It is impossible to make a list of the 10 most controversial national team games ever without mentioning France vs. the Republic of Ireland on November 18, 2009. And people thought VAR only came to ruin football…
But, first of all, let’s contextualize. After becoming world runner-up in 2006, France saw Zidane’s retirement and the decline of that golden generation that won the World Title in 1998 and the European Cup in 2000 was reflected in the competitions that followed. They qualified for Euro 2008 but could not escape a tight spot from Scotland, and the best they achieved at that European Championship in Austria and Switzerland was a draw against Romania. However, Serbia failed to qualify directly for the 2010 World Cup, meaning they were forced to play all or nothing in a playoff against the Republic of Ireland.
In the first leg, in Dublin, Gallic favouritism was even confirmed. Nicolas Anelka halfway with an Irish defender, in the 72nd minute, scored the only goal of the match, against Giovanni Trapattoni’s team, which included the names of the already thirty-somethings Shay Given and Damien Duff and the almost thirty-year-olds John O’Shea and Robbie Keane.
The second leg, in Paris, seemed to have everything to be just a pro forma for Les Bleus, who supposedly had already done the most challenging thing, but that was not what happened at all. Just after half an hour, a run from Duff culminated in a late cross for Robbie Keane, who took the opportunity to put the Republic of Ireland ahead in the game and, consequently, level the tie (33′).
The result remained unchanged until the end of the 90 minutes, which forced extra time. Towards the end of the first part of extra time, Thierry Henry received a ball pumped into the box with his hand and passed the ball towards the goal, where William Gallas appeared to head the ball to make it 1-1 (103′). The refereeing team did not detect the irregularity – curiously, in the same play, Squillaci, who had interference in the play, was not called offside either –, Henry did not report himself and the result, which did not undergo any further changes, meant qualification. from France to the World Cup in South Africa.
“Ireland’s mission was not an easy one, as they needed to score at least two goals to ensure their presence in South Africa. However, Giovanni Trapattoni’s men entered the field determined and took the lead in the first half. In fact, Ireland had one of the best performances of recent times yesterday. He created several opportunities but was unable to convert them. At the Stade de France, where 11 years ago the Gauls won the world title, Raymond Domenech heard a lot of whistles due to his team’s poor performance. And when the match seemed to be headed towards a decision through penalties, Swedish referee Martin Hansson turned a blind eye to two infractions in the same play: he did not signal Squillaci’s offside and, following the play, the ball didn’t leave the field. playing field because Henry dominated it with his hand, taking advantage of the infraction to assist Gallas. Immediately, the Irish players raised their arms, asking the match referee to intervene, but the French central defender’s goal was validated, in the face of Giovanni Trapattoni’s protests”, wrote the newspaper The Game.
The controversy lasted a few weeks if not months. Thierry Henry admitted to having played the ball with his hand but defended himself from the criticism, stating that it was the referee’s responsibility to signal a foul. Due to the pressure he was subjected to, the Portuguese forward considered withdrawing from the national team and had to ask for protection for his family.
The Irish players claimed that the irregular goal had happened because the UEFA president was a Frenchman, Michel Platini. The Federation of the Republic of Ireland called for a replay of the game, having even cited a precedent in the qualifying phase for the 2006 World Cup, when a match between Uzbekistan and Bahrain was ordered to be replayed due to a technical error by the referee, who did not order a penalty was repeated after an attacker entered the area before taking it. However, FIFA rejected the request to replay the game the following day.
Faced with the impossibility of the game being repeated, the Irish Federation went further and asked for the World Championship to be extended to 33 teams so that the Republic of Ireland team could be included, but this hypothesis was also rejected.