Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni refused to say what sparked the confrontation between his players and France at the end of their World Cup playoff on Saturday.
Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews and counterpart Lassana Diarra squared up to each other near the center circle at the final whistle of France’s 1-0 win, prompting the intervention of both captains and match officials.
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Diarra appeared to turn his back on Andrews when the Ireland player tried to shake his hand but Trapattoni would not say what the French midfielder said as he did so.
“I cannot say the sentence,” Trapattoni said. “It was very bad. It was a famous player. I was surprised.”
But Trapattoni said he would not press the Football Association of Ireland to make a complaint to FIFA over the incident.
“I hear many players on the pitch many times make bad gestures,” the 70-year-old former Italy coach said. “It’s not part of my culture to complain afterwards.”
Asked by journalists to confirm that Diarra was the player who hurled the insult, Trapattoni shrugged theatrically and refused to deny it.
“I name the sin and not the sinner,” Trapattoni said.
As in many sports, footballers often goad and taunt opponents in an effort to unsettle them.
As when Italy defender Marco Materazzi lured France playmaker Zinedine Zidane into his infamous head butt during the 2006 World Cup final, it is often the underdog who is trying to gain some kind of advantage over a more gifted player.
But Diarra plays for Real Madrid in Spain, while Andrews only made a low-profile move into England’s Premier League with Blackburn last year at the unusually advanced age of 27.
It was a strange end to a game that didn’t feature a single yellow card.
Thierry Henry and Richard Dunne helped calm their teammates as the disagreement threatened to escalate, shaking hands and hugging before the French trotted over to acknowledge their fans and the Irish walked all the way around the field to applaud a raucous home crowd.