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FIFA, Nigeria president back off after threats

ABUJA, Nigeria — Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan dropped a threat to suspend the national team from playing for two years because of its poor World Cup showing and corruption allegations.

In a statement, Jonathan's office said the decision came after a meeting Monday with the Nigeria Football Federation. The NFF's executive committee fired the group's president and vice president Sunday in an effort to appease the government.

FIFA had set a Monday evening deadline for the government to drop its suspension plans or have the team face even harsher international sanctions. FIFA regulations forbid governments from interfering in national federations, and it has suspended countries for breaking the rules — a ban that extends to club teams, referees and officials.

PARAGUAY COACH OUT: Coach Gerardo Martino is leaving the Paraguay team. Martino, an Argentine, said his four-year contract had expired, but he promised fans greeting the team that he would help with the transition to a new coach after Saturday's 1-0 quarterfinal loss to Spain. Meanwhile, F Roque Santa Cruz says this was his last World Cup, citing wear and tear on his body.

MISTAKE 'UNFORTUNATE': The Uruguayan linesman who failed to see that a shot from England's Frank Lampard crossed the goal line against Germany called the error "unfortunate." Mauricio Espinosa was quoted in the Uruguayan newspaper El Pais that "it was unfortunate, a very fast ball that we couldn't see as it went into the goal despite my positioning being correct." Germany went on to beat England 4-1 in the round of 16 match. The goal would have tied the score at 2 late in the first half.

SPAIN: M Cesc Fabregas is ready to play in Wednesday's semifinal against Germany despite continuing pain in his shoulder. Fabregas told Spanish media he might need a painkilling injection.

ITALY: G Gianluigi Buffon had surgery for a back injury sustained last month that forced him out halfway through his team's first game. Surgeon Maurizio Fornari told the ANSA news agency that he expected Buffon, also of Italian club Juventus, to miss about three months. "I should probably have had it operated on earlier," Buffon said of a herniated disc. "I have had this problem since the start of 2008, but it got worse recently when (a) hernia meant the nerve was trapped."

HONORS: The two top player of the year awards, Europe's Ballon d'Or and FIFA's world honor, will be combined into a single honor beginning next year. The new award will be called the Ballon d'Or, or Golden Ball. Journalists, coaches and captains from FIFA's 208 national members will vote on the award.

FIFA, Nigeria president back off after threats 07/05/10 [Last modified: Monday, July 5, 2010 11:02pm]
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