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Life President
May 29, 2005
While you're reading this, Giovanni Trapatoni will be giving his statement to an array of police equipped with notebooks and forensic packs, as one of the greatest robberies of sporting history occurred tonight.

No more than three years ago, Thierry Henry lambasted Barcelona for their less-than-savoury tactics and poor officiating in a Champions League final. We'll ignore the fact he later signed for Barcelona, tonight he proved himself a hypocrite of the highest order with one fell swoop of his left arm.

Ireland dominated the early stages of the game. Much has been said about Raymond Domenech's methods and motivation techniques, and they were clearly ineffective to start with. The French struggled to find any kind of rhythm and, in the 32nd minute, the emerald isle burst into joy. A sweeping move saw Kilbane release Duff down the left hand side, who played a delightful ball into the path of Robbie Keane who finished with aplomb into the bottom right hand corner. The onlooking Stade Francais fell silent, all apart from a small, green section.

After the break, it was much of the same, Robbie Keane even rounding the outstanding Hugo Lloris only to take it a touch too far. As much as Ireland created, however, they failed to find that crucial second goal that would've taken any remaining wind out of French sails. You could have confused France for a much lesser nation, for a side to have such tremendous talent they make hard work of the simplest of tasks. The press have joked about a contest between Domenech and Maradonna of achieving the least with the most talent... It's only the French and Argentinians that aren't laughing.

With the game limping into extra time, Domenech replaced the instrumental Gourcuff with Florent Malouda instead of bringing on the £45m striker Karim Benzema, much to the disgust of the French fans who jeered every misplaced pass, every failed run and every missed interception, heaping pressure onto the hosts.

Extra time was lost to two moments of controversy, one of which will go down in World Cup history. The first saw Nicolas Anelka appear to round Shay Given only to be brought down by the Irish stalwart. Replays showed that Anelka left his leg to be clipped by Given's hand, and he had the good grace to barely appeal for the decision, seemingly knowing the full influence of his actions in such a monumental encounter. He left the show stealing to Thierry Henry.

Sydney Govou, possibly more revered in France than any other player, whipped in a free-kick that flighted past most of the Irish defence. With the ball on the line, Henry intentionally controlled the ball with his left hand and knocked the ball with his right foot past Given , onto Gallas's oddly-shapped head and into the net, sparking wild appeals from the Irish and even wilder celebrations from the hosts. Henry himself spared no thought of his deviousness as he gallivanted towards the fans bearing his best Cheshire cat impression.

Deflated, cheated and exhausted, it proved the knock-out blow to an Irish team running purely on enthusiasm that had now been stolen. The whistle blew without another moment worthy of mention and, with it, the Irish sank to their feet as the French jumped with joy. They were going to South Africa, but at the expense of Irish dreams and the sanctity of football itself. Much will be said of that moment in the coming months, officials on the defensive line are being experimented in the Europa League and are vindicated by moments like this, but it'll provide no sympathy to a nation cheated out of the World Cup.

After the game, Henry sat down next to a deflated Richard Dunne, knowing full well the repercussions of his actions. How Dunne refrained from lumping him I'll never know...
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