Henry admits using his hand to qualify France

Published Nov. 19, 2009 3:37 a.m. EST

France striker Thierry Henry admits he intentionally handled the ball to set up William Gallas' equalizing goal, sending France to the World Cup at Ireland's expense after an intense 1-1 draw on Wednesday.

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With Ireland leading 1-0 and the match level on aggregate deep into the first period of extra time, France won a free kick and Henry twice handled the ball - stopping it going out of play, then controlling it - in setting up Gallas for a header.

After the match, the Barcelona striker said Swedish referee Martin Hansson was the main culprit for not spotting the infringement.

"I will be honest, it was a handball. But I'm not the ref," Henry said. "I played it. The ref allowed it. That's a question you should ask him."

Henry, who enjoyed huge popularity while playing for Arsenal in the Premier League, will be vilified by the English press, who were quick to draw comparisons between Henry's handball and the famed 'Hand of God' during the 1986 World Cup, when Diego Maradona punched the ball into the net over goalkeeper Peter Shilton to knock England out of the quarterfinals.

The online version of leading tabloid newspaper The Sun called it "Le Hand of God," adding "Cheat Thierry does a Maradona."

The incident will also re-ignite heated debate as to whether video technology should be used in football to help referees, like similar technology is used in rugby.

Both FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini are against technology, preferring instead to experiment with five officials - one additional official behind each goal - during this season's inaugural Europa League.