Henry escapes action over handball

Their president may have described it as "blatant unfair playing", but Thierry Henry will face no disciplinary action from Fifa for his blatant handball that ushered France to the World Cup finals at Ireland's expense.

Football's governing body yesterday decided that it could not punish Henry for the incident because under their disciplinary code "handling the ball cannot be regarded as a serious infringement" and they had "no legal foundation to consider the case".

Sepp Blatter, Fifa's president, had referred the matter to the disciplinary committee in the wake of the furore over Henry's actions last November. The Barcelona striker kept the ball in play with his hand before crossing for William Gallas to score the decisive goal in the second leg of the play off in Paris.

It led the Republic to complain they had been "cheated" out of a place in this summer's finals. Ireland appealed to Fifa to order the game to be replayed and, when that was rejected, then suggested they might be included as a 33rd side in South Africa. Henry later apologised, via Twitter, after facing universal condemnation for his actions and said that a replay "would be the fairest solution" – but not until after Fifa had ruled out that option.

Blatter led Fifa's response, calling an extraordinary meeting of the executive committee ahead of the draw for the finals in South Africa in December. But despite mooting the adoption of extra referees and greater use of technology, the outcome of the meeting maintained the status quo.

Yesterday's decision means that for all the sound and fury that has emanated from the upper echelons of the world governing body, Henry, who claimed he nearly quit international football as a result of the backlash, is free to play against Uruguay when France open their World Cup campaign against Uruguay on 11 June in Cape Town's Greenpoint Stadium.

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