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Zidane: Don't 'dwell' on Henry's handball

Henry has been at the center of the controversy since his double handball set up France's decisive goal.
Henry has been at the center of the controversy since his double handball set up France's decisive goal.
  • Former teammate Zinedine Zidane comes to defense of Thierry Henry
  • Henry admits a replay would be the "fairest solution" in handball row
  • Henry set up decisive goal for France in their World Cup playoff with Ireland

(CNN) -- Soccer fans should not "dwell" on the hand ball committed by French player Thierry Henry, former teammate Zinedine Zidane said in his defense Saturday.

French forward Henry admitted to using his hand illegally to set up the goal that gave his team a 2-1 aggregate victory Wednesday against Ireland. France's victory pushed Ireland out of a spot at the 2010 World Cup.

"What I just want to say is that Thierry Henry is not a cheater, even if it is a big foul and he committed it, let's not dwell on it," former teammate and captain for the French team, Zidane said to CNN affiliate BFMTV. "I don't think he should take more blame. It's a fact of the game that's certainly difficult to accept for the Irish but something that happens very often on the football field. I just want to say that's a lot for Henry to take."

And Zidane knows what it's like to be in the spotlight -- for the good and bad.

Zidane won every major honor in the game, including the 1998 World Cup. But during the last game of his 18-year professional career, he head-butted Italy's Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final game. France lost that match.

France won Wednesday's match that has some Ireland fans feeling cheated.

Video replays from the game shows Henry used his hand to stop the ball going out of play in extra time before he passed to William Gallas, who then scored the goal that secured France's place in the World Cup.

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) requested a replay of Wednesday's controversial game, but the governing body of world football, FIFA, declined Friday.

The Irish association also called on the French Football Federation to replay the game.

"We regret that despite our best efforts for a replay, which would have restored the integrity of the game in front of a world-wide audience, our calls appear to have fallen on deaf ears at the French Football Federation," FAI chief John Delaney said in a statement. "Without doubt, the credibility of fair-play has been damaged by this incident in front of a world-wide audience."

In its bid for a do-over, the FAI pointed to precedent set in 2005 when a World Cup qualifier between Uzbekistan and Bahrain was replayed after the referee was found to have committed a technical error.

But a FIFA spokesman said the precedent did not apply to Wednesday's game because the referee in the 2005 match "saw the incident in question and simply failed to apply the proper rules."

The FAI plans to "continue to call on FIFA to take action to ensure that such damaging examples of cheating are not allowed to recur," Delaney said.