french player 'offends irish'

DUBLIN - Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni ensured Wednesday's World Cup playoff showdown in Paris against France will be a combustible affair after accusing a French player of insulting behaviour.

DUBLIN - Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni ensured Wednesday's World Cup playoff showdown in Paris against France will be a combustible affair after accusing a French player of insulting behaviour.

France, the 1998 world champions and runners-up in 2006, edged the first leg of the playoff 1-0 in Dublin on Saturday courtesy of a late goal from Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka.

The final whistle sparked a mid-pitch clash between the two sets of players at Croke Park with wily Italian Trapattoni hitting out at his French visitors.

"A famous French player (who he refused to name) launched insults at the end of the game against my players and this really surprised me. What he said was insulting for all Irish people in general," he said.

The second-half performance of both teams was the deciding factor.

Said French captain Thierry Henry: "In the second half we passed the ball better than in the first half. We were creating some chances - maybe not great chances - but we had the ball most of the time so maybe that's why we deserved the luck."

Trapattoni agreed that France were the superior team in the second half but he refused to write off his team's chances in Paris on Wednesday where the eventual winner will book their place in the 2010 World Cup.

l Greece and Ukraine drew 0-0 in the first leg of their playoff in Athens, with Ukraine now favourites to take control of the tie at home in Donetsk on Wednesday.

l A Diniyar Bilyaletdinov brace put Russia 2-0 up against Slovenia who scored through Nejc Pecnik.

l Captain Diego Lugano struck in the 21st minute to lift Uruguay to a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica. - Sapa-AFP and Reuters

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