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UEFA Defends Soccer Referee

June 29, 2000

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ European soccer’s governing body defended its referee and said it will rule Sunday on Portugal’s conduct after the disputed finish in the Euro 2000 semifinal against France.

UEFA agreed with the referee that the hand ball by Portugal with three minutes left in overtime was intentional. France made the penalty kick to win 2-1, and the Portuguese swarmed the referee.

Austrian referee Guenter Benkoe awarded the penalty kick after the ball ricocheted off the forearm of Abel Xavier.

After consulting with linesman Igor Sramka, Benkoe pointed to the penalty spot, ignoring the protests of the Portuguese players who knew a goal would end the game and their championship hopes.

The penalty kick by Zinedine Zidane sent France into the European Championship final in Rotterdam on Sunday.

``It was a clear case of intentional handball which was seen by the assistant referee,″ Referees’ Committee member Volker Roth said. ``Benkoe correctly decided to award a penalty.″

Benkoe and Sramka hurried from the field. Portuguese striker Nuno Gomes received a red card for protesting. The normally good-natured Portuguese fans ripped up seats.

After the game, the players lambasted the referee and hinted darkly about machinations to ensure Europe’s biggest names made it to the final.

The UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body decided to wait until Sunday before ruling so the Portuguese federation could have a chance to reply in writing.

The Portuguese also said the French were offside when the goal by Thierry Henry made it 1-1. But UEFA again defended the referee.

``It was evident there was no offisde situation in the move which produced the French equalizer,″ Roth said.

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