Henry Accused of Cheating with Handball
Barcelona's Henry has been accused of cheating during France's crucial World Cup play off with Ireland, which saw the Irish eliminated from the qualifying stages of the finals to be played in South Africa in 2010.
The two nations were drawn against one another for the play off after both teams finished second in their respective World Cup qualifier groups, with France heavily fancied to go through. After winning the first leg 1-0 in Ireland some of the French team had even dared to suggest the tie was already over, but Robbie Keane's 33rd minute goal gave the visitors hope as they made it 1-1 on aggregate.
Neither side could provide a winning goal however and the game went into extra time, still locked in the balance. The controversial moment came in the 104th minute: a long ball was played into the Ireland penalty area which bounced in front of Henry, who gained a distinct advantage by cradling the ball with his arm, allowing him to deftly poke it moments later into the path of teammate William Gallas who sealed victory for France with his header.
It was a cruel blow to the Irish who had been undefeated in qualifying and had rocked the French in the Stade de France.
Pundits in the Irish and English press have since been lining up to crucify the FC Barcelona player, famous for lighting up the Premiership with Arsenal, as a flagrant cheat. However, how much the handball was intentional is up for debate, as is whether the onus was on him to 'own up' to the referee (when was the last time you saw that in professional football!) with so much at stake.
The Irish, whose luck deserted them, are unlikely to agree but for Barcelona Life's money the striker simply took advantage of a refereeing mistake to book his country's slot at the World Cup... just like any Irishman would have done if the boot had been on the other foot. The debate is sure to rage on a while yet!
Henry meanwhile is set to rejoin FC Barcelona in their bid for another La Liga title with a trip to the Basque country on Sunday to take on Athletic de Bilbao.