FIFA: Ireland participation in WC impossible

CAPE TOWN - FIFA dashed any lingering Irish hopes of playing in next year's World Cup finals on Tuesday by declaring it would be impossible to add a 33rd team to the tournament.

FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke told a news conference three days before the draw for the finals in South Africa that Ireland should not entertain hopes of being given an extra place because of France's controversial handball goal against them.

"I wouldn't say it's a nonsense but it is impossible," he said. "There's no hope to give that there will be any more than 32 teams at the World Cup in South Africa."

FIFA president Sepp Blatter revealed on Monday that Ireland had requested a place at the finals in addition to the 32 qualified teams because they felt cheated by Thierry Henry's handball for France in their play-off match.

Valcke said that, as Ireland had made an official request, the matter would have to go before Wednesday's organising committee meeting in Cape Town.

But he said Blatter, who runs football's world governing body, had told the Irish very clearly they had no chance of success.

Valcke said there would be too many organisational problems to overcome and that other teams who felt penalised by wrong refereeing decisions could also come forward and make similar claims.

"We had 853 qualifying matches," Valcke said. "It's sad that we are talking about just one game."