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U.S. Wins but Protests Red Card : Women’s soccer: Controversial call against American goalkeeper mars 2-0 victory over Denmark.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The U.S. soccer team all but secured its place in the quarterfinals of the second FIFA Women’s World Championship here Thursday, defeating Denmark, 2-0, on goals by Kristine Lilly and Tiffeny Milbrett.

However, a controversial referee’s decision in the closing minutes overshadowed an excellent performance by the American team and left both coaches questioning the competence of tournament officials.

Goalkeeper Briana Scurry was thrown out of the game with about six minutes to play when referee Mamadouba Camara of Guinea ruled that Scurry had illegally handled the ball outside the penalty area when kicking it back into play.

The American team lodged a formal protest with FIFA, but unless the appeal is upheld, Scurry will have to sit out Saturday’s match against Australia.

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U.S. Coach Tony DiCicco was furious at what he said was a misinterpretation of the rules by Camara, and even Danish Coach Keld Gantzhorn said Denmark might support the U.S. appeal.

“It’s naive officiating,” DiCicco said, blaming FIFA, as others have, for employing inexperienced referees and linespersons.

“Obviously, I don’t agree with the call,” he said. “Maybe it’s a hand-ball. Maybe, if the goalkeeper is trying to sneak an unfair advantage, it might even be a yellow card. But I think a red card is really harsh.

“The [U.S.-China] game the other night done by the Swedish referee [Ingrid Jonsson] was outstanding. I think anybody who was here saw that she had total control of the match. Today, it was simply not as well officiated.

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“I have filed a formal protest because I think it’s an incorrect call and there’s no way that an athlete should be put out of the championship for a referee’s misinterpretation.

“In the spirit of the game, it was an incorrect call. If [Scurry] came out and handled the ball because somebody was breaking in, yes. If she takes somebody down, that’s the correct call. But this was incorrect.”

Adding fuel to the controversy was the impression that the referee had been swayed by fans in making the call and had not even been supported by his own lineswoman.

“It’s where you drop ball,” said DiCicco, a former goalkeeper and the goalkeeping coach on the 1991 world championship-winning U.S. team. “If you drop the ball and you’re standing on the line and you kick it a yard outside the line, it’s not a hand-ball.

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"[Camara] was up near midfield. He made the call from a tough angle. I hope he used his linesperson, although I didn’t see the linesperson raise the flag. What I heard was some fans kind of start to get loud, and I’d hate to think that any referee at any level, but certainly in a world championship, would make a call based on a commotion in the stands.”

Denmark’s Gantzhorn said he understood DiCicco’s anger.

“I think the red card was very harsh,” he said. “If it’s a wrong decision by the referee, the Danish federation maybe will support the appeal, but we haven’t discussed it.”

Because the U.S. already had used its three substitutes when Scurry was ejected, forward Mia Hamm took over in the nets and, although nervous, performed well as the U.S. team ran out the clock.

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“I really in all honesty don’t understand what the call was,” Scurry said. “Apparently, I was out of the box when I punted the ball. But I’ve been out of the box before because my momentum carries me forward.

“I think we have a very legitimate case [on appeal] because I didn’t commit any serious foul.” If FIFA decides otherwise, however, DiCicco will have Mary Harvey, the 1991 world champion, and Saskia Webber as possible starters.

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World Championship Notes

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The U.S. players wrote Michelle Akers’ No. 10 on their tape and socks for Thursday’s game, in honor of Akers, who missed her first world championship game while recovering from a concussion. Akers said she was feeling better but probably will miss Saturday’s game too.


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