2. WORLD CUP: Larrionda and Merk remain for final stages

FIFA reduced its officiating corps at the World Cup down to 12 teams of refereees and assistant referees.

Among those retained were Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda, who sent off Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Pope in the USA's incident-filled 1-1 tie with Italy, and German Markus Merk, whose penalty call sent the USA on its way out of the tournament in its 2-1 loss to Ghana.

Russia's Valentin Ivanov and Englishman Graham Poll were sent home for their performances, however. Ivanov ejected four players -- an all-time record for the World Cup -- and showed 16 yellow cards during Sunday's Portugal-Netherlands game. Poll awarded three yellow cards to Josip Simunic of Croatia before sending him off late in the first-round match against Australia. FIFA president Sepp Blatter criticized both Ivanov and Poll.

Other Europeans retained are Spain's Luis Medina Cantalejo, who awarded a debatable penalty kick to Italy in the last seconds of its 1-0 second-round match against Australia, Michel Lubos of Slovakia, Roberto Rosetti of Italy, Frank de Bleeckere of Belgium and Massimo Busacca of Switzerland. Others staying are Argentine Horacio Elizondo, Toru Kamikawa of Japan, Benito Archundia of Mexico, Mark Shield of Australia and Coffi Codjia of Benin.

"On the whole, I have been very happy with the performances of the match officials," said Spaniard Angel Maria Villar Llona, chairman of the Referees Committeee, "even though they were not always error-free, something that is impossible to achieve. So far, the main objective, to protect the players, has been accomplished."

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