Croatia registers upset of Italy

Posted: Sunday, June 09, 2002

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) -- Another soccer power is in trouble at the World Cup.

With defending champion France, Argentina and Portugal already stung, Italy was beaten 2-1 by Croatia on Saturday.

While four-time champion Brazil had no such problems, trouncing newcomer China 4-0, the three-time winners from Italy blew a second-half lead. They also put two balls in the net, only to have the goals disallowed, enraging their players and coach.

''We had some bad luck today. The linesman more than the referee penalized Italy. He voided goals without any reason,'' said Christian Vieri, who scored for Italy with a header in the 55th minute.

But Ivica Olic slipped behind three Italian defenders to score in the 73rd minute at Ibaraki, Japan. Three minutes later, Milan Rapaic sent in a whirling volley off a defender.

Earlier, the Italians thought they had scored when Vieri headed in a pass from midfielder Gianluca Zambrotta. But the officials ruled it offside.

Then, in the closing minutes, a long pass trickled into the net untouched, but again officials overturned it, saying attacker Filippo Inzaghi pulled down a defender.

''Italy controlled the game and deserved to have drawn the game,'' coach Giovanni Trapattoni said. ''We had a lot of chances at the end of the game, and I don't understand why our equalizer was not allowed.''

Mexico, which plays Ecuador on Sunday in Group G, and Italy each have three points. They'll meet on Thursday in a game Italy might need to win to advance.

Brazil doesn't figure to have any worries about getting out of the opening round. It already has two victories and a tie Sunday between Costa Rica Turkey puts Brazil through.

Spain is the only team already into the final 16.

China had no chance against Brazil's vaunted R attack.

Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos all scored.

''This is a victory that strengthens the self-confidence, the spirit of the team,'' Ronaldo said. ''We are getting better coordinated every day and we hope to keep scoring goals and win our games.''

Roberto Carlos was even more optimistic.

''We're training and playing with responsibility and respect for our opponent,'' he said. ''We're getting ready to be world champions.''

Also Saturday, at Daegu, South Korea, South Africa earned its first World Cup victory ever, beating Slovenia 1-0.

South Africa not only put itself in position to advance from Group B, but it knocked Slovenia from its first World Cup. The South Africans still need a tie against Spain or some help from Slovenia against Paraguay to reach the second round at their second World Cup. In 1998, they had two draws and one loss on their way to first-round elimination.

Siyabonga Nomvethe bumped the ball in with his thigh off Quinton Fortune's free kick for the South African winner.

''I'm very proud of them. They knew it was time to win and they did it,'' coach Jomo Sono said.

Slovenia was without its best player, Zlatko Zahovic, sent home on Thursday for his outbursts against coach Srecko Katanec. Then a sideline official ejected Katanec early in the second half as the coach became increasingly frustrated over the game's developments.

He sat in the stands the rest of the way.

''A coach can say some things if it was a foul for us or for the other team,'' Katanec said. ''I don't know why he sent me.''

Cameroon coach Winfried Schaefer, a native of Germany, accused FIFA of disrespecting teams from African nations.

''If you are an African team, you don't get the same respect,'' he charged. ''You don't get the same treatment as the bigger, better-known teams.''

Schaefer said FIFA and Japan's organizing committee had shown flagrant favoritism toward Germany, which Cameroon plays Tuesday in Shizuoka. As the home team, Cameroon would normally choose its final training time at the stadium. However, Schaefer said when he requested 7 p.m., FIFA told him Cameroon would have to train 30 minutes later to suit Germany.

''I am very disappointed in FIFA and JAWOC,'' Schaefer said. ''And we have to refuse to give in. We must say no to this disrespect, because that's where it all starts.''

France, which must beat Denmark on Tuesday to advance, will be without striker Thierry Henry, who received a red card against Uruguay and is suspended for one game. But star midfielder Zinedine Zidane might return from a torn thigh muscle after missing the first two games.

Also suspended is Salif Diao for Senegal's match Tuesday against Uruguay after he was ejected against Denmark.

The U.S. team still was uncertain of the availability of key midfielders Claudio Reyna and Earnie Stewart. Reyna has a strained right quadriceps and missed the 3-2 win over Portugal. Stewart strained his left groin in that game and left at halftime.

But Reyna was optimistic Saturday about playing on Monday against host South Korea.

''I think I'm there,'' Reyna said. ''I've been practicing the last two days -- no steps backward. I feel confident that I could play.''

The United States intends to bid for the 2014 World Cup. The 2006 tournament will be in Germany and FIFA hopes to stage the 2010 event in Africa for the first time.

In 1994, the Americans staged the most lucrative World Cup.

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