Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “It was ridiculous really and unfortunately it’s what we thought was going to happen. The World Cup is run by people who want to decide who gets there. Big teams get big decisions. The referee says he was 100% certain that Henry didn’t handball it but Henry said [to me] that he did. He said that he handballed it but he didn’t mean it and we deserved to win. It is there for all to see but that’s not going to change anything. It’s not a difficult one to see. The linesman was in line with it. We deserved to win. We could have got a couple of goals but theirs knocked the stuffing out of us.” – Richard Dunne.
Runner-up: “I am not the ref. The ball hit my hand and, I will be honest, the ball hit my hand. It was a handball. What did I say to Richard Dunne? I told him. And he told me the same, you are not the ref. That’s why the Irish players didn’t run to me, they ran to the ref. You can clearly see the opportunity. [Sebastien] Squillaci went to jump with two Irish players and then the next thing I know, the ball hit my arm, I played it, and the ref allowed it. It could have been better to do it in another way but like I said, I am not the ref.” – Thierry Henry.
Today’s overview: There is a heart-felt outpouring of sympathy for Ireland this Thursday after Thierry Henry’s handball helped advance an undeserving France to the 2010 World Cup finals.
Furious, Russell Kempson is the first to call Henry a cheat. “In one of the most blatant examples of cheating since Diego Maradonaâ€™s infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal for Argentina knocked England out of the 1986 finals, Ireland were undone when Thierry Henry, the former Arsenal striker, clearly handled the ball twice before setting up Franceâ€™s equaliser for William Gallas in extra time.” And in a separate article, The Times’ scribe pointed an accusing finger at the men in suits. “Fifa did not want Ireland and their likes anywhere near South Africa, anyway. That was made quite clear when, at the last moment, the sportâ€™s world governing body announced that the draw for the play-offs would be seeded, meaning that the ‘bigger’ nations could not be drawn against each other.”
Cirain Byrne scribbled in the Irish Independent, “brave, brave, magnificent Ireland. Like lions, they stood up and went for it and by God they delivered all we could have asked for. But in the end, after a 120 minute epic, what could they do? Cheated already by FIFA who changed the rules to give the bigger teams an easier passage, they were cheated once more by a goal which clearly should not have stood.”
Stewing for a fight,[Henry] knew that he had done wrong, but he put self-interest ahead of justice. He could have been a beacon of integrity; instead he shined shame on himself and on football.”
Although refusing to let go of his poetic prose, Henry Winter was next to bash Thierry Henry. “This was Diego Maradona territory, subterfuge writ large, a defence beaten by the dark arts. Unlike Englandâ€™s Argentine nemesis in 1986, Henry has a conscience. How easily he will sleep after this remains to be seen. What was particularly galling was the way the France captain celebrated the goal so exuberantly. Shameless.”
The “Hand of Henry” has lifted the volume on calls for video technology to be introduced in football, with Patrick Barclay leading the pressure group. “Should Henry have owned up? In an ideal world, yes. But, if sleight of hand was good enough for the greatest player of his lifetime, Diego Maradona, small wonder that Henry deemed it good enough for him. Football is a rough game and the best way to smooth it would be to have video reviews. As long as play is not held up â€” and it would not have been in this case â€” there seems no harm in an experiment.”
And then there are those looking to find conclusions in last night’s Irish tragedy.
Amy Lawrence cannot help but praise Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni for what he’s achieved with the Republic. “What Trapattoni has achieved with this group of players, comprising solid workers from Preston and Hull and Stoke and Wolves welded on to the more established performers, is remarkable… Shame for Ireland. Shame on Thierry Henry.” Similarly, Vincent Hogan takes great pride in the Irish effort. “When pride abates, the defeat will untap a torrent of familiar sounds. Odes to Andy Reid; homilies to Lee Carsley; dissertations on the blind spots of Trap. The usual pieties. But what were we watching here in this mesmeric saucer on the tip of Paris?Â We were watching a refined, technical team eventually outsmart an utterly heroic one. A fulfillment of the natural order. â€˜Que Sera Seraâ€™ sang the Irish fans as extra-time commenced. They understood there could be no recrimination now. Just pride and salty tears. ”
Continuing the post World Cup playoff analysis, the Telegraph are the first to wonder what the future holds for Guus Hiidink after Russia were knocked out by Slovenia.
After his much-publicised battles with the referee, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, backed up by Harry Redknapp, has now turned his anger on agents.
As reported by Paul Hayward, “speaking at a League Managers Association dinner to honour the 14 surviving coaches who have presided over 1,000-plus league games, Ferguson accused agents of “conducting most transfers now” while Harry Redknapp attacked middle-men for calling the Tottenham chairman to complain about their client not being picked for the Spurs starting XI.”
Putting two and two together to make five,Only last week Ferguson had to contend with Nani, the United winger who has failed to make an impact at the club, complaining about how the manager was ‘breaking’ his confidence and making him ‘sadder by the day’ for not starting him in the big matches… Whether the Portugal player survives much longer at Old Trafford remains to be seen.”
Looking forward to the return of the Premier League this weekend, Paul Wilson thumbs over “the battle for fourth,” i.e Manchester City versus Liverpool, before making a bold prediction. “Time to come off the fence. I think Liverpool will win on Saturday, because they have the knack of playing under pressure, the desire and the experience. Plus I think Anfield is going to be up for the occasion and City may find the atmosphere daunting. But… I reckon City will win the overall campaign and finish higher in the table than Liverpool. Maybe even, yes, let’s say it, snatch fourth place.”
Turning to Arsenal, Sam Wallace details an important behind-the-scenes appointment at the Emirates. “The director of football role that has remained unoccupied at Arsenal since the abrupt departure of David Dein two years ago has now unofficially been filled in part by an American who once scouted for the club in South America. Dick Law, who helped bring Gilberto Silva and Carlos Vela to Arsenal, has become the club’s fixer on transfer deals and the re-negotiation of contracts for existing players.”
For the second day running details emerge over Chelsea’s pursuit of Kun Aguero. Shedding light on the mechanics of the proposed Â£40m move, Jamie Jackson reveals how “Chelsea’s pursuit of Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero is being driven by the club’s director of football, Frank Arnesen, in what represents the first major test of his ability to operate in the transfer market since he assumed responsibility for senior player recruitment following the departure of the club’s chief executive, Peter Kenyon, last month.” It a slight difference of opinion, Martin Lipman coughs “Chelsea are told Sergio Aguero will cost them Â£50m.”
The Sun then roll out several unlikely transfer rumours, beginning with Antony Kastrinakis barfing “Lomana Lualua is set for a shock return to the Premier League with Tottenham. The Congo striker, 28, could join up with his former Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp as a free agent as early as next week.” The red-top continues with the speculative story that “Spurs and Portsmouth are to step up their pursuit of Marseille’s Hatem Ben Arfa after the winger had another fall-out with boss Didier Deschamps.”
Danny Fullbrook bleats in The Star, “Spurs, Liverpool and Fulham were put on red alert last night as Ruud van Nistelrooy admitted he would consider a return to the Premier League.”
Finallly, consolidation is the buzz word at Craven Cottage with Andrew Dillon writing “Fulham are poised to splash the cash with Â£9million to fund new deals for Roy Hodgson and Brede Hangeland.”