Sunday, November 29, 2009

FIFA President breaks silence to support cheat Henry

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has revealed that he telephoned France captain Thierry Henry to offer him support over his controversial handball in the World Cup play-off win over Ireland.

"I called Thierry, because he tried to get in touch with me," Blatter told French newspaper L'Equipe.

"He was honest by admitting that he did use his hand, but it wasn't his responsibility to tell the referee.

"When I was a centre forward in my junior team, I definitely gained an advantage by pulling a defender's jersey in order to score a goal. And I didn't go and see the referee to tell him about it."

Blatter's remarks are incredible as he seems to be condoning cheating within the game & it certainly makes a mockery of FIFA's Fair Play code.

To quote Blatter prior to the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign - 'Fair play should come before anything else ... These qualifying matches must epitomise fair play. They should encapsulate the sporting, moral and ethical principles for which Fifa has always stood. And they must leave a lasting impression!".

Blatter's words sound very hollow considering he has basically said that cheating is fine as long as you don't get caught.

Its difficult to see how he can support Fair Play within the game on the one hand and on the other, ring the perpetrator of the cheating to console him and offer him his support.

Article one of the FIFA fair play code reads as follows : "Winning is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly. Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure. Playing fair requires courage and character. It is also more satisfying. Fair play always has its reward, even when the game is lost. Playing fair earns respect, while cheating only brings shame. Remember: it is only a game. And games are pointless unless played fairly."

The Fifa president had previously refused to comment on the incident, prompting criticism from Football Association of Ireland (FAI) chief executive John Delaney.

France's play-off with Ireland was poised at 1-1 on aggregate in the second leg in Paris when Henry controlled the ball with his hand twice before teeing up William Gallas for the decisive goal,the linesman had a clear view of the Henry handball yet for some reason failed to make any signal to the referree about the act of blatant cheating by the French forward. The cheating incident sparked furious protests from the Irish players that were taken up by the Irish government.

The revelation that Blatter personally contacted Henry follows soon after the announcement by UEFA boss Michel Platini that the play-off's for the next European Qualifying Championships will be weighted heavily in favour of the bigger nations, with the play-off draw being seeded and the teams offered the chance to play the second leg at home.

Friday, November 27, 2009

UEFA show that Fair Play is a thing of the past with Euro Championship announcement

In a decision sure to prompt anger in many European countries, European football’s governing body UEFA has confirmed that not only will the play-offs for the 2012 European Championships be seeded — but the seeded teams will then be guaranteed home advantage in the second leg.

The Irish Examiner has learned that FAI chief executive John Delaney has already written to UEFA to express his concern about the plan. While opposed in principle to the seeding of the play-offs, the FAI boss is understood to be especially concerned about the decision to give home advantage to the seeded team in the return leg.

With the dust on Ireland’s controversial defeat to France in the World Cup play-off still settling, the UEFA initiative will be widely interpreted as further evidence that, far from promoting concepts of fair play, football’s international authorities appear determined to load the dice in favour of the game’s big powers.

The FAI and Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni were dismayed when FIFA belatedly announced that the draw for the recent World Cup play-offs would be seeded, the decision from Zurich only confirmed in late September when it became clear that European football superpowers such as Portugal and France were unlikely to progress automatically to the cup finals in South Africa.

Then, in what was regarded by Trapattoni as a further obstacle to his team’s chances of progressing, the bad luck of the draw gave the French home advantage in the second leg — although, as things turned out in the Stade de France last Wednesday, it ultimately took a travesty of justice to ensure the home side’s progress.

But, for the play-offs for the Euro finals in Poland and Ukraine in 2012, the home and away factor will not even be left to chance, with UEFA yesterday confirming that the seeded teams will automatically get to play the return match at home.

In response to an inquiry from this newspaper, a UEFA spokesperson referenced article 7.07 of the governing body’s regulations for the 2012 European Championship. After stating that the eight runners-up in qualifying will contest play-off matches, Article 7.07 — with the devil, as ever, in the detail — continues: "The four ties are determined by means of a draw. The four runners-up with the best position in the UEFA national team coefficient ranking system are seeded for the draw. The play-offs are played according to the knockout system, with each team playing each opponent twice, in home and away matches. The seeded teams play the return match at home. The teams which score the greater aggregate of goals in the two matches qualify for the final tournament."

Perhaps the only small consolation is that, at least this time, the FAI, in common with all the other European associations, have been appraised of the play-off rules well before their national teams even start out on the long road to Poland and Ukraine.

Giovanni Trapattoni also knows that his team already faces an uphill task before the qualifying draw takes place in February, with UEFA having confirmed last week that Ireland will be third seeds when the balls go into the pots in Warsaw, alongside Northern Ireland, Scotland, Israel, Bulgaria, Finland, Norway, Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The UEFA coefficients which determined these seedings are based on a complicated system involving performances in the 2006 World Cup finals and preceding qualifying campaign, Euro 2008 and its qualifying campaign and 2010 World Cup qualifying. But, although UEFA say that "more recent results are given greater consideration", Ireland’s unbeaten run in the regulation World Cup qualifying campaign was still evidently not enough to get them a place as second seeds alongside the likes of Czech Republic, Romania, Sweden and Turkey — all of whom failed to even make the play-offs.

The qualifying campaign for Euro 2012 will comprise six groups of six teams and three groups of five. The nine winners and best runner-up will qualify directly for the finals, with eight remaining runners-up contesting the play-offs. As co-hosts, Poland and Ukraine qualify automatically.

The draw takes place in Warsaw on February 7.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

FAI admit 'defeat' over calls for France replay

Ireland have been forced to admit defeat in their efforts to be granted a replay of their World Cup play-off clash with France.

Having seen FIFA reject their appeals to have the second leg of the tie replayed because of Thierry Henry's handball in the run-up to William Gallas' decisive goal, the Football Association of Ireland, backed by both French skipper Henry and Ireland captain Robbie Keane, had turned to the French Football Federation.

However, the FFF have ruled out the possibility, and France will now take their place in next summer's finals in South Africa while Ireland will remain at home, the victims of what they believe has been a gross miscarriage of justice.

FAI chief executive John Delaney said today: 'We regret that despite our best efforts for a replay, which would have restored the integrity of the game in front of a world-wide audience, our calls appear to have fallen on deaf ears at the French Football Federation.

'Without doubt, the credibility of fair play has been damaged by this incident in front of a worldwide audience.

'Despite our deep disappointment, we thank our players, the wonderful Irish fans and the Irish public at large for their support, as well as the solidarity of the French people.

'We will continue to call on FIFA to take action to ensure that such damaging examples of cheating are not allowed to recur

Friday, November 20, 2009

Trapattoni vents his fury at FIFA

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has vented his fury at FIFA in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.

'I would like to know what have I done to (Sepp) Blatter,' Trapattoni said. 'If he explains it to me at least I would be calm.

'I often go to schools and speak of fair play. Perhaps I am a dreamer. FIFA has violated the rules imposing top seeded teams in the play-offs. It's treachery.

'I think even (UEFA president Michel) Platini was against this revolution.'

Trapattoni continues to play Wednesday's events over and over in his mind.

'There's this double handball from Henry on Gallas' goal and on top of that (Sebastien) Squillaci was offside,' Trapattoni said.
'It's murder.

'Even a blind man would have seen the double handball by Henry. The linesman was on line as the images show and he had perfect vision.

'I am certain that Mr Hansson (the referee) was in contact with the fourth official and to those who were looking at the images in slow motion.

'Why, when he understood that he had made a mistake, did he not change his mind? I think the time has come to have tv replays for these extreme cases. In 30 seconds you avoid colossal errors.'

Trapattoni had harsh words for the referee. 'FIFA has done a great job,' he said. 'For France v Ireland, you needed a top referee, instead they have sent a Hansson nobody.'

Thursday, November 19, 2009

FAI to challenge Henry cheating

The Football Association of Ireland today (November 19) confirmed that it will lodge a complaint with FIFA, following last night's World Cup play-off match between France and the Republic of Ireland in Paris.

Conclusive video evidence of a deliberate hand ball by Thierry Henry, which led to France's additional time goal, has been seen by millions of football fans worldwide. The blatantly incorrect decision by the referee to award the goal has damaged the integrity of the sport and we now call on FIFA, as the world governing body for our sport, to organise for this match to be replayed. The hand ball, was recognised the FIFA commissioner, the referee observer and the match officials, as well as by the player himself.

There is precedent for the invalidation of such results. In 2005, the Bureau of the FIFA World Cup organising committee reached a decision to invalidate the result of a World Cup qualification match between Uzbekistan and Bahrain on the basis of a ‘technical error by the referee of the match'. The Football Association of Ireland is hoping that FIFA and its Disciplinary Committee will, on behalf of football fans world-wide, act in a similar fashion so that the standards of fair play and integrity can be protected.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ireland travel to Paris at full strength

Ireland go into their World Cup play-off second-leg with France at full strength with no injuries to report.

It is do-or-die for Giovanni Trapattoni's men as they prepare to fly to Paris on Tuesday trailing 1-0 from the first-leg at Croke Park.

Ireland performed admirably on Saturday but still fell to a deflected 72nd minute Nicolas Anelka strike, handing the French the initiative ahead of the return match on Wednesday.

However, having trained on Monday assistant boss Marco Tardelli highlights that the team will be at full strength and go into the clash full of confidence despite the deficit.

"We have no injuries and we have a very high morale. There are no problems," he said.

"We are ready for the next match."

The Green Army will start to descend on Paris tomorrow with between ten and fifteen thousand Irish expected in the French capital.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Keane sends out rally call to the Green Army

Ireland captain Robbie Keane has urged the team to become national heroes by beating France in the World Cup play-off.

Giovanni Trapattoni's side host France at Croke Park on Saturday before Wednesday's return leg in Paris.

"If you look on paper, they have got world-class players all over the pitch," said Keane.

"But the one thing we do have is desire and commitment, and a team that's desperate to do well."

Keane believes qualifying for the finals at the expense of such a star-studded team would be remembered forever as Ireland's greatest achievement.

French manager Raymond Domenech can call upon a collection of global stars such as Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka and William Gallas.

However, Keane's believes Ireland's sheer bloody-minded determination can earn Trapattoni's men a place in next year's finals in South Africa.

"There are players who have never been in this situation before, players who play in the Championship who may never have the opportunity they have now," added Keane.

"They are fortunate enough to be able to leave players like Patrick Vieira out of the squad.

"We just can't do that, that's the gulf between the two nations."

Trapattoni also called on his troops to raise their game from the battling display in last month's 2-2 draw against Italy at Croke Park.

"We need the same spirit, we need the same performance, we need the attitude we have had in the games throughout qualification - but we have to add some more," added the Republic boss.

"Every player must in these 180 minutes add something more to his performance.

"We must avoid nervousness. These are important games and, in important games, in my experience, some players can lose their cool.

"They have to keep their heads and play as we have done until now and, with this mentality, we can play on an equal footing with France."

Trapattoni was in relaxed mood as he conducted his pre-match press conference in a packed suite at the Grand Hotel in Malahide.

He opened by enquiring, with a smile, where the French journalists were in the room and, after a show of hands, said apologetically: "I don't speak French," before adding: "I don't speak also English."

But, despite his humour, his resolve was clear as he contemplated the task ahead of his players.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trapattoni has no fear of French team

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni is refusing to rest on his laurels as he plots France’s World Cup downfall.

The 70-year-old Italian will lead Ireland into play-off battle with the 1998 winners, refusing to look back on all the success his distinguished career has brought him to date and concentrating only on what lies ahead.

Asked at Ireland's training headquarters in Malahide this afternoon where victory over Raymond Domenech’s men would rate on his curriculum vitae, he replied: “In life, the next result is the beautiful one, the most important one. The rest is memories.”

Trapattoni put his players through their paces this afternoon as they prepared for the biggest two games in the nation’s recent history.

There was anger in Ireland last month when it was revealed that the draw for the last eight remaining European berths would be seeded, pitching the Irish into battle with one of the four bigger names.

However, while Trapattoni and his players head into the showdown with their heads held high after negotiating their 10 qualifiers without a single defeat, the French and Domenech in particular find themselves under the spotlight as they seek a route to South Africa via the back door.

But a squad packed with big names such as Thierry Henry, Karim Benzema and Nicolas Anelka does not frighten the Republic boss.

He said: “I’m not afraid about this team. I know the quality of the France players, but our players at their clubs play against Arsenal, against Manchester United.

“France achieved second place in the group like us and we were one of only five unbeaten teams.

“We have a few creative players – maybe France have more and other teams have more still.

“But football is concrete. We are not a theatre, La Scala or Madison Square Garden; it’s football.

“Football is ball, pitch, opponent and mentality, that’s football.

“Results are results, a show is a show and results are different to the show. That is our belief.”

Trapattoni’s mantra since he took up his job in May last year has been to concentrate on the fine detail of how to win – or at least, not lose – football matches, and it was a theme to which he returned as he started his preparations in earnest for Saturday night’s first leg at Croke Park.

He said: “We must prepare carefully and study every little detail for these two games because in these 180 minutes, we can achieve qualification for South Africa.

“We are conscious these will not be easy games. It will be important not to make little mistakes, silly mistakes and if possible, not concede a goal at home because if we concede a goal in Dublin, it’s a very great advantage for our opponents.

“Nerve is very, very important in these games. We must remain calm in every little situation because silly mistakes or distractions can cost you a goal.”

Domenech’s faith in astrology has been ridiculed in France, and while Trapattoni insists the Frenchman can use whatever methods he wants to select his side, he prefers to rely on his own.

He said: “In the past, some managers have gone to tarot readers. But I am a believer and I believe in other things.

“He has his habits and I have my habits.

“Help yourself and God will help you as well. But I’m not God, I’m not St Patrick, I’m human.”

Fulham midfielder Damien Duff, who has shaken off an Achilles problem, was able to train with his team-mates, but Hibernian counterpart Liam Miller was tonight having a scan on a calf injury which could yet rule him out of the two games.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Doyle has no fear of France

Wolves striker Kevin Doyle believes that Ireland are capable of upsetting France in their upcoming World Cup play-off games.

The striker feels that, despite their underdog status, Ireland have an excellent chance of advancing to South Africa at the expense of Raymond Domenech's side, beaten finalists in Germany in 2006.

"We're feeling confident we can win although other people will feel we don't have much chance," Doyle told BBC Sport.

The 26-year-old was unfazed when his side were drawn against the 1998 world champions, and is confident of progressing after a strong campaign in the group stages.

"There's a reason why they are in the play-off draw because they haven't done well in their group," he said.

"We drew with Italy twice and we could have easily beaten them.

"They are the world champions and we can do the same against France.

"I've played against bigger teams all my life and got results against them. I don't fear them. I'm looking forward to it."

With the first leg to be played on Saturday at Croke Park, Doyle believes that a clean sheet will give Ireland an excellent chance, putting the onus on the oppositon in the return leg at Stade de France.

"That would be massive for us. Do that and go to Paris and score a goal there," added Doyle.

"That's what we're going to have to do to go through."

On the back of an unbeaten group campaign, Doyle believes that there is confidence within the squad to seize the chance to fulfil a personal ambition.

"Getting to the World Cup would be a dream," he added.

"I've just gone 26 and I don't know if I'll get another chance in four years. We have the chance to do it now."