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Socceroos should have been in the qtr final, not Italy : Blatter

Article Published: Monday 30 October 2006

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FIFA president Sepp Blatter has apologized to Australian soccer fans for the country's second-round loss at the World Cup, saying Australia deserved to beat eventual champions Italy.

It won't change what's happened it might help ease the pain of the Socceroos' World Cup finals exit.

Millions of Australians were left stunned on June 26 when Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo awarded Italy a dubious and decisive penalty against defender Lucas Neill in the dying seconds of their final 16 encounter with Australia.

Aussie Fans were disgusted when they saw what appeared to be a blatant dive by Italy's Fabio Grosso to claim the penalty that took his team to the quarter-finals with a 1-0 victory and eventually to claim the World Cup trophy.

But governing body FIFA had turned a blind eye to the growing problem of diving and faking of injuries, or simulation, refusing to acknowledge it effectively ended the Socceroos' campaign.

In an exclusive interview on Australian TV channel SBS aired today, Blatter concedes referees at this year's World Cup finals in Germany "were not at their best" but said the antics of the 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.

Neill welcomed Blatter's apology but warned the situation appeared to be getting worse.

"It's pleasing to see FIFA is at last acknowledging and paying more attention to the issue."

"The Socceroos were great. The Socceroos . . . should have gone into the quarter-finals in place of Italy because they were up to beating Italy, you go into extra time and you are 11 against 10. " he said.


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