FIFA president Sepp Blatter has launched a strong condemnation of refereeing at the World Cup, saying Italy had been the main victims on the way to their shock quarter-final elimination.

But he denied media allegations that FIFA had been part of a plot to oust Italy in favour of hosts South Korea, calling on the Italians to show dignity in defeat.

"The refereeing has been the only negative aspect of this World Cup," Blatter said. "The referees have been good, but the linesmen have been a disaster, especially when it comes to offside... they haven't realised that it is better to award an offside goal than to disallow a good goal."

Italy complained bitterly after they were knocked out, saying a string of mistakes by referees had combined to sink the three-times world champions.

The team had five goals controversially disallowed during their four matches and also had striker Francesco Totti sent off in the South Korea game for allegedly diving in the penalty area - a decision that Blatter condemned.

"Sadly, there have been exceptional circumstances and coincidences that saw many errors consecutively made against the same team, Italy," he said.

The Ecuadorian referee, Byron Moreno, has defended the sending-off. "I would do it again. I don't even have to watch the replays... Totti dived," he said in an interview with Il Messaggero newspaper.

Blatter told La Gazzetta: "A World Cup that receives the best players and teams should be overseen by the best referees regardless of their nationality... from now on we will call in the best."

But while accepting that Italy had been unlucky to be knocked out, he added: "Italy's elimination is not only down to referees and linesmen who made human not premeditated errors... Italy made mistakes both in defence and in attack.

"I call on Italian soccer to display some dignity and fair play because you can tell a great side more by the way it accepts defeat than by the way it handles victory."

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us