Two Criticized Referees Tossed from World Cup

BERLIN (AP) - Senior English and Russian referees were cut from the World Cup roster Wednesday after their controversial handling of previous matches.

Premier League referee Graham Poll, who issued three yellow cards to one player in a match, and Valentin Ivanov, who handed out a record number of cautions and ejections in the Portugal-Netherlands second-round match, were omitted from officials selected for the quarterfinals, semifinals and final.

FIFA's referees commission released a list of 12 teams of officials Wednesday shortly after FIFA president Sepp Blatter made more critical comments about the standard of officiating at the tournament.

"In the same way that our members send their best teams, FIFA owes it to itself, in its own flagship competition, to send out the best referees," Blatter said on FIFA's Web site.

"Hundreds of millions of players and referees around the world are watching what happens in Germany, with the desire to improve themselves and understand how the game is changing.

"Instead, I've noted that instructions aren't being followed consistently from one match to another. There are the tackles from behind I've seen go unpunished and the violent conduct that has escaped sanction, not to mention the serious errors made in applying the rules."

German referee Markus Merk, criticized for being too whistle happy in a first-round match between defending champion Brazil and Australia, was one of six European referees retained.

Luis Medina, who awarded a debatable penalty kick to Italy in the last seconds of its 1-0 second-round match against Australia, also made the list and will officiate Brazil's quarterfinal against France.

Other Europeans selected included Michel Lubos of Slovakia, Roberto Rosetti of Italy, Frank de Bleeckere of Belgium, and Massimo Busacca of Switzerland.

Horacio Elizondo, the Argentine referee who handled the tournament's opening match between Germany and Costa Rica, was among six non-Europeans selected and will continue his tournament with England's quarterfinal against Portugal in Gelsenkirchen.

The others were Toru Kamikawa of Japan, Benito Archundia of Mexico, Jorge Larrionda of Uruguay, Mark Shield of Australia and Coffi Codjia, a tax inspector from Benin in Africa.

Despite his experience, Poll was considered likely to go after his blunder that could have forced a replay of the first-round match between Croatia and Australia. He gave three yellow cards to a Croatia defender; a second caution should immediately be followed by a red card.

The game ended 2-2, enough for Australia to make the second round. If Australia had lost, it could have protested the result based on Poll's error.

Ivanov set World Cup records when he issued 16 cautions and four red cards in Portugal's 1-0 win over the Nettherlands. That promoted a stinging rebuke from Blatter, who told a television interview that Ivanov should have given himself a yellow card.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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