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Heartbreak for lads

Robbie Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko both suffered play-off heartbreak as their World Cup dreams came to an end on Wednesday night.

Robbie Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko both suffered play-off heartbreak as their World Cup dreams came to an end on Wednesday night.

And it was a cruel end for Robbie and the Republic of Ireland, who were controversially defeated by France in Paris.

It was always going to be a tough ask for the Irish, who trailed Les Bleus 1-0 from the first leg in Dublin on Saturday.

But there was never any sign of Giovanni Trapattoni's men being daunted by the task at hand - and it was captain Robbie who levelled the aggregate scores just after the half hour mark.

Damien Duff broke down the left and pulled back an inch perfect ball for ‘Keano' to slot home first time from the edge of the box in trademark fashion to send the thousands of travelling Irish into ecstasy.

And this is the way it stayed for the remainder of the 90 minutes - although there is no question as to who were the better side.

With Robbie tirelessly leading from the front, the visitors constantly hassled and hurried the former World Champions into countless errors as well as being resolute at the back.

And there was even another opening for Robbie when he was put through by Liam Lawrence midway through the second half and just ran out of space as he tried to take the ball around outstanding French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

As extra time began, the home side seemed to have little that could trouble the brave Irish - but what a cruel way it was that Robbie's World Cup dream was stolen from him.

In the final minute of the opening period, a long free-kick pumped into the Irish box appeared to be drifting out of play when the hand of Thierry Henry quite clearly kept the ball live.

Within one movement, the former Arsenal captain had squared for current Gunners defender William Gallas to tap home from point blank range.

The goal that never was somehow stood, the Irish were left dumbfounded, and their hopes of being in South Africa next summer were over.

Nonetheless, Robbie will return to N17 in preparation for Sunday's Barclays Premier League game against Wigan Athletic with his head held high after a performance to be proud of.

It may be a little more difficult for fellow striker Roman to do the same after Russia were dumped out of the competition despite being clear favourites against Slovenia.

Guus Hiddink's men had looked comfortable with a 2-0 lead during Saturday's first leg in Moscow before conceding an away goal two minutes from time against a side 37 places below them in the FIFA rankings.

And at the Petrol Arena in Maribor, Russia's worst fears became reality as Slovenia scored the one goal they needed through Zlatko Dedic a minute before half-time to send them to South Africa against the odds.

Roman started the game but was substituted at half-time on a night to forget for both him and Robbie.