Blatter backtracks

Blatter backtracks over comments
By Eurosport

30/10/2006 at 15:14Updated

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been forced to explain comments he made about world champions Italy in an interview with Australia's SBS television. Blatter said last weekend that "the Socceroos should have gone into the quarter-finals in place of Italy...because they were up to beating Italy".

Australia's players and fans were outraged when Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo awarded Italy a controversial match-winning penalty in the fifth minute of stoppage time after Lucas Neill had brought down Fabio Grosso.

FIFA said in a statement that Blatter had criticised the culture of diving and foul play at the tournament but had made no disrespectful comments about Italy.

"The Italian team proved that, despite serious pressures at home, they stuck together as a team and delivered exceptional football," it quoted Blatter as saying.

"The Italian team proved that superior skills, team work and individual determination are the ingredients that lead to World Cup glory," he added.

"With my statement I simply wanted to pay credit to the Socceroos as well because they played a great match and their lack of experience did not permit them to go to extra time."