Football: Stoichkov and Penev in peril

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HRISTO STOICHKOV, Bulgaria's maverick talent, is the latest player to become embroiled in allegations of burning the candle at both ends at France 98. After a pair of Norwegians gained notoriety and a couple of South Africans were sent packing for bouts of all-night carousing, Stoichkov and his fellow striker Lyuboslav Penev are the latest to be in trouble for apparently staying out all night in Paris two days before a World Cup match.

Ivan Vutsov, general secretary of the Bulgarian football union, said the pair had headed for Paris on Sunday night without permission, and had not returned to the team hotel on the outskirts of the city by morning.

The players appeared at the hotel early on Monday afternoon, telling journalists they had overslept in their rooms and had not been woken. Vutsov said a decision on disciplinary action would be taken by the coach, Hristo Bonev, and announced before the team's training session yesterday evening.

The Mexican official Arturo Brizio-Carter, who sent off both Zinedine Zidane, of France, and South Africa's Alfred Phiri with two of the finals' more dubious refereeing decisions, will be the man in black for England's meeting with Colombia on Friday.

Hopefully Glenn Hoddle will be happier with Snr Brizio-Carter's performance than the Danes were with that of the Colombian referee who sent off two Danish players in their Group C draw with South Africa. Denmark have written to Fifa, football's world governing body, to express their dissatisfaction with John Jairo Toro Rendon. A spokesman for the Danes, Lars Berendt, said the letter to the disciplinary commission was not a formal complaint but an expression of their feelings after a match that also saw three Danes receive yellow cards.

"We didn't want to protest, because we would not have gained anything by it," Berendt said. "But we felt we had to at least draw Fifa's attention to the more or less debatable behaviour of this referee."