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'Cheated' Irish call for World Cup replay

  • NEW: Republic of Ireland officials lodge official complaint with world ruling body FIFA
  • NEW: FAI also writes to French counterparts asking for World Cup play-off to be replayed
  • Cameras showed France's Thierry Henry guiding ball with his hand twice, before William Gallas scored
  • Ex-France player David Ginola said Henry was only doing his job for his country and should not be blamed

London, England (CNN) -- Irish football officials have lodged an official complaint with world ruling body FIFA after Thierry Henry confessed that he handled the ball in the build-up to the goal which sent France to next summer's World Cup.

Television cameras showed Henry guiding the ball with his hand twice, before William Gallas scored from his resulting cross to give "Les Bleus" a narrow win in the two-legged World Cup play-off against the Republic of Ireland.

"I will be honest. It was a handball but I am not the referee," the Barcelona striker told reporters after the match in Paris.

The Irish Justice Ministry confirmed to CNN that Dermot Ahern had asked the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to demand a replay in the interests of fair play.

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Video: Ginola on Thierry Henry handball

"Thierry Henry has admitted handling the ball, claims he told the ref he handled it. Millions of people worldwide saw it was a blatant double handball -- not to mention a double offside -- and we should put the powers that be in the cozy world of FIFA on the spot and demand a replay," Ahern said in a statement sent to CNN.

"They probably won't grant it as we are minnows in world football but let's put them on the spot. It's the least we owe the thousands of devastated young fans around the country. Otherwise if that result remains it reinforces the view that if you cheat you will win."

The FAI later confirmed that it had taken the matter to FIFA.

"I really believe the integrity of the game has been questioned last night," chief executive John Delaney told reporters. "The governing body of world football have to step up to the plate and accede to our call for a replay."

Delaney said the FAI had also written to the French football federation.

I will be honest. It was a handball but I am not the referee
--Thierry Henry

"They need to look at themselves in this situation. Henry is their captain and a wonderful footballer, but does he want to be like Diego Maradona and his legacy to be this handball, this goal that got them to the World Cup in an unjust manner? If we had qualified in this manner, I wouldn't be happy," he said.

"It is up to the people who govern the game now. Every time I go to a FIFA congress I hear about fair play and integrity. This was a defining game with the whole world watching, and if FIFA believe in fair play and integrity, this is their opportunity to step forward."

The FAI has argued that there is a precedent for the result to be struck out, following FIFA's ruling that Uzbekistan had to replay a play-off against Bahrain for the 2006 World Cup in Germany after the referee made a mistake in awarding a penalty.

"The Football Association of Ireland is hoping that FIFA and its disciplinary committee will, on behalf of football fans worldwide, act in a similar fashion so that the standards of fair play and integrity can be protected," the FAI said.

FIFA confirmed it had received the Irish request for a replay, but gave no timescale on a decision.

However, it said that under its regulations the referee's decision cannot be changed.

"Law 5 states that the decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final," it said.

"The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match."

Irish captain Richard Dunne, who spoke to Henry on the final whistle, said he felt cheated by the goal.

If FIFA believe in fair play and integrity, this is their opportunity to step forward
--FAI chief John Delaney

"He admitted he handled it, but it doesn't make me feel any better because we are not going to the World Cup finals," the defender said.

"FIFA will probably be happy. Yet again the big decisions have gone for the bigger team."

Football's international governing body had faced criticism from several Irish players that the seeding system for the play-off draw favored more powerful nations such as France.

Blog: When will FIFA see what's staring them in the face?

Dunne's teammate Robbie Keane admitted it was "hard to speak," as he struggled to come to terms with the result.

"With the way we played, we certainly deserved to win the game and it killed us near the end with that handball," he was quoted by the FAI Web site as saying.

"I've seen the replay but we knew anyway (it was handball). You could see by the reaction of the players, especially Shay (Given) who was two yards away from it. You don't get a reaction like that. It was a clear handball.

"He (Henry) almost caught the ball and actually ran into the net with it. We're devastated."

Ireland team manager Giovanni Trapattoni told reporters that the referee had time to ask the linesman and then Henry. "It would not have been the first time a player would have asked and it would not have been out of turn.

"We are angry," the Italian continued. "It is a bitter evening for me. I would prefer to have gone out on penalties."

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But former France international David Ginola was emphatic that Henry should not have "owned up."

Henry was doing his job. You can't blame him for doing everything he could for his team
--David Ginola

"You don't do that," he told CNN. "Henry was doing his job. You can't blame him for doing everything he could for his team and country to get them to South Africa.

"But it was a shame to finish the game like that as Ireland had played very well.

"Referees need more help on the pitch, so as not to allow things like that. Obviously the referee was not well-positioned and couldn't see."

English Referees Union chief Alan Leighton told CNN that Swedish official Martin Hansson had clearly missed a huge decision.

"I think the incident was more of instinct than deliberately attempting to cheat but it does seem that the ball hit his hand twice and therefore there is an issue."

But on the wider issue of cheating, Leighton said: "It is all very well to blame the referees for not spotting it but fundamentally it starts with the players.

"I think the players have to think about the game, think about the reputation of the game and their own reputations and say look actually there is a line that we will not cross."