Begorrah. Talk about the luck of the Irish. Ireland’s football team was cruelly denied a place at next year’s World Cup in South Africa due to a blatant piece of cheating from the French this morning.

In an act of grand larceny, ex-Arsenal striker Thierry Henry – currently at Spanish giants Barcelona – handballed twice (the second time deliberately to control the ball), to set up France’s goal in a 1-1 extra time draw against the Irish in Paris this morning. France qualified for the World Cup at Ireland’s expense thanks to a 2-1 aggregate ‘win’ over two matches.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Thehkd0PPg[/youtube]

The referee and linesman failed to spot the handball despite Henry almost catching the ball at the back post before squaring to teammate William Gallas to score. Post-match, Henry decided to “be honest” (!!) and admit “the ball hit my hand” but “I am not the referee”. Who said cheats never prosper?

For the good of the game of football, this result cannot be allowed to stand.

FIFA needs to order this match to be replayed at a neutral venue. It’s an absolute disgrace and here in Australia, gives further ammunition to football’s critics to mock the game’s integrity.

Henry is a fantastic player but he’ll now be forever remembered as a cheat. Perhaps he should have a word with his former manager at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, who offered to replay a 1999 FA Cup match against Sheffield United after a controversial winning Arsenal goal. Arsenal won that replay 2-1 but also won something far more important – the admiration of sports fans for their sense of decency.

Will the French manager, Raymond Domenech, follow his compatriot Wenger’s example and offer the Irish a replay? In the high financial stakes game of World Cup qualification, it’s doubtful. FIFA must intervene.

We’ve been here before, of course. Diego Maradona’s handball against England in the 1986 World Cup led to FIFA instigating a Fair Play campaign. It’s worthless if FIFA refuse to get some balls and order the French to replay the match.

This result sullies the game of football. If not addressed, it’s tempting to forget about football. What’s the point if this kind of cheating behaviour is rewarded at the supposed pinnacle of the sport?