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Livid Italians allege Cup 'plot'

Trapattoni: No intention of quitting
Trapattoni: No intention of quitting  

TAEJON, South Korea -- Italians are furious over their team's exit from the World Cup at the hands of South Korea, with players, press, officials and the public all suggesting a plot involving the referee.

"It was a scandal. The truth is he (the referee) had his mind set against us - this was a desired elimination," said striker Francesco Totti, sent off in extra time in Korea's 2-1 win during extra time. (Match Report)

"By who? I don't know -- there are things greater than me but the feeling is that they wanted us out."

The Italians had five goals disallowed in three matches and a series of questionable decisions go against them before Tuesday's second round match.

On Tuesday Ecuadorean referee Byron Moreno gave co-hosts South Korea a penalty, disallowed an Italian goal and sent off Totti when the striker thought he should have been awarded a penalty. Millions of South Koreans later celebrated their victory that put them into the quarterfinals for the first time. (Full story)

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Franco Frattini, Italy's Minister for Public Offices, was fuming. "I've never seen a game like it. It seemed as if they just sat around a table and decided to throw us out," Reuters quoted him as saying. (More reaction)

Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni said there had been "huge errors" during Italy's campaign, which ended with the co-hosts' extra-time golden goal.

"There is a lot of bitterness and anger on the part of everyone," the 63-year-old said on Wednesday as he prepared to bring his players home.

But Trapattoni refused to be drawn further during a news conference despite outrage from fans, press and politicians across Italy.

"Was it inability or a plot? I don't know," he said.

Meanwhile, as the Italian Football Federation said it planned to release a report on the finals this week, Trappatoni said he had no intention of quitting.

"I have signed a contract. I remain full of enthusiasm," he said.

FIFA on Wednesday defended the refereeing at the World Cup finals, saying referees were subject to errors like anyone else.

"It is always going to happen. The inaccuracies have been kept to a minimum," FIFA communications director Keith Cooper told Reuters.

Press livid

That did not stop, Italy's newspapers denouncing Moreno -- calling him "chubby," "at least 15-kg (33 lb) overweight," "bug-eyed" and "immature."

But behind Moreno, most commentators saw the hand of soccer's ruling body FIFA and its president Sepp Blatter, saying they were determined to ensure that co-hosts South Korea remained in the competition.

"THIEVES" sports daily Corriere dello Sport said in huge black letters across its front page.

While it recognised that Italy had played badly against the youthful Korean side, it said the team was defeated by off-the-field manoeuvring.

"We committed so many errors that we deserved to be shot, in the chest. Instead we were shot in the back. This isn't sport. One can accept sporting defeats, with anger and grief, but one cannot accept betrayal," the paper thundered.

Italians continue to react with disbelief
Italians continue to react with disbelief  

"Outrage," cried another respected sports' daily La Gazzetta dello Sport in a banner, front-page headline, adding, "Italy feels cheated.

"Italy counts for nothing in those places where they decide the results and put together million-dollar deals," the paper said in an editorial. "Shame on you gentlemen of FIFA and your dirty games."

"Italy has been thrown out of a dirty World Cup where referees and linesmen are used as hitmen," leading broadsheet Corriere della Sera said in front page editorial.

"No other team in the entire history of the World Cup has suffered so many injustices," it said.

"Veni, vidi, vici," splashed the headline across the Chosun Ilbo newspaper. "Warriors have finally crossed the Rubicon and entered Rome."

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