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Thierry Henry defended by Gerard Houllier over handball

Thierry Henry
Henry handles the ball before setting up France's equaliser

Former France and Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier does not want Fifa to punish Frenchman Thierry Henry for a handball against the Republic of Ireland.

Fifa's executive committee will meet on Wednesday to consider the incident as part of a disciplinary crackdown.

The Republic failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, losing on aggregate to an extra-time goal, co urtesy of the assist by Barcelona striker Henry.

Houllier told BBC Radio 5 live: "He didn't cheat. It was instinctive."

The 62-year-old, currently technical director at the French football federation, added of his compatriot: "A lot of the former players in France have condemned what Thierry has done but, at the same time, they said they would have done the same.

"He didn't cross the ball with his hand, he put the ball in on his foot. It's the referee's error.

606: DEBATE
Chelski-4-life

"I'm not saying he did something right but he did something that sometimes, when you play football, you do to help you but, on the back of that, you expect the referee to punish you."

Houllier, who won five trophies over six seasons with Liverpool before losing his job in 2004, helped set up France's ground-breaking training centre at Clairefontaine, which nurtured the likes of Henry and Chelsea's Nicholas Anelka.

"Thierry is too honest a person to have done this immorally. It was not premeditated," said Houllier.

"I don't think he'll be punished and even if the goal had not been allowed, they would not have qualified. It would have gone to penalties."

The striker twice handled the ball before crossing to William Gallas, who scored the equaliser against the Republic in the play-off in November to put France into next year's finals.

Sepp Blatter, the president of football's world governing body, will ask the committee whether Henry should face sanctions but it is not known what punishments could be handed out, although a lengthy ban is possible.

On the back of the furore caused by the incident, Blatter has said goal-line technology and extra referees would be considered for the finals in South Africa.

We must fight cheating - Blatter

If they recommend the proposal it will go before football's rule-making international board in Zurich in March for a final decision.

At the meeting in Cape Town, Fifa will also consider the Republic's request for a place in the finals as an extra team.

But Blatter has said that Costa Rica, who also believe they were unfairly denied a place in the finals - this time because of an offside goal from Uruguay - would also have to be acknowledged if extra places are discussed.



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see also
Republic World Cup plea rejected
01 Dec 09 |  Internationals
Republic ask for extra Cup place
30 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Fifa turns down Irish replay plea
20 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Keane has no sympathy for Irish
20 Nov 09 |  Internationals
The hand of Henry
19 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Irish 'cheated' by Henry handball
19 Nov 09 |  Internationals
It was a handball - Henry
19 Nov 09 |  Internationals
France 1-1 Rep of Ire (agg 2-1)
18 Nov 09 |  Internationals


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