I have always been a big fan of Thierry Henry, and I am going to have a hard time seeing him in the same light after what happened in St. Denis today.
I cannot understand why it is that certain teams just seem to get the ref to look the other way when they commit egregious handballs. We all know about la mano de dios, but I’m sure some of you have images of a German handball that Hugh Dallas Missed in Ulsan still burned in your brain. Others might remember some iffy calls last May at Stanford Bridge. Unlike Maradona, though, at least Henry was man enough to admit it.
"I will be honest, it was a handball. But I’m not the ref,” Henry said. “I played it. The ref allowed it. That’s a question you should ask him.”
Today’s ref whiff was equal to the task. There is no guarantee that Ireland would have won the game if the ref made the call. I would even argue that Robbie Keane had as much to do with causing the extra time with his second half miss as he did with his first half goal that eventually forced the free footie. But the game will only be remembered by that awful noncall. A very cruel way for the Irish to bow out.
As for France, why the cynicism? Why do you have the governor on your team, Domenech? The France I remember is creative, explosive, and fun to watch. If I want to watch dull, unimaginative footie, I’ll watch the Greeks.
Greece made grown Ukranian men cry today with their stunning 1-0 win at Donetsk. Dimitrios Salpingidis may have gotten the goal, but the real hero proved to be the goalkeeper, Alexandros Tzorvas, who got in front of everything the Ukranians offered up. It was a fruitless task to try and get two goals on a team that are virtuosos in protecting a 1-0 lead.
The away goal Slovenia got Saturday in Russia proved to be the difference as they got the 1-0 win that would put them through to the tournament. And karma was present in Khartoum, where Algeria earned their ticket to their first world cup in 24 years with a 1-0 defeat of Egypt. I have to wonder if the holy trinity of Puskas, Garrincha, and Best made sure that Egypt would not make it through. But Algeria didn’t need any of their help after Antar Yahia scored at the end of the first half. Egypt resorted to long ball, playing away from their strength, and that was that.
Portugal survived their playoff without any of the drama we saw in the other games. Raul Meireles’s goal forced the Bosnians to score 3 to win. No chance. So now all of us will have the pleasure of seeing Cristiano Ronaldo trying to out-pout Kaka all June long.
Uruguay has been either the last team to make it, or the last team to be eliminated in the last two world cup cycles. Costa Rica, who was supposed to be nothing more than a formality, put up much more of fight tonight in Montevideo than expected. The charrua mouths got even drier when Walter Centeno put the Ticos on level terms a few minutes after el loco Abreu put Uruguay ahead. Uruguay, though, rode out the last few minutes, and then an agonizing 8 minutes of stoppage time. They made it as the last team yet again.
32 teams. A continent that has never hosted the party. A winter world cup.