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GRAHAME L. JONES / ON SOCCER

World Cup teams locked in

November 19, 2009|GRAHAME L. JONES

Fury in Ireland. Disillusionment in Russia. Regret in Costa Rica.

The final day of qualifying for soccer's 2010 World Cup in South Africa brought a gamut of emotions Wednesday as the 32-team field for next year's tournament finally was set into stone.

Algeria, Greece, Slovenia, Portugal, France and Uruguay are in.

As a result, Egypt, Ukraine, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ireland and Costa Rica are out.

So there will be no Guus Hiddink coaching in South Africa, and no Andrei Arshavin playing there either.

But if he recovers from his ankle injury, FIFA world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo will be there with the Portuguese team, and Michel Platini, UEFA's president, will be able to cheer Les Bleus, thanks to some curious officiating in Paris.

France qualified when it came from behind to tie Ireland, 1-1, in overtime and thus advance, 2-1 on aggregate goals.

France's William Gallas scored the decisive goal after teammate Thierry Henry handled the ball but was not called for the foul. "I will be honest, it was a handball," Henry said. "But I am not the referee."

Robbie Keane, who scored Ireland's goal that forced the overtime, was incensed, hinting at conspiracy by FIFA first in the seeding process and then in the match itself.

"They're probably all clapping their hands, Platini sitting there on the phone to Sepp Blatter [FIFA's president], texting each other, delighted with the result," Keane said.

Hiddink, Russia's coach and the man who led both the Netherlands and South Korea to the semifinals in previous World Cups, might be sending or receiving a few texts himself.

He is unlikely to remain in his job after Russia was beaten, 1-0, by Slovenia in Maribor, Slovenia, and he skipped the postgame news conference.

Slovenia advanced on the away goals rule, having scored in a 2-1 loss in Moscow on Saturday.

"My guys became immortal," Slovenia Coach Matjaz Kek said after Zlatko Dedic supplied Wednesday's all-important goal.

Ukraine was another favored team that fell by the wayside. It tied Greece, 0-0, in Athens and was expected to win at home. Instead, the Greeks again packed their defense, got a goal from Dimitris Salpigidis, and made it stand up.

"We will play exciting football when we have [Lionel] Messi, Kaka, [Andres] Iniesta and Xavi on the team," joked Greece's 71-year-old German coach, Otto Rehhagel, who led Greece to its Euro 2004 title.

Portugal made no mistake in its series with Bosnia-Herzegovina, winning, 1-0, in Lisbon and by the same score in Zenica, Bosnia, on Wednesday, this time on a goal by Raul Meireles.

Earlier in the day, in a fiery encounter in neutral Khartoum, Sudan, Algeria qualified for its first World Cup since 1986 when it overcame Egypt, 1-0, on a goal by Antar Yahia.

The game was a winner-take-all playoff after the teams had ended up tied on points in their African qualifying group and on all the other tiebreakers.

Two-time World Cup winner Uruguay became the 32nd and final team to qualify for South Africa when it played Costa Rica to a nervous 1-1 tie in Montevideo.

Sebastian Abreu put Uruguay ahead, 1-0 on the night and 2-0 on aggregate, before Walter Centeno scored for Costa Rica to ensure a tense finale.

Next up is the Dec. 4 World Cup draw in Cape Town, South Africa, to determine the first-round groups and games.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The qualifiers

The 32 teams in the 2010 World Cup will be grouped Dec. 4.

* North and Central America and Caribbean: Honduras, Mexico, United States

* Europe: Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland

* South America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay

* Asia: Australia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea

* Africa: Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, South Africa (host)

* Oceania: New Zealand

Source: Associated Press

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