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France Advances to World Cup via `Hand of Henry`

Posted November. 23, 2009 13:23,   


The hand of French striker Thierry Henry (FC Barcelona), 32, has propelled France to next year’s World Cup soccer finals in South Africa.

In the second leg of a World Cup qualifying playoff against Ireland in Paris Thursday, Henry’s contentious goal gave France a dramatic but highly disputed victory to advance.

France had won the first leg in Ireland, 1-0, but trailed 1-0 in the second as the game went into overtime. In the 104th minute, Henry took a free kick, handled it near the goal, and centered it to teammate William Gallas, who headed it in.

Henry’s handball was called the second “hand of God” goal, after Diego Maradona’s goal in Argentina`s 2-1 quarterfinal win over England in the 1986 World Cup.

Henry controlled the free kick with his left hand, then centered it with his right foot to Gallas for the winning score.

Irish coaching staff and players fiercely protested, but Swedish referee Martin Hansson allowed the goal to stand.

Henry admitted after the game that he handled the ball. “It was a handball, but I`m not the ref. I told (the referee) but he told me the same: `You are not the ref.`"

In other action, host Slovenia eliminated Guus Hiddink-led Russia from the World Cup with a 1-0 win. The aggregate score was 2-2 but Slovenia advanced because of the away goal rule.

Hiddink failed to bring his fourth team to soccer’s grand spectacle, having taken the Netherlands (1998), Korea (2002), and Australia (2006). Still, he could get an offer from national teams that have qualified for the World Cup.

France, Slovenia, Portugal, Greece, Algeria and Uruguay have joined the list of 32 qualifying countries.