Ireland Could Still be in World Cup Hunt

Written by:
Alistair Prescott
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FIFA insists that a referee's call is final but even the French, at the center of a controversial win the other night, are beginning to lean towards a rematch with Ireland, opening up the possibility that they may play in the 2010 World Cup after all. 

The Irish team lost following a handball by Thierry Henry, who has since apologized for the move.  Henry himself is now saying that the game should be replayed.

Henry issued a statement Friday admitting he handled the ball and felt embarrassed at how France qualified for the World Cup at the expense of Ireland.

But Henry said the hand ball was an "instinctive reaction" and denied cheating.

Henry says the fairest solution would be to replay the game, but acknowledged it is not in his control. Earlier Friday, FIFA rejected Ireland's request for a replay.

Henry controlled the ball with his left hand before passing to William Gallas, who scored in extra time. That gave France a 2-1 aggregate victory over Ireland.

Finance Minister Christine Lagarde contradicted President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister François Fillon, saying that the game should be played again because the French team cheated to clinch their place in the South Africa tournament.

"I'm very happy that the (French) team is in the World Cup but it is very sad to have qualified by cheating," she told RTL radio station.

"I think that in such circumstances it would be good to decide to have the match replayed."

The incident has caused uproar in Ireland where prime minister Barry Cowen called for a rematch.

"FIFA states that the result of the match cannot be changed and the match cannot be replayed," said the statement.

"As is clearly mentioned in the Laws of the Game, during matches, decisions are taken by the referee and these decisions are final."

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Alistair Prescott,         

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