Henry's handball sparks media storm against 'Les Bleus'
Devastation from the Irish, a vicious spanking from the UK and red-faced admissions from the French - three countries' media react to Thierry Henry's handball that cost Ireland its World Cup dream on Wednesday.
"Jour de gloire? Day of infamy more like," wrote the UK’s Daily Telegraph columnist Henry Winter. "France cheated their way on to the last flight to South Africa. Thierry Henry handled not once, but twice in setting up William Gallas’s goal that broke Irish hearts and all rules of sporting justice at the Stade de Fraud on Wednesday night.”
"When we reflect in years to come on the career of one of the finest strikers the game has known," he said, "We will have to put his handball against Ireland right up there with all the great goals he scored."
While The Sun, the UK's biggest selling daily newspaper, dubbed the foul "Le Hand of God”, its British competitor the Daily Mirror, firmly in the play-on-words tradition of British tabloids, stated bluntly in its headline: "French Nickers".
All this vitriol towards a player who was once, as Arsenal's star player from 1999 to 2007, one of the most popular players in English Premiership.
The Irish emotional
But if the British press delivered a vicious media spanking to Henry and the French team, the tone in Ireland was much more emotional.
Beginning his article "under a starless sky, death by a single cut," Irish Independent columnist Vincent Hogan lamented an Irish tragedy in a city where everything seems to outshine the relative lack of sophistication of his homeland, making Henry's handball a smooth and terrible stab in the innocent Irish heart.
"And yet it felt shocking that a country’s dream could perish so fraudulently," he wrote. "Short of tucking the ball up his jersey, Thierry Henry couldn’t have been more openly tactile in possession before flicking to William Gallas for the kill shot."
Irish sports blogger Gareth Maher was less emotive, saying the cruelty of the blow was compounded by the basic fact that the Irish team had outclassed the French.
"France march on to South Africa, while Ireland are left wondering what might have been," he opined. "It is a cruel way for the qualifying campaign to finish up, especially after out-playing their more fancied opponents, but sadly that is how it ends."
The French press, in a rare moment of unanimous honesty, said Les Bleus had performed badly and admitted that the victory was pyrrhic. Even Henry was quick to admit his guilt, but said it had been the referee's responsibility to spot his foul, and not his to own up.
France's biggest-selling national newspaper, sports title "L'Equipe", also splashed the line "Main de Dieu" (Hand of God) on its front page.
It was "a miracle the French team had survived as long as it did in the game, with its child-like passes and the very average performances from its players," the newspaper said. "No game has been so eagerly anticipated and as monumentally ballsed-up as this one in a very long time."
The French capital's daily Le Parisien also said the result was "a miracle" for a French side that had shown themselves "incredibly apathetic, incapable of cobbling together the barest semblance of football or to pull off two consecutive passes."
The newspaper France Soir said victory for Les Bleus came "as a climax at the end of an unbearable game and thanks to a handball that will be the focus of debate for the days ahead.”
On the net
Social networking has also gone into overdrive, with "Thierry Henry"' featuring as one of the top "trending topics" on micro-blogging site Twitter, while a Facebook group entitled "We Irish hate Thierry Henry" had amassed 25,000 members by 10.30am (GMT+1).
Reactions also poured in to the FRANCE 24 website, some long and some short.
The Irish point of view was summed up succinctly by the comment: "We were robbed of our World Cup! Hand goal to Henry... Very upset... Merde..."