa. The centre-half volleyed home five minutes before half-time and a solid rearguard effort in the second half kept out Egypt for a 1-0 victory. Emad Meteab had the best chance for Egypt but was denied by impressive Algeria keeper Fawzi Chaouchi.