Treacherous Henry, your cheating art will tell on you

 

ANALYSIS:Henry will have to live with his Maradona moment for the rest of his life, writes MARK LAWRENSON

LUCK DESERTED us and the treachery of Thierry Henry sees France on their way to South Africa.

The man cheated. He controlled the ball with the second hand ball. It is a Maradona moment. Diego didn’t regret it but Henry has to live with this on his conscience for the rest of his life.

The dust from this match will take a long time to settle.

Swedish referee Martin Hansson’s correct decision when Nicolas Anelka tried to hustle a penalty out of Shay Given means nothing now as he missed a double hand ball by Henry, who looked as amazed as anyone that it was allowed, for Williams Gallas’ goal.

I said every Irishman played to his ability on Saturday night. Here in Paris, so many of them went up another level. Led by the captain Robbie Keane. Followed closely by his strike partner Kevin Doyle, Liam Lawrence, Keith Andrews and Damien Duff. Richard Dunne was his usual self.

We were the better team. Everyone knew their job. Everyone should be proud of their performance.

What was apparent for this magnificent Irish performance is anything can be achieved in football, against any opposition, with hard work and belief.

From the outset Ireland got the ball down and played. They looked a better side than France for long periods.

Who knows what happened to the mentality of last Saturday, but last night every Irishman was half a yard sharper.

Keane’s goal helped, but the French – be it Raymond Domenech or this supposed player council headed by Henry and Gallas making the decisions – made a huge tactical blunder by leaving three up the pitch, with Yoann Gourcuff behind them, in the first half.

It was no wonder the four-man Irish midfield flooded through the three-man French unit. They might not be particularly good passers of the ball but four against three means that doesn’t really matter. The space will just naturally start to open up.

The goal was a quality attacking move, with possession shifted from right to left before Kevin Kilbane, an attacking full back – yes, this was Ireland – slid Duffer into space and his simple cut back allowed Robbie to roll it in.

The loss of Barcelona’s Eric Abidal was substantial for France. The loss of his replacement, Julien Escudé, after eight minutes made life very difficult for Gallas to keep an organised defensive unit.

Sebastien Squillaci had an uncomfortable night and Gallas’ frustration was evident early in the second half when John O’Shea was presented with his second goalscoring chance in as many matches.

You feared for Ireland at this juncture as, after missing three chances last Saturday, the margin for error was now paper-thin.

The poor French attitude was something that Ireland fed off and the crowd duly turned on their own soon after Keane’s goal. The boos in the stadium as they walked off at half-time told their own story.

That break was crucial for the French to sort out the obvious problems of their 4-3-3 system.

Despite so much hesitancy throughout the qualifying campaign, we refused to go into ourselves last night. Unlike last Saturday. Unlike Bari and at home to the Italians.

We refused to change and like a proper football team were willing to die with our boots on.

In terms of the tactical approach to every game, Giovanni Trapattoni has got it right as Ireland coach. The old master loves to pit himself against a Domenech or a Marcelo Lippi. He seems to be able to work everyone out and the World Cup would have been his playground.

A shot at redemption after 2002 and the travesty that saw South Korea end his Italian team’s progress.

In the first-half, when it mattered so much for Ireland to get back into the tie, Trapattoni had the French figured out. No question.

You always felt when they changed shape, Trapattoni would foresee it and adapt again.

It’s not exactly a newsflash, but the FAI have struck gold with the 70-year-old Italian.

French nerves played a factor. The one-nil deficit in Dublin seemed to free us of the shackles of such a big game. In contrast, world class French players like Lassana Diarra, so commanding a presence in Croke Park, and Andre-Pierre Gignac were putting silly passes straight out or failing to control simple balls.

Then, as we expected, with the tie level on 60 minutes all bets were off. Right on cue Lawrence put Duff through with a splendid ball but a poor shot combined with another life-saving stop from Hugo Lloris kept the French in it.

The French duly rose to the occasion, coming straight back at the Irish defence with Henry coming desperately close to beating Shay.

Keane’s glorious opportunity came soon after. Then the injustice of two such blatant hand balls.

Alas, it will forever be the Parisian nightmare.