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World Soccer Body Gives Africa 3rd Berth for Cup : Review: FIFA sidesteps controversial issue of widening goals, sets up task force.

From Times Wire Services

FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, gave Africa an extra World Cup place at the expense of Europe but sidestepped the controversial issue of widening goals at its executive meeting today.

FIFA decided to create a task force to looks at ways of improving the game after criticism of the standard of play and the low number of goals at this year’s World Cup finals.

General Secretary Sepp Blatter declined to speculate on what changes might be proposed and refused to comment on earlier reports that FIFA was considering widening goals or reducing teams to 10 players.

But he said, they will be looking at ways of making the game more exciting.

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“We have to go for goals. Soccer is about getting the ball in the net,” Blatter said.

The FIFA task force will meet in February, but Blatter did not say whether proposals will be submitted to the annual rule-making International Board meeting in June.

U.S. Soccer Federation President Alan Rothenberg had sent FIFA President Joao Havelange a letter urging rules changes that would encourage more scoring.

He noted that other sports had “changed their rules when an imbalance between offense and defense has threatened the growth and enjoyment of the sport. Such an imbalance now threatens our sport.”

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The move to give Africa an extra World Cup berth was proposed by Havelange after Egypt and Cameroon put on outstanding performances last summer, but it needed approval from the 29-member executive committee.

For the 1994 finals, to be played in the United States, Europe will have 13 of the 24 berths, including the slot given to the defending champion--in this case, Germany.

FIFA also gave the Central and North American region a chance at a third berth but no guarantee. The region has two guaranteed spots.

Asia’s bid for a third berth was rejected, partly because of Asian teams’ disappointing showing at the last World Cup.

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Action was taken against three countries.

Costa Rica was suspended for two years from all FIFA youth competitions, including the Olympic soccer tournament, for fielding an overage player in a 1985 tournament. The case was uncovered when the same player, Hernan Medford, listed a different age when playing for Costa Rica at last summer’s World Cup finals.

Colombia was barred indefinitely from hosting international games of any kind because turmoil in the country was deemed a safety risk for soccer.

Iraq was effectively banned from international soccer until the gulf crisis is resolved. FIFA had previously banned all such games in Iraq, but the new sanction forbids any country to host Iraqi teams.

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