World Cup Notebook -- Bulgarian Blasphemy: French Ref
Seattle Times News Services
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - After it was over, after Bulgaria's dream machine was left broken and battered in a 2-1 semifinal loss to Italy, Hristo Stoitchkov was asked if God still was a Bulgarian.
"God is still a Bulgarian," the temperamental striker said, "but the referee was French."
And in soccer, that might mean more. At least it did to Bulgaria yesterday at the Meadowlands, where the World Cup's surprise team finally met a match it did not like.
Those wearing the white, green and red of Bulgaria thought referee Joel Quiniou, not Italy, was the problem. The consensus was Quiniou missed two crucial calls in the second half that would have given Bulgaria a good chance to send the match into overtime.
"Today it was again proven the officiating of this World Cup was among the weakest in the history of World Cups," Stoitchkov said.
Last November in Paris, Bulgaria's Emil Kostadinov scored in the last minute to eliminate France from World Cup '94.
"I don't think it was a mere coincidence that this referee was chosen," Stoitchkov said.
Coach Dimitar Penev of Bulgaria thought his team deserved one call, if not both. "Two is too much," he said. "Maybe one would have been fair."
Baggio's status unclear
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - After suffering a pulled right hamstring, Italy's Roberto Baggio said he wasn't sure if he can play in Sunday's title game.
"I felt a very sharp pain after receiving a push," Baggio said.
Trainer Vincenzo Pincolini said, "It's a kind of injury that will keep us in anguish until a few hours before the kickoff."
ROME - Death marred an Italian victory celebration for the second time when a man leaning from a celebrant's car fell out and was run over by another vehicle today.
Within minutes of Italy's victory over Bulgaria in East Rutherford, N.J., young men took to their motorbikes and cars, riding around in circles - "carousels" as those motorized soccer celebrations are called - while waving flags, blowing whistles and setting off fireworks.
Police said Gaetano Diomede, 30, was among those zipping around crazily with friends in the southern city of Bari when he fell onto the street and was run over by another celebrant-carrying vehicle.
Last week in Naples, a 7-year-old boy was shot dead by his 15-year-old cousin who was firing his father's gun to celebrate Italy's win over Nigeria.
Treated like heroes
BUCHAREST, Romania - Romania's national team got a hero's welcome today as fans with flowers, flags, kisses and champagne created a tumultuous carnival atmosphere for players returning from their quarterfinal ouster from World Cup play.
Crowds mobbed the team plane at Bucharest airport. Women rushed forward to kiss team captain Gheorghe Hagi and his teammates, and shouts of "Hagi is King, Maradona is out!" rang out across the airfield.
Tens of thousands of Romanians shouting "We love you, we love you" lined avenues into the city center to greet the players, who rode in a 200-vehicle convoy of buses, trucks, jeeps and cars.
Vogts readies resignation
BONN, Germany - Coach Berti Vogts, under acute pressure since his German team was eliminated from the World Cup in the quarterfinals by Bulgaria, has hinted that he is prepared to quit.
Vogts suggested the German soccer federation (DFB) had not given him enough support.
"One false statement from DFB headquarters, from whatever direction, could mean my resignation," he said in an interview to be published in today's edition of the sports magazine Kicker.
Big payoff for Brazil-backer
LONDON - A Hong Kong restaurant owner gambled a record 115,000 pounds ($180,000) on Brazil for its match against Sweden.
The man placed his bet at odds of 4-7 for Brazil to beat Sweden in 90 minutes of play. Brazil won 1-0 and he won 165,000 pounds ($257,000).
The bet is the biggest single wager ever struck on a soccer match, bookmaker William Hill said.
Compiled from Los Angeles Times, Reuters and Associated Press.
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