France-Ireland replay 'fairest solution' - Henry

France-Ireland replay 'fairest solution' - Henry

 

France's captain Thierry Henry. APHe renewed his admission that he had controlled the ball with his hand, but insisted it was "instinctive" in the heat of the action.

"Of course the fairest solution would be to replay the game but it is not in my control," Henry said, in a statement sent to Sky Sports News in Britain and other media.

"Naturally I feel embarrassed at the way that we won and feel extremely sorry for the Irish who definitely deserve to be in South Africa," said the Barcelona and former Arsenal striker.

He released the statement after football's world governing body FIFA officially turned down a request for a replay lodged by the Irish football authorities.

Video replays showed Henry used his hand to stop the ball going out of play in extra-time of Wednesday's playoff in Paris, before he passed to William Gallas to head the goal which gave France a 2-1 win over the two legs.

Henry continued: "There is little more I can do apart from admit that the ball had contact with my hand leading up to our equalising goal and I feel very sorry for the Irish."

He admitted immediately after the game that he had handled the ball, and reiterated that admission today -- but insisted he had acted out of instinct.

"I have said at the time and I will say again that yes I handled the ball," Henry said.

"I am not a cheat and never have been. It was an instinctive reaction to a ball that was coming extremely fast in a crowded penalty area.

"As a footballer you do not have the luxury of the television to slow the pace of the ball down 100 times to be able to make a conscious decision.

"People are viewing a slow motion version of what happened and not what I or any other footballer faces in the game.

"If people look at it in full speed you will see that it was an instinctive reaction.

"It is impossible to be anything other than that. I have never denied that the ball was controlled with my hand. I told the Irish players, the referee and the media this after the game."

Swedish referee Martin Hansson failed to spot the incident, and awarded the goal which sent the 1998 World Cup winners into the draw for the 32-nation finals next year.

The Football Association of Ireland called yesterday for the match to be replayed, calling the decision to award the decisive goal a "blatantly incorrect decision by the referee" which had "damaged the integrity of the sport."

But FIFA said in its reply today: "The result of the match cannot be changed and the match cannot be replayed."

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