Mon, Oct 30, 2006 - Page 20 News List

FIFA chief Sepp Blatter apologizes to Socceroos


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.

Australia was eliminated after Italy was awarded a penalty in the final seconds -- Fabian Grosso went down in the penalty area under pressure from Socceroos defender Lucas Neill.

Spanish referee Luis Medina pointed to the penalty spot and Francesco Totti scored to give Italy, which had been reduced to 10 men, a 1-0 win.

"I would like to apologize to our football fans in Australia," Blatter said in an interview yesterday on SBS Television.

"The Socceroos should have gone into the quarter-finals 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," he said.

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," O'Neill 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."

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