Ireland SWC hopes snuffed out
Cape Town - Any slim hopes Ireland still harboured of competing at the 2010 World Cup were finally snuffed out on Tuesday with FIFA saying there was no way they would take part as a 33rd team.
In a desperate last ditch bid to salvage a place in this week's draw, the Irish FA approached FIFA several days ago and asked to be admitted as a 33rd team with another side, possibly Costa Rica, being added as a 34th.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter revealed this week that it would be put to an extraordinary meeting of world's football's governing body here on Wednesday.
But FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke made clear there was no way that Ireland would be playing.
"We have to be clear that Ireland will not be invited to play at the 2010 World Cup," he said at a press conference here ahead of the draw on Friday.
"There was a request made by the Irish FA when we met them in Zurich a few days ago.
"They asked the question but the FIFA president was very clear in saying it was impossible because if we did so then way not Costa Rica and others?
"We told them that because they were making a special request that we would bring it to the attention of the FIFA executive committee members and it is what we will do tomorrow.
"But you can imagine what it would mean, I would not say it's a nonsense, but it is impossible. There is no hope at all that there will be more than 32 teams at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa," he added.
Irish players launched furious protests when they were eliminated in a play-off with France, after a controversial handball by French captain Thierry Henry led to the decisive French goal.
The play-off was poised at 1-1 on aggregate in the second leg in Paris when Henry controlled the ball with his hand before teeing up William Gallas for the winner.
The way Blatter revealed the Irish request to be a 33rd team to the world's media was attacked Tuesday by Ireland assistant manager Liam Brady, who described the FIFA boss as "an embarrassment".
Brady said the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) had expected FIFA to consider the matter in private.
"He's a bit of a loose cannon. He's an embarrassment to FIFA," he told Britain's Sky Sports News.
"We asked because we wanted to have them respond in a measured way, and see what they had to say. I think my country deserves more recognition from Blatter."
The manner of France's qualification provoked an international outcry with even Henry, who has been pilloried as a cheat around the globe, joining calls for a replay as "the fairest solution."
While that will not be happening, the incident has strengthened the position of those who argue that referees need more help, either from video technology or extra officials, to get key decisions right in high-stakes matches.
One direct consequence of Henry's handball could be that matches at the World Cup finals next year are played with two extra officials positioned on goal-lines, a system being tried out in this season's Europa League.
It is expected to be a key issue at FIFA's meeting here on Wednesday.
The draw takes place on Friday at 19:00, with the 90-minute ceremony determining not just who plays who, but where they play in a crime-ridden country entrusted with hosting Africa's first World Cup.
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