Sepp Blatter has admitted that Italy had reason to feel aggrieved with some questionable referreeing decisions during the World Cup, but the FIFA president denied that the game’s governing body were pleased to see Italy knocked out.
“They (Italy) were certainly damaged,” he said. “The worst mistake came at the most crucial moment, when Damiano Tommasi was given offside against South Korea as he was about to score in extra-time.
“I’m convinced that the referee was right not to give a penalty whenFrancesco Totti fell in the box, but that wasn’t the moment to give him another yellow card,” he added.
Blatter was quick to deny all talk of a FIFA-inspired plot to see Italy eliminitaed from the tournament.
“There was no interest for FIFA in seeing another great nation out of the tournament,” he said. “It has obviously done us harm to see France, Argentina and Portugal knocked out so early.
“There wasn’t a strategy to eliminate Italy. They made a lot of mistakes and it’s mainly the team’s fault. They were very near to beating Croatia and Korea, then made defensive mistakes.”
Blatter could not resist the temptation to apportion some of the blame for the refereeing mishaps to former FIFA general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen.
“I have to change the referee selection system,” he said. “Zen Ruffinen, a former referee, chose the current one, but it’s obvious that some referees and linesmen aren’t prepared.
“The linesmen have made a lot of errors on offsides. I have to remind them: ‘If in doubt, don’t raise your flag.’
“In future, we will stop mixing up referees and linesmen and give referees the same assistants for every match. We will also use the best referees, even if they come from just a few countries.
“We can’t experiment anymore in the World Cup. I will take my proposals to the FIFA assembly on June 27 and 28. We can’t forget what has happened.”