- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 19, 2009

France qualified for its fourth consecutive World Cup when officials missed an obvious hand ball by Thierry Henry that led to William Gallas’ overtime goal in a 1-1 tie against Ireland on Wednesday night.

Greece, Slovenia, Portugal and Algeria also advanced to next year’s tournament Wednesday on the final day of qualifying.

The last berth for next year’s field in South Africa was claimed by Uruguay with its 1-1 home draw with Costa Rica, winning on 2-1 aggregate.

The 32 nations will be drawn into eight groups on Dec. 4 in Cape Town, and the first World Cup on the African continent opens June 11.

France avoided a penalty-kicks shootout and won the home-and-home, total-goals playoff 2-1, boosted by its 1-0 victory at Dublin on Saturday.

The game appeared headed to penalty kicks when Florent Malouda sent a free kick to Henry at the post to the right of goalkeeper Shay Given. Henry got between defender Paul McShane and Given, stopped the ball with his left hand, then used his hand again and poked the ball with his outstretched right foot in front of the net.

“He almost caught it and walked into the net with it,” said Ireland’s Robbie Keane, who scored his team’s goal.

Gallas headed it into the net from about 1 yard as Irish players raised their hands in protest at Swedish referee Martin Hansson.

“I will be honest, it was a hand ball. But I’m not the ref,” Henry said. “I played it. The ref allowed it. That’s a question you should ask him.”

Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni was livid and had to be calmed by officials.

In the other European playoffs, Greece won 1-0 at Ukraine on Dimitrios Salpigidis’ 31st-minute goal for a 2-1 aggregate victory; Slovenia upset visiting Russia 1-0 behind Zlatko Dedic’s 44th-minute goal to leave the aggregate tied 2-2 and advance on away goals; and Portugal won 1-0 at Bosnia-Herzegovina on Raul Meireles’ 56th minute for a 2-0 aggregate win that gave FIFA player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo a World Cup trip.

Algeria qualified for its first World Cup since 1986, beating Egypt 1-0 in a tiebreaker playoff at Khartoum, Sudan, on Antar Yahya’s goal in the 39th minute. Yahya scored with a right-footed volley that beat goalkeeper Essam El Hadary.

In a friendly match, the United States wasted an early goal by Jeff Cunningham and lost 3-1 to Denmark in Aarhus, Denmark, the final match of 2009 for the Americans.

Substitutes Johan Absalonsen, Soren Rieks and Martin Bernburg beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan during the first 10 minutes of the second half as the Danes took advantage of a porous U.S. defense.

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