France was hit with a hammer blow today when they were not named among the top seeds for Friday's World Cup draw, although Fifa insisted the decision had nothing to do with the Thierry Henry handball incident, the Times of London reported.

Raymond Domenech's team missed out because Fifa decided to use the world rankings from October 2009, rather than base their decision on the previous format, which included performance in the previous two World Cups, the paper reported.

England will be among the top seeds, having scraped in ahead of Portugal and France. Fabio Capello’s team will avoid being drawn against any of the favorites, such as Brazil, Spain or Italy, the holders. Holland also breathed a sigh of relief, having been named among the top seeds.

France dashed Ireland's hopes of qualifying during a controversial play-off when Thierry Henry, the former Arsenal striker, handled the ball twice before setting up their equalizer in extra time. Although the offence was seen by millions on television replays, it went unnoticed by Martin Hansson, the Swedish referee, and France held on to win 2-1 on aggregate.

However, Jerome Valcke, the Fifa general secretary, denied the manner of France's qualification had played any part in their failure to be included in the top eight seeds. Had the current rankings been used then England would have missed out and France been seeded, but Valcke is adamant this was the fairest way to conduct the draw.

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