Ireland clutching at World Cup straws

by Dexy Longshot

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009
 

Continuing the ominous rumblings after Ireland’s controversial play-off elimination at the hand of Henry, MSN reported yesterday that the FAI, Irish football’s governing body, has met with FIFA to discuss the possibility they be ‘reinstated to next year’s finals while also calling for the use of video technology in crucial matches’. In this statement, and therefore presumably in the Irish request itself, there is but one fatal flaw: it is impossible to be ‘reinstated’ to a competition into which you were never ‘instated’ in the first place. That is, they hadn’t quite made the finals at the time Henry’s left-hook consigned them to defeat.

So having been told a replay was out of the question (sensibly, given the precedent this would set for other similarly hard-done-by nations to appeal against their own team’s misfortunes), it seems the FAI have simply asked to be ‘accommodated’ into the competition proper. This implies that had the match stayed balanced as it was and gone to penalties, the Irish would have triumphed. An outcome that was by no means certain. The spirit of fair play that precipitated so much righteous fury from fans, players and pundits far-and-wide, then, evaporates in the face of the cold, hard truth: the FAI don’t necessarily want a fair crack of the whip, they just want their team in the competition. Which is understandable, but it would be more than a little ironic for FIFA to accept this suggestion. After all, it was a technicality that allowed Henry to sin in the first place (the referee and his assistant failing to spot the infraction), and it would be a technical knockout for Les Bleus if they were eliminated without even being allowed to kick a ball in response. The reality is, however, more likely to involve Keane et. al. watching the competition from the comfort of an armchair.

Despite accusations of bias toward the ‘big’ teams with the seeded playoff system – which there most certainly is – and calls for Henry to quit international football in shame – which he most certainly should not – the issue boils down to one simple, age-old question: should the sport introduce extra safety measures to prevent referees and their assistants from making these mistakes? Historically, FIFA has been incredibly reluctant to rule on the introduction of video referees or goal-line technology, leaving many a fan frustrated at injustices like the weight of their match-day official, how accurate his watch may be after the regulation ninety minutes has expired, or the constantly wobbling goal-line at Old Trafford. Their position, which will undoubtedly be upheld if not adequately explained, can maybe be summed up in the words of Lithuanian winger Saulius Mikoliunas who, after diving to win his country a penalty against Scotland in their Euro 2008 qualifier, asked one particularly condescending reporter:

“You have the victory what more do you want?”

The referee, and his performance, is as much a part of football as taking the ball to the corner flag and unnecessary injury-time substitutions: sometimes decisions go your way and sometimes not, and if the boot was on the other foot Ireland would be grinning all the way to the world cup.

Mikoliunas, incidentally, was retroactively banned for two international matches for his actions, a sanction Henry should look forward too if FIFA wishes to placate the outraged masses. And let’s face it, if France perform anything like they did in Euro 2008, that may mean he won’t have the chance to play after all.

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  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    England should be allowed back in WC 94 then, every knows Ronald Koeman should have ben sent off for bringing down David Platt when he was clean through, the irony is he went on to score their second goal. Now, do I not like that!!!!!

  • http://www.pbase.com/leighite/photoshoots Dave

    Excellent article, Iain. Well written.

  • dexylongshot

    Sepp Blatter mentioned earlier today about Irelands request, it was met with laughter around the press hall, Liam Brady has had a go at Sepp saying how badly he went about presenting the news. It was never going to happen bringing in a 33rd team into the tournament but you can’t blame Ireland for trying, what have they got to lose. Blatter and co also let slip that the possibility of 5 officials is a goer. Another f8ck-up (see Fulham Europa game shambles last month). If they had brought in proper goaline cameras at the start of qualifying, there would be no arguments from anyone.

  • Iain

    And how come Scotland never took the chance after Alan Hutton’s ‘foul’ that led to Italy’s winning goal at Hampden in the Euro 2008 campaign?? Lack of imagination, clearly.

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