A terrific performance (what’s rare is wonderful) from the Irish football team in Paris last night wasn’t enough to see us qualify for next year’s World Cup, but in terms of people to blame, Thierry Henry is about fifteenth on the list.
Yes, he blatantly handled the ball to set up Gallas for the French equaliser, but Ireland – had they the class – should have been 3-0 or 4-0 up on the night by then: Duff, Keane, Doyle and O’Shea all had chances that you’d expect a player of international quality to score. Then there’s the performance itself: had Trapattoni allowed / encouraged that kind of performance all through the qualifying series, there’s a decent chance Ireland wouldn’t have wound up in the play-offs in the first place. Finally, the hand-ball: did anyone else notice that Robbie Keane got pulled up four times – that’s four times – for hand-ball during the game, one of which was in the box as he tried to turn Gallas? Now, deliberate hand-ball is due a yellow card; Keane shouldn’t have been on the pitch by the end, had the ref been looking to stitch up Ireland at the behest of FIFA, as the more demented morons have been suggesting (he could also have easily given a penalty for Anelka’s dive, had he been so inclined).
Anyway, the point about Keane and his multiple hand-balls: he cheated but we didn’t profit; Henry cheated and France profited. Where’s the moral high ground there?
Oh, and while were banging on about hand-ball: anyone (yours truly included) who laughed themselves sick at Maradona’s ‘hand of God’ goal against England in 1986 has no right to (a) get up on their high horse about Henry or (b) join in the growing demand from the headbangers, including Liam Brady, calling for a replay. It was a game of football. We didn’t do enough to win it. Get over yourselves.
Roll it there, Collette …