(In some alternative universe, Ireland qualified for the World Cup. We've tracked down exclusive match reports from that dimension. Here's how last night's decider against South Africa played out)
A lucky Ireland booted enraged hosts South Africa from the World Cup last night after referee Oscar Ruiz failed to penalize Robbie Keane for a blatant handball that lead to the game’s only goal.
The Irish skipper punched a 88th minute longball by Richard Dunne into the South Africa net. The South African keeper Moeneeb Jospehs had rushed out to catch the ball, only for Keane to redirect the ball over his hand in a move eerily reminiscent of Mardona’s Hand Of God goal, which happened 24 years ago yesterday.
“God was on our side today,” said Giovanni Trapattoni.
In a further ironic twist, Ireland will play Diego Maradona’s Argentina side in the Round of 16.
Ireland seemed certain to go out of the tournament, following another dreary stalemate. After Keane’s goal, an angry South African team pointed Ruiz’s attention to the stadium’s video replays, but the goal stood and South African’s World Cup dreams were shattered.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said “there is no justice in the world” while Sepp Blatter said he may consider adding South Africa as the 17th team in the Round of 16.
“South Africa is a great football nation and has been outstanding hosts to the world’s football community. They deserve better than being eliminated by such blatant cheating,” said the FIFA boss.
Bars in Cape Town and Johannesburg immediately refused to serve Guinness and some burned Chris de Burgh records. World reaction was equally harsh. Many Irish-Americans said they now wanted to be known as simply American. President Obama described his Irish relation Falmouth Kearney as a "distant relative, like really distant" to the Washington press corps.
In Ireland, response was mixed. Fans danced jigs and burned 50 euro notes on O’Connell Street, while on RTE television, pundit Eamon Dunphy called Keane “a disgrace to cheats everywhere”.