French minister backs replays calls

PARIS - World football's governing body FIFA should order replays of matches where "cheating" affects the outcome, a senior French government minister said on Friday.

France sealed their place at the 2010 World Cup finals with a 1-1 draw against Ireland in Paris on Wednesday after striker Thierry Henry handled the ball in the build-up to their goal.

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has called for FIFA to order a replay and while French President Nicolas Sarkozy has apologised to Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen for the controversial win, he would not agree to a replay.

"I am obviously very happy that the team is in the World Cup but I think it's very sad to have qualified on this, well, on this cheating," Economy Minister Christine Lagarde told France's RTL radio.

"And I think that FIFA would do well to look at the rules because I think it would be good, in such circumstances, to decide maybe to replay the match."

FIFA officials have told Reuters that any replay would need the agreement of both associations before it could consider the appeal.

"Firstly, we should respect the referee, secondly, we respect the rules but if the rules are bad, they have to be challenged," Lagarde said.

The FAI said there was a precedent for a replay to be staged, citing a decision to invalidate the result of a World Cup qualifier between Uzbekistan and Bahrain in 2005 on the basis of a technical error by the referee.