Beckham defends Henry over hand ball

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David Beckham has defended Thierry Henry following the France striker's controversial handball in the World Cup play-off against the Republic of Ireland.

Henry has been condemned as a cheat following his part in the decisive goal in Wednesday night's game in Paris.

But Beckham said: "I honestly didn't think Thierry meant it.

"I know him as a player and a person. He's a good person and a great player. It's a shame to see Ireland go out because they have such great fans but these things happen in football.

"I really don't think he meant it.

"I've had a few headlines in the past which have not been nice but I don't think he is a cheat."

Asked whether he would have done the same thing in a similar situation, Beckham told Sky Sports News: "Who knows in that situation?

"You're playing in a qualifier to go through to the World Cup, you don't know what you're doing.

"I've been involved in big games and reacted to certain things and looked back and thought I was wrong to do that."

Sunderland chairman and former Republic of Ireland striker Niall Quinn described the goal as "the biggest injustice I have ever seen in sport".

He told the club's website: "I was at the first leg and it was disappointing because France were lucky on the night. We hoped it would be us who got the breaks in France but it wasn't to be.

"People talk about Maradona's Hand of God goal but I'd say that [Henry's goal] was the biggest injustice I've ever seen in sport. Maybe I feel it more because I'm Irish.

"All that I believe in and all that I love about sport was shattered when I saw something like that. It's possibly the lowest I've felt at any sporting moment in my life."