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World Cup call for Europeans in referees row

EUROPEAN officials are to take charge of both World Cup semi-finals after Sepp Blatter, Fifa president, stepped into the row over refereeing standards to ensure that the blunders of recent matches were not repeated.

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Tournament organisers were criticised for allowing officials from lesser-known footballing nations to take charge of big games, but the World Cup's referees' committee now seems to have undergone a change of policy following Mr Blatter's intervention. Six European officials were named after Mr Blatter called for a review of the way referees were selected. Denmark's Kim Milton Nielsen, who sent off David Beckham at France 98, will take charge of Brazil's match against Turkey in Saitama on Wednesday. In the other semi-final, Urs Meier, from Switzerland, will oversee South Korea's clash with Germany in the highly-charged atmosphere of Seoul on Tuesday. Gamal Ghandour, from Egypt, was in charge for South Korea's quarter-final victory over Spain on Saturday, while Byron Moreno, of Ecuador, refereed the co-hosts' second round win against Italy. Both Italy and Spain blamed poor decisions for their exit. Italy went out to a golden goal in extra time, after having their fifth goal in three games ruled out, and the Spanish football federation has decided to lodge a formal complaint after TV replays showed that two disallowed goals followed wrong decisions. Angel Maria Villar, its president, has resigned from the referees' committee in protest. In another incident, Hugh Dallas, Scotland's referee at the finals, has insisted he was correct to deny the USA a penalty which could have kept their World Cup dreams alive. The Americans bowed out after losing 1-0 to Germany but said they should have had a spot-kick, claiming Torsten Frings handled the ball on the goal line. But Mr Dallas said: ''If it's not intentional it's not a foul, no matter where it is.'' Fifa admitted the referees had sometimes got things badly wrong. Keith Cooper, Fifa director of communications, said: ''One or two major mistakes have been made, which is a concern. Referees are only human and errors can never be entirely eliminated.'' He denied that there had been a plot to ensure South Korea progressed as far as possible in the tournament. ''Conspiracy theories crop up on all occasions and in 99% of the cases, they prove to be unfounded. This is one of those 99% of occasions.'' Fifa also reaffirmed that the idea of video replays to help the officials was ''not on the agenda''. The England squad flew home at the weekend and straight into controversy after being whisked out of Heathrow airport allowing thousands of fans only the briefest of glimpses. Supporters' groups described the situation as a ''great pity''. Sven Goran Eriksson and his players arrived home from Japan late on Saturday, following their defeat against Brazil, and immediately boarded coaches inside the airport. David Davies, executive director of the FA, said that security and safety had to take priority. ''It is not a cock-up,'' he said. ''Let me say this very clearly - we will look very seriously at a proper reception for the team if that is the right thing.'' Officials suggested that a reception could be held at Downing Street.

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