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FIFA admits refs made 'mistakes'

South Koreans celebrate, but questions remain over the victories  

TOKYO, Japan -- FIFA has admitted its referees have made "major mistakes" during the World Cup -- but world football's governing body has dismissed out of hand any conspiracy theories.

Referees have come under attack for their performances, in particular during the games involving the co-host nation South Korea against Italy and Spain.

Italian state TV, RAI, is threatening to sue FIFA after the national team was dumped out of the competition in the second-round to a golden goal by South Korea after Italian goals had been disallowed. (RAI to sue)

Meanwhile Spanish Football President (RFEF) Angel Maria Villar has reportedly resigned from the FIFA Referees' Commission over his team's quarter-final exit 5-3 in a penalty shoot-out.

Tears and cheers in quarterfinals 
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Spanish coach Jose Antonio Camacho criticised Egyptian referee Gamal Ghandour after three of his team's "goals" were disallowed. (Spanish coach slams referee)

FIFA spokesman Keith Cooper said on Sunday that "major mistakes" had been made but dismissed allegations that the games had been fixed.

He said: "It is a strange kind of conspiracy that involves different teams."

"There have been one or two major mistakes which are cause for concern. The referees have been very well prepared. (But) referees are only human and errors can never be entirely discounted.

"Emotions have bubbled over which is understandable. Conspiracy theories crop up in all walks of life and in 99 percent of cases they are unfounded.

"This one is one of the 99 percent."

FIFA President Sepp Blatter told a meeting of the World Cup referees' committee on Sunday to appoint the "best" officials for the semifinals on Tuesday and Wednesday.

He went a step further and criticised his own referees on Australian television.

Blatter is reported by Reuters as having said: "What we have witnessed in past matches, and specifically matches where the home team of Korea were involved, I have to say I have difficulties understanding our referee committee concerning the designation of the referees and the linesmen."

He said his message of appointing "the best" referees for the quarterfinals had been "obviously understood in the committee but not implemented."

Such unusual criticism has stung the referees.

Fans in Spain are unhappy about two of their team's possible goals being disallowed for offside during normal time.

A further "goal" was disallowed during extra-time because the ball had supposedly gone out of play before a cross that was headed into the net. TV replays suggested the ball was in play.

Spain's football chief Villar is reported by the country's federation as saying he has quit after the defeat against South Korea.

Villar, who is also a vice-president of FIFA, is reported by Reuters as saying he will be making a formal protest to the world football's governing body about the standard of refereeing.

Italians were furious after Ecuadorean referee Byron Moreno gave South Korea a penalty, disallowed an Italian goal and sent off Francesco Totti when the striker thought he should have been awarded a penalty. (Italians livid)

It follows a string of matches in which Italian "goals" were disallowed.

Irate Italian fans have bombarded FIFA's Web site with about 400,000 e-mails.

Other critics of the referees include the legendary Brazilian Pele, the Italian federation and representatives of Mexico, Belgium and the United States.



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