PARIS (AFP) - Former champions France flattered to deceive before securing their World Cup spot in controversial fashion here Wednesday after a dramatic 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland at the Stade de France.
Giovanni Trapattoni's visitors, beaten 1-0 in Dublin last Saturday, had taken a shock lead in the 32nd minute through Robbie Keane and the Irish were unlucky not to score more before forcing the match to extra time.
In the first 15-minute spell France had an appeal for a penalty turned down after striker Nicolas Anelka tumbled to the turf under pressure.
Five minutes later France skipper Thierry Henry, who had moments earlier been denied a free kick after falling to the ground 25 yards out, won the match for the hosts when his angled pass amid a goalmouth scramble was met by the head of William Gallas.
Henry's pass, however, came after the ball appeared to make contact with his hand prompting a rash of immediate protests by the Irish players to referee Martin Hansson.
Hansson waved away appeals, allowing France to qualify and thus avoid a repeat of their humiliating failure, at the hands of Bulgaria, to qualify for the 1994 World Cup finals.
Gallas was non-committal on the goal circumstances.
"It all happened so quickly. I received the ball from Thierry. It happened so quickly that I couldn't see (if the ball hit his hand)."
A clearly relieved French coach Raymond Domenech said France had had to scrap to the end.
"It was hard, laborious and indeed miraculous," he told French television.
"I was sure we would make it though. My forecast was 1-1!"
Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger candidly told broadcaster TF1 that "France never found their game. We lacked cohesion.
"We went through thanks to a refereeing error - and thanks to poor Irish finishing!"
French President Nicolas Sarkozy saluted a "gallant Irish" team before praising his countrymen.
"It's fabulous - we're really glad to get through. Qualification is important as it's a major event," Sarkozy told TF1.
Ireland, especially captain Keane, had the lion's share of the chances in regulation time, and they will be kicking themselves having last qualified for the 2002 World Cup where they got to the second round.
Domenech was forced to reshuffle after the first leg victory in Dublin last Saturday after injuries to midfielder Jeremy Toulalan and central defender Eric Abidal.
After just nine minutes, Abidal's pre-match replacement, Julien Escude, came off injured to be replaced by Sebastian Squillaci.
While France looked dangerous in the opening stages, they went on to look exceedingly mediocre up against an astute Irish defence which gave keeper Shay Given plenty of protection.
Damian Duff and Liam Lawrence had already shown their ability to carve openings in the French defence and it was Duff's cutback from deep on the left side of the French area which found Keane, who drove home first time to beat Hugo Lloris in the France goal.
In the 39th minute France striker Nicolas Anelka turned his marker nicely on the edge of the area but his shot was deflected by an Irish body and went for a corner.
A subdued Stade de France welcomed a more hopeful French team for the second half, but Ireland quickly stated their intent as Keane won a free kick on the left flank and Lawrence's kick found John O'Shea unmarked at the back post.
But after controlling the ball the Manchester United defender's shot was struck over the crossbar from four yards out.
Anelka, seemingly the only motivated Frenchman on the park, provided France's first chance a minute later but his 20 yard effort shot was driven straight to Given.
Striker Andre Pierre Gignac then made way for Sidney Govou.
Just after the hour mark, Ireland were given another golden opportunity, Duff racing through only for Lloris to block his effort.
Keane, one of the survivors of the 2002 tournament, was left frustrated after he missed a golden chance to put Ireland 2-0 up when he put the ball wide from a tight angle with only Lloris to beat.
After struggling all night to overcome a packed Irish defence France's late stroke of luck finally proved Ireland's downfall.
|Coach: R. Domenech|
for J. Escudé 9'
for A. Gignac 56'
for Y. Gourcuff 87'
|Rummenigge: Bayern relaxed over Guardiola future|
|Premier League Truce Tournament cancelled over Belgium safety concerns|
|Blanc: Ibrahimovic´s Malmo return was a distraction|
|Astana coach Stoilov delighted with Benfica draw|
|Shakhtar have ´mentality problems´ - bemoans coach Lucescu|
|Lovren vows to become Liverpool leader|
|Mason wants to cement England spot|
|Van Nistelrooy misses rivalry with ´obsessed´ Arsenal|
|Emery disappointed by Champions League campaign|
|Schubert eyeing Europa League spot|
|Cocu revels in PSV´s position after Old Trafford draw|
|Pellegrini questions Mandzukic winner|
|I lived a dream – Ibrahimovic|
|Allegri delighted after Juve seal progression|
|Benitez happy with response to Barcelona thrashing|
|Marchisio satisfied by battling win over City|
|Hareide quiet on Malmo future after heavy PSG defeat|
|Van Gaal aware of Wolfsburg challenge|
|Griezmann focused on winning Group C after Gala win|
|Real Madrid relaxed too much, admits Carvajal|
|Toure laments missed chances as Juve sink City|
|Europa League is Gala´s new goal - Muslera|
|Rooney bullish on Champions League chances|
|Borussia Monchengladbach 4 Sevilla 2: Stindl double sends Liga side out|
|Malmo 0 Paris Saint-Germain 5: Ibrahimovic on target as Blanc´s side cruise through|
|Shakhtar Donetsk 3 Real Madrid 4: Ronaldo wins the group despite late comeback|
|Manchester United 0 PSV 0: Stalemate leaves Van Gaal´s men facing tricky final game|
|Juventus 1 Manchester City 0: Mandzukic seals qualification as Juve leapfrog City|
|Atletico Madrid 2 Galatasaray 0: Griezmann double sends Simeone´s men through|
|Slutsky reflects on "humiliating" defeat|
|´We worked hard for that´ - Schafer revels in Wolfsburg win|
|Dier wary of Qarabag threat|
|Celtic captain Brown out for up to three months with knee injury|
|Supporters´ absence will be tough in Belgium - Sarri|
|Watzke dismisses talk of Hummels rift|
|Teams in Europe need Premier League fixture help - Pochettino|
|CSKA Moscow 0 Wolfsburg 2: Schurrle eliminates Slutsky´s side|
|Serie A not priority for Fiorentina - Sousa|
|Ibrahimovic still cool on Guardiola as he ponders future|
|Tuchel demands Dortmund response|
|Jimenez relieved to end goal drought as Benfica snatch draw|
|Fleetwood´s Ball has Messi and Tevez in his sights|
|Isco handed two-match ban after Clasico dismissal|
|Astana 2 Benfica 2: Jimenez double seals comeback|
|Valdes ´fighting to be free´ from Manchester United|
|Lovren: It´s a great pleasure to play under Klopp|
|Sturridge set for Liverpool comeback|
|Drogba backs Cech to lead Arsenal to title|
|Mourinho explains Hazard substitution against Maccabi|
|Klopp insists Liverpool have no Anfield problem|
|Neuer has taken the game to ´a new level´ - Kahn|
|Klopp is ready to replace Mignolet, claims Grobbelaar|
|Barcelona confirm Sergi Roberto ankle injury|
|Australia, Postecoglou nominated for AFC awards|
|Dortmund rest Reus and Aubameyang for Krasnodar clash|
|Dynamo Kiev receive UEFA fine, stadium closure|
|Boyd against USA match proposal|
|Javi Martinez wants Bayern renewal|
|Barcelona certain Neymar will renew contract|
|Sanchez impossible to defend against - Koscielny|
|Aguero can be Manchester City´s Messi, says Buffon|
|There is something wrong between Lewandowski and Robben, claims Matthaus|
|Bayern on track for Champions League glory - Muller|
|Lovren hails ´unbelievable´ Firmino|
|Cech: Arsenal have everything in own hands|
|Van Nistelrooy believes Depay not ready to make the difference at Manchester United|
|´I like to spend money´ - Wenger|
|´It was beautiful to watch´ - Szczesny after Roma´s 6-1 loss to Barca|
|Simeone: Atletico won´t settle for draw|
|City must believe they can win Champions League - Hart|
|Gerrard confirms Liverpool training return|
|Rooney told to make China move by Eriksson|
|Vanhaezebrouck: Overachieving Gent deserve to advance|
|Barca an ´unbeatable machine´ - Garcia|
|Jokanovic proud of Maccabi progress|
|Luis Enrique wants more after Barcelona hit Roma for six|
|Sevilla in talks to keep hold of Banega|
|Guardiola ´satisfied´ after Bayen brush aside Olympiacos|
|We are thinking about Arsenal now, admits Silva|
|Mourinho plays down Costa row|
|Messi: It feels good to be back for Barcelona|
|Victory will spur us on - Rebrov|
|Arsenal will go through - Dinamo boss Mamic|
|Cahill delighted with Chelsea display in Maccabi win|
|Suarez thrilled to see Messi star on return|
|Bedimo bemoans ´wasteful´ Lyon|
|Layun calls for Porto response after loss|
|Lahm praises Bayern Munich after heavy home win|
|Roma ´lucky´ to lose 6-1 at Barcelona - Maicon|
|Terry a doubt for Tottenham match - Mourinho|
|Wenger: I´ve never seen Ozil in the box so much|
|Zenit have ´moral responsibility´ to beat Gent - Villas-Boas|
|Bellerin backs Arsenal to challenge for Champions League|
|Cocu: I hope United fans don´t boo Moreno|
|Maccabi Tel Aviv 0 Chelsea 4: Mourinho´s men overwhelm 10-man hosts|
|Lyon 1 Gent 2: Stoppage-time strike puts Fournier´s side out|
|Bayern Munich 4 Olympiacos 0: First-half blitz too much for sorry Greeks|
|Porto 0 Dynamo Kiev 2: Visitors stay alive with win|
|Barcelona 6 Roma 1: Messi, Suarez run riot|
|Arsenal 3 Dinamo Zagreb 0: Sanchez stars as Gunners stay alive|
|Silva, Bony could face Southampton - Pellegrini|
|Schmidt annoyed by wasteful Leverkusen|
|Sevilla squad ready to win, insists Emery|
|Nuno: Valencia won´t fail in Mestalla ´final´|
|Celtic and Dundee discussing Stateside fixture|
|Suarez has joined Messi and Ronaldo in world´s top three - Gerrard|
|Pellegrini wants Sevilla repeat against Juventus|
|Navas has belief in Real Madrid team-mates|
|Messi starts for Barcelona in Roma clash|
|Allegri demands Champions League impact from Juve|
|Zenit 2 Valencia 0: Shatov makes it five from five for Villas-Boas´ men|
|BATE 1 Bayer Leverkusen 1: Draw sees Barcelona qualify|
|Van Persie dismisses links to Chelsea and Barcelona|
|Benitez talks up Madrid unity after Clasico humbling|
|Marchisio wary of Manchester City ´backlash´|
|´Cheap´ Mourinho has ´let himself down as a manager and a man´ - Parker|
|Blanc: Ibrahimovic not a machine|
|Qarabag v Tottenham: Rose hails Pochettino with Spurs in peak form|
|Celtic v Ajax: Rogic bullish about progression chances|
|Club Brugge-Napoli fixture to be played behind closed doors|
|Euro 2016 fan zones to go ahead|
|Ibrahimovic: I will retire if I no longer feel good enough|
|Benfica can cope without Luisao and Gaitan - Rui Vitoria|
|Van Gaal wants a winger but won´t be drawn on Robben|
|Man discharged from hospital after White Hart Lane stabbing|
|FC Krasnodar v Borussia Dortmund: Hosts eye qualification|
|Liverpool v Bordeaux: Klopp´s loving touch inspires Mignolet|
|Van Gaal confirms Rooney, Martial fit to face PSV|
|Garcia hints he could end career at Roma|
|Ibrahimovic return will be special, says Rosenberg|
|Materazzi takes swipe at Benitez|
|Schubert determined to pip Sevilla to third place|
|No Napoli fans allowed at Club Brugge Europa League match|
|Rooney, Martial resume Manchester United training|
|De Gea expects Depay to hit top form|
|Platini lawyer claims FIFA Ethics Committee seeking life ban for UEFA president|
|De Jong finding it tough to stay patient at Newcastle|
|Struggling Stuttgart fire Zorniger|
|Yaya Toure: Manchester City want quadruple|
|Manchester United always believed in me - Lingard|
|Mascherano ruled out of Roma clash|
|Barca speculation an honour - Florenzi|
|Ibrahimovic adamant PSG can win Champions League|
|Pieters open to Stoke renewal|
|Di Maria back for PSG, Pastore and Lavezzi still out|
|De Boer backs Depay to emulate Manchester United great Ronaldo|
|Neville: Manchester City should be walking Premier League|
|Arsenal would take Europa League seriously - Wenger|
|PSG to make further tribute to Paris attack victims|
|Benzema one of the world´s best, says Ancelotti|
|Mourinho: Chelsea can still win Champions League|
|Franjic talks up City´s title chances|
|Gerrard to play with Liverpool legends in Sydney|
|Europa League Preview: Celtic facing crucial clash, Liverpool poised|
|Neville: Vardy must prove form against big teams|
|Ranieri: I beat Van Gaal´s Barca three times in 10 days|
|Pochettino bemoans Tottenham´s busy fixture list|
|Hazard better as a winger - Mourinho|
|Aguero: City ready to challenge for Champions League|
|Zidane is ready for Madrid job - Ancelotti|
|Palace had no answer to defensive Sunderland - Pardew|
|Mamic hits back at Wenger|