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June 19, 2010

Report: Coulibaly to get FIFA review

ESPN.com news services

Malian referee Koman Coulibaly, criticized for disallowing what could have been the winning goal for the U.S. off a free kick in Friday's U.S.-Slovenia World Cup clash, may be dropped by FIFA for the rest of the World Cup, according to a Yahoo! Sports report.

Citing a FIFA source, the report says Coulibaly is poised to face an expedited performance review from the refereeing committee of world football's governing body. Officials plan to review footage on Saturday from the Group C, 2-2 draw to evaluate Coulibaly's performance after several U.S. players blasted his handling of the match, according to the report.

Second-half sub Maurice Edu appeared to put the U.S. ahead in the 86th minute, poking in a close-range shot after Landon Donovan's free kick to him. But the goal was waved off by Couilibaly, though it was not clear on whom the foul was called or what the foul was.

After the match, Donovan said he asked the referee what the call was, but did not get an answer.

"We asked the ref many times what it was or who it was on and he wouldn't or couldn't explain it," Donovan said. "I don't know what to think of the call because I didn't see any foul, just a normal free kick and a goal."

Referees must submit a written report to FIFA after each match, but it is not specified in the rule that he must fully explain a ruling such as this.

FIFA refereeing rules state: "The referee shall hand over to the FIFA general coordinator a match report at the stadium immediately after the match. On the report form the referee shall note all occurrences such as misconduct of players leading to caution or expulsion, unsporting behavior by supporters and/or by officials or any other person acting on behalf of an association at the match and any other incident happening before, during and after the match in as much detail as possible."

Coulibaly could still appear, according to the source, as a line judge or other supporting role, but is unlikely to be given assignments to referee further matches.

"If he is found to have made a serious mistake, especially one that affected the outcome, then he would be highly unlikely to play any further part in the tournament," Yahoo! Sports quoted the source as saying. "FIFA is determined to keep refereeing standards high and does not want high-profile mistakes."

The controversial call comes four years after the 2006 finals in Germany, where the refereeing was roundly condemned after a spate of controversies.

It led to FIFA setting up a special referee's assistance program to better train top officials for the 2010 Cup.

Among those refereeing in South Africa are Benito Archundia of Mexico, who handled the 2006 semifinal between Germany and Italy, and Roberto Rosetti of Italy, who also officiated the Euro 2008 final in Vienna.

The 39-year-old Coulibaly has been officiating in African soccer competitions for 17 years and called the final of the African Cup of Nations between Ghana and Egypt earlier this year.

For its part, the U.S. is moving on, with no way to appeal the disallowed goal.

"There is no process for appeals for a decision on the field," team spokesman Michael Kammarman said Saturday. "We have not asked for any official comment from FIFA in regards to the call."

Replays show that more Slovenes were holding Americans than vice versa. Aleksandar Radosavljevic held Michael Bradley in a bear hug,

Bradley had his own theory: Coulibaly might have regretted his decision to award the free kick. Valter Birsa had been called or a foul on Steve Cherundolo.

"I think it's a good goal, first. I think the only things really that could be called would be penalty kicks for us," coach Bob Bradley said. "There are times when a referee, for whatever reason, blows a foul and now thinks either he didn't make the correct call on the foul or from a previous play, and then literally as soon as the free kick's taken, he blows his whistle, OK?

"So you can speculate all you want about which guy and everything, I think it's a waste of time. All right? I think there was nothing there. I think it's a good goal. And that's that."

The U.S. team has been besieged with questions why soccer referees don't publicly explain controversial decisions, as umpires and referees do in U.S. sports.

"We're all accustomed to the fact that if it's an NFL playoff game and there's a call that's in question, there will be a statement by the league from the referees, but FIFA operates differently," Bradley said. "There are some aspects of it that are not made 100 percent clear. That seems to add to the discussion about the game. So from our end we get used to that. And we all have friends and family who ask us the same questions that most of you ask, and you end up saying that's just how it is sometimes, and then you move on and you get ready for the next game."

The U.S. would advance from the group phase if it beats Algeria on Wednesday or even with a tie as long as England loses to Slovenia. If the U.S. and England both draw, the Americans would advance if they maintain their goal advantage over the English, currently 3-1.

But if England draws and scores two more goals than the U.S. does in the final game, the United States and England would finish even on all tiebreakers. FIFA would conduct a drawing of lots -- it's unclear whether that means a coin flip or another method -- to determine which team goes to the second round.

The only time lots were used in a World Cup was in 1990, when the format was slightly different and 24 teams competed. Both Ireland and the Netherlands advanced with exactly the same results, and FIFA used lots to determine the Irish would finish second in Group F and the Dutch would be third.

In the next round, the Netherlands lost to eventual champion Germany, while Ireland won a shootout over Romania to get to the quarterfinals, where it fell to host Italy.

"I don't think anyone really wants that, to be honest" defender Jay DeMerit said. "I think as players and as a team and for fans, it should never really come down to things like that, but unfortunately that's the rules we live by. There's still a lot of soccer to be played between all four teams. And like I said, it will be very interesting to find out how the chips fall. And now we just have to make sure that we take care of things of our end and hope that it doesn't come to something like that."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.