independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Domenech blocked replay

French coach Raymond Domenech celebrates with French forward Thierry Henry at the end of the controversial World Cup 2010 qualifier. Photo: Getty Images

Raymond Domenech was the sole obstacle to Ireland's game against France being replayed, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Domenech refused to allow the French Football Federation to agree to a replay of France's game against Ireland despite the overwhelming backing of the French squad, the French public and key figures within the federation.

The FAI yesterday conceded that there was no chance of a replay following the statement from the FFF on Friday night. Yet it has emerged that the French were close to agreeing but Domenech, who would have been fired if France had been eliminated last Wednesday, insisted there should be no second chance for Ireland.

During several discussions on Friday, Domenech would not back down despite the increased pressure following the statements from Thierry Henry and Arsene Wenger, who both called for the game to take place again, probably on Wednesday week.

The French public were overwhelming in favour of the game being replayed but the views of the French squad were even more influential and on Thursday night and Friday morning the feeling grew within the team that the game should be replayed.

If Domenech had relented, the FFF would have agreed to the Irish request and the FAI had been privately assured that FIFA would have allowed the game to take place and, in fact, they would have welcomed the chance to demonstrate that their commitment to fair play and integrity was more than just rhetoric.

"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," said chief executive, John Delaney.

But Domenech -- once seen as Ireland's best chance -- was the chief obstacle. The players are understood to have been confident they could beat Ireland in a replay and remove the sense they had qualified unfairly for next summer's tournament.

Domenech saw it differently, however, holding privately to his public view that there was no need to commit "hara-kiri" and allow a replay.

The FAI believed that the game would have attraction a global audience and influential figures in FIFA also held this view, seeing it as a way to restore the reputation of the game. Yet they could not act unless the FFF agreed as FIFA would not overturn a decision -- or non-decision -- made by a referee.

"The credibility of fair-play has been damaged by this incident in front of a world-wide audience," said Delaney, who sits on the UEFA disciplinary committee, added. "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."

Ireland's manager Giovanni Trapattoni, who had said it was "impossible" that the FAI would agree to a replay, accused FIFA of "treachery" on Friday, adding that the double handball by Henry was "murder". Most contentiously, Trapattoni claimed that the fourth official had informed referee Martin Hansson of the handball.

"Even a blind man would have seen the double handball. The linesman was on line as the images show and he had perfect vision. I am certain that Mr Hansson 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?"

In the end, it appears that it was Domenech's refusal to change his that denied Ireland a replay.

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