“Henry’s hand qualifies France” — that’s my translation of the front page of L’essentiel this morning.
First, a short version of last night’s events: Ireland traveled to Paris to play the second match in a two-match series against France. France had scored one goal in Dublin, so Ireland had to score a goal in Paris to stay alive.
Ireland scored that goal in the 35th minute, and played an outstanding game for all of regulation. After two matches of 90 minutes each, the score was 1-1. So they played into extra time.
In the 13th minute of extra time, the superstar Thierry Henry got a fast-moving ball under control and passed it to William Gallas. Gallas scored and the entire Irish team turned to the referee and called for a “hand ball” foul. No foul was called, the goal stood, and France beat Ireland to qualify for the World Cup.
Somehow, the fact that Henry admits the handball makes it worse.
I don’t know what the Irish fans did that night in France, but I do know that the main flight this morning from Charles de Gaulle airport to Dublin was delayed by more than three hours.
Out of fellow-feeling for our Irish friends, and a bit of sadness ourselves, we decided to watch the Irish morning television show and see what the newspapers had to say online.
Anita observed that the television personalities appeared to pass through four stages of grief:
- The first stage, obviously, was anger. They was robbed! A blind referee in a system biased toward the big countries! We played our hearts out and we was robbed!
- The second stage was depression. They were lucky to get this far, with the sad bunch of players that Trap had to choose from. We’ll never see the likes of this team in our lifetimes, and now it’s all over.
- The third stage was self-blame. We shouldn’t have let it go to extra time in the first place. If we’d played, in Dublin, like we did in Paris, like we can play, then there’d be no extra time. In fact, we should have won our division outright, and it should have been Italy versus France in the playoff.*
- The fourth stage was rationalization. With the economy as it is, this is actually a blessing. We can’t actually afford to go to South Africa, so it’s good we lost.**
The newspapers brought out their most lurid prose for their sports coverage today, as you can imagine. The Bugle Staff are busy collecting the choicest turns of phrase for your pain, or pleasure, or both.
A note at press time: The latest news is that Ireland has lodged an official complaint with FIFA, calling for a replay of the second match.
* – Yes, this is actually what one soccer commentator said, on RTE, this morning.
** – Yes, this is also a close paraphrase to what was said on RTE.