Thursday, 19 November 2009

Hand of Henry Breaks Irish Hearts

Hand of Henry Breaks Irish Hearts

Last night I and many other football fans around the world viewed another footballing controversy. In a match of the upmost importance billed as the last ticket to the world cup, pitted football underdogs, Republic of Ireland, against the footballing giants of the last 13 years, France.

In the first match
France dominated possession, despite not creating the any clear cut attempts; they were somewhat fortunate in taking the lead via a deflected shot from France's best player over the two legs, Nicholas Anelka. France has 62.2% possession overall, with 11 attempts on goal with 4 on target, compared to Ireland’s 9 attempts, with 3 on target. Some would then say, due to France having the greater share of the statistics, they deserved to win the game.

In the second leg, Coach Raymond Domenech baffled me, with his selection, naming a 4-2-3-1 formation. He selected the brilliant Hugo Lloris is goal, Sagna, Escude, Gallas and Evra making up the back four. A midfield consisting of Alou and Lassana Diarra, two holding defensive minded players, along with Yoann Gourcuff; a creative player plying his trade for Bordeaux in France, and the recipient of the 2008 Ligue 1 player of the year. The French attacking frontline consisted of Anelka, Gignac and Henry. This is probably the best team available, with players such as Toulalon, Diaby, and the best and the most influential player, Frank Ribery unavailable through injury and Arsenal’s Samir Nasri missing through a lack of games and match fitness.

Through out the game, Ireland played well having the better clear cut chances through Duff, O’Shea and Robbie Keane. Their away goal came from brilliant work down the left wing, with a ball excellently being cut back for Keane, who placed the ball into the corner past Lloris. Ireland still had chances to make it 2-0 and win the game, with the France faithful being thankful to the man of the match Hugo Lloris for keeping Les Bleus in the game.

After 180 minutes of tense action, there was still nothing to separate the two sides, with France lacking the cutting edge up front due to a distinct lack of creativity in midfield, Malouda coming on during the second half to no real affect. Anelka’s role consisted of dropping deep, having plenty of possession, as he does with Chelsea, with the only difference being he couldn’t find an end product. André-Pierre Gignac of Toulouse was joint top goal scorer in qualification with 4 goals, and scored 24 league goals last season, was forced out wide into the right channel rather than being the main focal point of attack. Therefore the Toulouse attacker was replaced after just 57 minutes by Sidney Govou. The French rarely trouble the Irish goal from then on, and the game ended up finishing 1-0 to the Republic of Ireland, leading to another 30 minutes of play.

In extra time, the French hardly covered themselves in glory with Nicholas Anelka's resulting to simulation (diving) in an attempt to win a penalty or in an attempt to con the referee into giving a penalty? U decide.

The main moment came with 2 minutes left in the 1st half of extra time, came the controversy. A diagonal free kick, floated over the whole of the Irish defence and bounced once and falling to Barcelona striker Thierry Henry who controlled the ball twice with his hand and squared the ball instinctively with the outside of his right boot, with William Gallas in the right place, at the right time, as he seemingly always is for both club and country, to finish and put one foot on the plane to South Africa. As soon as the ball hit the net,
Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given sprinted over to the referee pleading for a handball decision, which seemingly both the linesman and referee both missed.

Irish hopes all but faded after that, as the team were clearly demoralised. France saw out the last 15 minutes without any real trouble, with the referee blowing the final whistle, scenes of jubilation erupted from the bench and amongst the fans. While the Irish players lay on the Stade de France pitch in tears, as they had worked so hard and probably deserved to be on the way to their first World Cup since 2002.

After the game their was the usual blame game, but without going into too much detail (as I’m sure you’ve all read it!), begs the question, if there were the extra officials as there are in the UEFA Europa League competition, surely they would have spotted Thierry Henry’s hand ball? Or Spotted Anelka’s dive? Would it be more appropriate to introduce the use of video technology in order to answer these questions in the future? FIFA feel strongly against any form of video technology and will not consider it until 2011. I’m not too sure how FIFA now feel about the situation after this match and the referees performance, but one thing is for certain, the Irish’s calls for a replay may fall on deaf ears.

No comments:

Post a Comment