Ireland’s World Cup hopes finally snuffed out

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Ireland’s World Cup hopes finally snuffed out

CAPE TOWN - Any slim hopes Ireland still harbored of competing at the 2010 World Cup ended on Tuesday with FIFA saying that there is no way the country can participate as the 33rd team. In a desperate last-ditch bid to salvage a place in this week’s draw, the Football Association of Ireland 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 the request would be put to an extraordinary meeting of world football’s governing body here on Wednesday. But FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke made clear that there is no way 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 why not Costa Rica and others?

“There is no hope at all that there will be more than 32 teams at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.”

Irish players launched furious protests when they were eliminated in a playoff with France after a controversial handball by French captain Thierry Henry led to the decisive French goal.

The playoff 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.” AFP

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