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Greece, Slovenia, Algeria all qualify for 2010 World Cup

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The Canadian Press
11/18/2009 8:39:09 PM
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France qualified for its fourth consecutive World Cup when officials missed an obvious hand ball by Thierry Henry that led to William Gallas' overtime goal in a 1-1 tie against Ireland on Wednesday night.

Greece, Slovenia, Portugal, Algeria, Uruguay also advanced to next year's tournament Wednesday on the final day of qualifying, completing the field next year in South Africa .

The 32 nations will be drawn into eight groups on Dec. 4 in Cape Town, and the first World Cup on the African continent opens June 11.

With help from Swedish referee Martin Hansson, who failed to call the hand ball, France avoided a penalty-kicks shootout at Saint-Denis, outside Paris, and won the home-and-home, total-goals playoff 2-1. The French had come away with a 1-0 victory in Dublin last Saturday.

The game appeared headed to penalty kicks when Florent Malouda sent a free kick to Henry at the post to the right of goalkeeper Shay Given in the 103rd minute. Henry got between defender Paul McShane and Given, stopped the ball with his left hand, then used his hand again and poked the ball with his outstretched right foot in front of the net.

"He almost caught it and walked into the net with it," said Robbie Keane, who had put the Irish ahead in the 33rd minute.

Gallas headed the ball into the net from a yard as Irish players raised their hands in protest at Hansson.

Soccer does not allow officials to use video replay, although the assistant referees can point out infractions to the referee.

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

Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni was livid and had to be calmed by officials. Irish fans -- about 8,000 in one section behind the goal -- chanted "Cheat! Cheat!" at Henry.

"I'm not only disappointed tonight, I'm also very sad," Trapattoni said. "The referee should have asked Henry, I'm sure he would have admitted there was a hand ball."

In the other European playoffs, Greece won 1-0 at Ukraine on Dimitrios Salpigidis' 31st-minute goal for a 2-1 aggregate victory; Slovenia upset visiting Russia 1-0 behind Zlatko Dedic's 44th-minute goal to leave the aggregate tied 2-2 and advance on away goals; and Portugal won 1-0 at Bosnia-Herzegovina on Raul Meireles' 56th minute for a 2-0 aggregate win that gave FIFA player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo a World Cup trip.

Algeria qualified for its first World Cup since 1986, beating Egypt 1-0 in a tiebreaker playoff at Khartoum, Sudan, on Antar Yahya's goal in the 39th minute. Yahya scored with a right-footed volley that beat goalkeeper Essam El Hadary.

Uruguay earned the final berth for next year's World Cup, tying visiting Costa Rica 1-1 to win on 2-1 aggregate. Sebastian Abreu scored for Uruguay on a header in the 70th minute, but Walter Centeno tied the score on a 16-yard shot in the 74th.

Costa Rica will miss the World Cup for the first time since 1998. The Ticos were seconds from qualifying last month when they allowed an injury time goal in a 2-2 tie against the United States, dropping them behind Honduras into fourth place in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Egypt, whose only World Cup appearances were in 1934 and 1990, forced its playoff by beating Algeria 2-0 with an injury-time goal in Cairo last Saturday that left the Pharaohs even atop Africa Group C and set off several violent outbursts.

The embassy and sites of Egyptian businesses such as Egypt Air and telecom group Orascom were attacked on Saturday. Several Algerian players had been injured before the match in Cairo as Egypt fans pelted Algeria's team bus with rocks.

Security was stepped up near the Egyptian Embassy in the Algerian capital, Algiers, but there were no signs of violence. The streets of Algiers quickly filled with celebrating citizens, some setting off fireworks. Traffic came to a standstill in the centre of town.

Women in hijabs, or veils, were seen brandishing the Algerian flag, a rare site in the North African nation.

The jubilant atmosphere crossed the Mediterranean to Marseille and Paris, where there are large Algerian populations. Streams of youths hanging from cars, honking horns and brandishing the Algerian flag made victory laps down Paris' Champs-Elysees.

In Gelsenkirchen, Lukas Podolski scored his second goal of the match in injury time for a 2-2 exhibition tie against Ivory Coast in Germany's first game since goalkeeper Robert Enke committed suicide last week.

In other exhibition games, the United States allowed three second-half goals in a 3-1 loss at Denmark; Giorgio Chiellini scored on a header following a corner kick in the 28th minute to give defending World Cup champion Italy a 1-0 victory over visiting Sweden; and European champion Spain won 5-1 at Austria on two goals by David Villa and one each by Cesc Fabregas, Daniel Guiza and Pablo Hernandez.

At Donetsk, Salpigidis scored for Greece, which will be making its second World Cup appearance after going 0-3 at the 1994 tournament in the United States. Salpigidis took a through pass from Georgios Samaras and put the ball in for his second international goal in 29 appearances.

"We've heard a lot of criticism during the qualifiers and this is an answer to our critics," Salpigidis said. "We never stopped believing in ourselves."

At Maribor, Dedic took a 25-yard pass from Valter Birsa and slotted the ball to the left corner past goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. The difference in the playoff, a rare blemish on the career record of Russia coach Guus Hiddink, was Nejc Pecnik's 87th-minute goal in Slovenia's 2-1 loss at Moscow last Saturday.

Slovenia, which gained independence in 1991, went 0-3 at the 2002 World Cup.

"My guys became immortal!" Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek said.

Fans waited to find out whether Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor would fulfil his promise to clean players' boots if they qualified. Pahor told Slovenian television that he followed through.

"I didn't do it thoroughly, but enough for the trip to South Africa," he told Slovenian television.

At Zenica, Nani's pass found Meireles, who scored on a low shot in the 56th minute. Portugal, which lost to France in the 2006 World Cup semifinals advanced despite not having Ronaldo, sidelined with an ankle injury.

"It is difficult to comfort the boys. They are devastated," Bosnia coach Miroslav Blazevic said.

Theofanis Gekas (Photo: SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

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(Photo: SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
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