What in life is ever fair? Just ask Ireland about their recent loss in the 2010 World Cup Qualifier playoff match against France. While I am not a fan of the French, their coach they do have some class players on their current squad. Names such as Ribery, Anelka, Gallas and Henry come to mind. Many remember the unfortunate headbutt incident in the 2006 World Cup, which saw a blemish on the final career game of Zinedine Zidane. More recently the blatant hand ball offense by Henry in extra time that helped the ball find the foot of Gallas and eventually the back of the goal has spurred many comments from teams and officials about fair play.
The incident was very unfortunate for Ireland, who deserve a berth in the 2010 World Cup. The possibility of a replaying of the match has already been ruled about by Sepp Blatter and FIFA. More recently the FAI (governing body of football in Ireland) has asked FIFA to include them as team number 33 in a 32 team field for the upcoming World Cup in South Africa. If we start making exceptions to the rules, then one must also look at Costa Rica being the 34rd team in the draw with their controversial loss to Uruguay. Where does the madness stop?
While the event was very unfortunate for both countries, I don’t believe any amount of lobby for their cause will have either nation booking their trip to South Africa. It is interesting to note that FIFA is testing the use of officials positioned behind each goal in the UEFA Europa League. This would make the total of 6 officials now involved in the match. Is this the direction we want to go? Replay always seems to draw criticism. In America we see replay used the NFL and sometimes the footage ends up being “inconclusive” and always the play to stand. Other times there is evidence the official was incorrect in their initial call and the call on the field is overturned.
What would the use of replay in FIFA matches do to the game? Obvious answer, slow the game down and break the flow of the match. Not sure this is something a team wants when on the field. Of course being a team like Ireland or Costa Rica, replay would have corrected incorrect calls and saw both teams making the field of 32 for the World Cup. While I am against replay I do like the idea of adding behind the goal officials, much like we see in hockey. This would provide more eyes on the ball and pitch, as well as blatant or unnecessary fouls in that area of the pitch.
It will be interesting to watch and see the direction that FIFA takes. As I said, I don’t think either nation will end up heading to South Africa, both teams were on the short end of the stick. I guess we can only hope that France makes an early exit in the group stage of the World Cup.