Johannesburg: FIFA President Sepp Blatter promised on Tuesday to re-open the file on goalline technology, while warning the French government not to meddle with the running of the country’s Football Federation.
The head of soccer’s governing body, speaking ahead of matches between Japan and Paraguay and Spain and Portugal to settle the last two quarter-final berths, apologised for the mistakes that have blighted the World Cup and said it would be “nonsense” not to re-consider using technology.
However, he made clear that only technology to determine goalline decisions and not video replays to determine offsides and other match rulings would be discussed.
His tone was much sterner when discussing France, as he warned the federation would face sanctions that could include suspension — and a consequent international competition ban for its national and club teams — if the government treated soccer as a state issue.
South African police also got tough on Tuesday, arresting a British tabloid journalist for helping a fan gain access to the England dressing room after a match earlier in the tournament.
Meanwhile, Japan and Paraguay in Pretoria (1400 GMT) and Spain and Paraguay in Cape Town (1630) were due to contest the final second-round matches before the quarter-finals on 2-3 July.
Blatter apologised directly to the English and Mexican football federations after television replays showed they were victims of blatantly incorrect decisions in their defeats on Sunday in last 16 matches against Germany and Argentina.
“It is obvious that after the experiences so far at this World Cup it would be a nonsense not to re-open the file on goalline technology,” Blatter said at a briefing with selected media.
“We cannot change anything with 10 games to go in the World Cup, but we will look again at technology, goalline technology, at the business meeting of the (law-making) International Football Association Board in Cardiff, Wales in July.”
FIFA earlier this year ruled out using such technology in the foreseeable future, leaving it isolated among major sports.
Blatter also repeated a FIFA warning to the French government not to interfere in soccer after their team’s disgrace in the World Cup, threatening to suspend their federation if there was an attempt to exert political influence.
The federation head, Jean-Pierre Escalettes, announced his resignation on Monday.
“In France they have made an ‘affaire d’Etat´ with football, but football remains in the hands of the federation,” Blatter said.
“French football can rely on FIFA in case of political interference even if it is at presidential level, it is a clear message.
“We will help the national association and if cannot be solved by consultation then the only thing we have is to suspend the federation.”
If FIFA took that ultimate sanction, the French team would be barred from taking part in European Championship later this year and subsequent World Cup qualifying and their clubs would also be banned from the Champions League and other continential competitions.
Most observers think such extreme measures are unlikely against a nation of France’s stature within the sport although FIFA has applied them elsewhere.
On the field, four more countries compete later on Tuesday to claim the final two last-eight places before a two-day break ahead of Friday and Saturday’s quarter-finals.
Asia’s last survivors Japan face Paraguay and Spain assault the so far impregnable defence of Iberian neighbours Portugal
Japan, a vastly improved team compared to their form in the qualification campaign, will want to turn on more of their recent free flowing style and set-piece quality to beat Paraguay — one of the less convincing Latin American sides. But they will have to overcome a powerful jinx — no Asian team have ever beaten a South American side in the World Cup.
Paraguay, who are trying to join Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay in the last eight, still have to show the bite expected of their top class attacking trio of Roque Santa Cruz, Lucas Barrios and Nelson Valdez.
In Tuesday’s second match, Spain will try to reproduce the classy close-passing style with which they beat Chile 2-1 in their last group stage match, after a feeble start to the World Cup for the pre-tournament favourites.
But while striker David Villa has been deadly, netting three times, his attacking partner Fernando Torres has yet to reach his devastating best after returning from knee surgery.
In Monday’s games, five-time winners Brazil finally turned on the Samba power to crush traditional victims Chile 3-0 and set up an enticing quarter-final on Friday with the Netherlands, who swept aside giantkillers Slovakia 2-1.
South African police said on Tuesday they had arrested a British tabloid journalist for helping a fan gain access to the England dressing room after a World Cup soccer match.
Sunday Mirror reporter Simon Wright was arrested in Cape Town on Monday after closed circuit television footage indicated he helped 32-year-old fan Pavlos Joseph get into the England locker room after their June 18 draw with Algeria, the police said.