FIFA pres apologises to Socceroos for WC penalty

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has offered Australian football fans an apology and said the Socceroos should have gone through to the World Cup quarter-finals instead of Italy. Millions of Australians were stunned on 26 June when Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo awarded Italy a penalty against defender Lucas Neill in the dying seconds of its final-16 encounter with Australia. Fans were amazed at what appeared to be a dive by Italy's Fabio Grosso allowed a penalty that took his team to the quarter-finals en route to the World Cup.

In an interview aired on The World Game on Australia's SBS television netowrk, Blatter conceded referees at this year's cup finals "were not at their best" but said the antics of players was the real problem. "I think there was too much cheating on the players' side," Blatter said. Interviewer Les Murray then told Blatter millions of Australians had been "shocked by the amount of simulation" at the World Cup. "I agree with them and I would like to apologise (to) our fans in Australia," Blatter said. "The Socceroos should have gone into the quarterfinals in place of Italy. They were up to beat Italy ... you go into extra time and you are 11 against 10. But that is presumptuous."

Football Federation Australia chief executive John O'Neill said he accepted Blatter's apology, but added it was probably said for Australian consumption only. "It's well after the event," he said. "The position he's stated is what all of Australian football fans felt at the time. It's now four months after the tournament. It's a nice gesture, but it doesn't change the result."

See also: Referees Committee self satisfied with World Cup (24 Oct)