IThe French papers breathe a sigh of relief this morning after France narrowly defeated Ireland to qualify for the World Cup. Several front pages lead with the photo of Thierry Henry’s contentious handball.
The French papers this morning are highly complimentary of Ireland’s performance and there is a general consensus that they outperformed les Bleus. That Thierry Henry handled the ball in setting up William Gallas’s extra-time equalizer is also generally acknowledged.
L’Equipe’s front page photo focuses on this very moment. “The hand of God,” reads its headline. The paper says it was a “catastrophic” match and while the result is what counts, this does nothing to dispel the feeling of malaise. “Let’s just hope the French side’s performance will be up to the standards of the giants they eliminated to get into the World Cup: Romania and Ireland.”
Inside l’Equipe, former international referee Joël Quiniou says William Gallas’s goal was “not valid”.
As for the performance of specific Irish players, Robbie Keane was “almost a super hero”, says the paper. He scored in the 33rd minute and almost scored a second time which would have sealed an Irish victory.
The world ‘hand’ appears in nearly every headline we looked at this morning.
Le Figaro: “The hand of relief for the French”
L’Union: “Main basse sur le Mondiale” (literally “low hand” or “take over” of the World Cup)
We expected giants of football and it was like children scribbling on a page, says this Reims-based paper. Its editorial says that last night’s performance summed up the World Cup qualifiers for France who got through by the seat of their pants. “Domenech never got his side properly motivated. Their performances were blasé… they seemed to be playing more out of a sense of obligation than anything else…Unacceptable errors were committed…There was fear in our stomachs until the very last moment.”
Le Progrès de Lyon
Le coup de main du destin (The slap of destiny)
Henry’s hand sees les Bleu qualify
Mirroring l’Equipe’s conclusion, l’Est Républicain says the match was ‘catastrophique’. Its editorial concludes that France qualified because of cheating. Somewhat optimistically though, l’Est Républicain thinks that “in a week, Henry’s handball will be forgotten.”
Ouf is an expression of relief but perhaps there’s even a little note of humility and shame in this one-word headline?!
Other stories covered in today’s French papers:
Europe, - a President to do what?
Portrait of Belgian PM Herman Van Rompuy