Henry says World Cup playoff would be fair

Fri Nov 20, 2009 1:45pm EST
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By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - France captain Thierry Henry has agreed a replay against Ireland would be the fairest solution to the controversy surrounding the teams' World Cup playoff.

The striker handled the ball in the buildup to William Gallas's goal in Wednesday's 1-1 second-leg draw in Paris, earning France a 2-1 aggregate win and sending them through to next year's finals in South Africa.

"Naturally I feel embarrassed at the way we won and feel extremely sorry for the Irish who definitely deserve to be in South Africa," Henry said in a statement issued on his behalf on Friday.

"Of course, the fairest solution would be to replay the game but it is not in my control. There is little more I can do apart from admit the ball had contact with my hand leading up to our equalizing goal and I feel very sorry for the Irish."

Henry's statement was issued after world soccer's governing body FIFA rejected an Football Association of Ireland (FAI) appeal to replay the match.

"I am not a cheat and never have been," said Henry. "It was an instinctive reaction to a ball that was coming extremely fast in a crowded penalty area.

"I have never denied the ball was controlled with my hand. I told the Irish players, the referee and the media this after the game."

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