Football / World Cup USA '94: Belgians plead for equal treament

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KURT ROTHLISBERGER has ignited a row over what some smaller nations complain are Fifa's double standards at the World Cup.

The Swiss referee's refusal to give Belgium a penalty in their second-round defeat by Germany was, in isolation, just one of those bizarre decisions which give officials a bad name.

But, taken with the contrived endorsement of Italy's use of three outfield substitutes against Norway, the lack of sanction on Argentina for Diego Maradona's drug abuse and a hard-line approach to Jack Charlton and his Irishmen, the conspiracy theorists claim they have a case.

'There are two kinds of refereeing here - one for the big associations and another for the smaller ones. But there's no point in complaining, we know it will not have any effect,' Roger van den Stock, the head of the Belgian delegation, said.

Largely outplayed by the defending champions, who will now face Mexico or Bulgaria in New York on Saturday, the Belgians might still have rescued the game if Rothlisberger had penalised Thomas Helmer for his tackle from behind as Josip Weber dashed into the area.

They were 3-1 down but, as the goalkeeper, Michel Preud'homme, insisted: 'It was a red card offence and it might have become 3-2 against 10 men with 20 minutes to play. We are furious.'

But no one could argue that the resurrected partnership of the 34- year-old Rudi Voller and Jurgen Klinsmann looks potent enough to take Germany to their fourth consecutive final.

Voller has had to be talked out of a 19-month retirement. Within five minutes of his first full game back, he had moved his German goal record on to 46 in 89 matches, and his 47th arrived just before half- time.

In between, his miscued clearance allowed Georges Grun to equalise, only for Voller to set up Klinsmann for his fifth goal of the tournament within 10 minutes of a dramatic start.

If Lothar Matthaus (who has a foot injury) plays on Saturday, he will equal the 21-game finals appearance record of Maradona, Wladislaw Zmuda and his countryman, Uwe Seeler.

GERMANY (5-3-2): Illgner (Cologne); Berthold (VfB Stuttgart), Helmer (Bayern Munich), Matthaus (Bayern Munich), Kohler (Juventus), Wagner (Kaiserslautern); Sammer (Borussia Dortmund), Buchwald (VfB Stuttgart), Hassler (Roma); Klinsmann (Monaco), Voller (Marseille). Substitutes: Brehme (Kaiserslautern) for Matthaus, h-t; Kuntz (Kaiserslautern) for Klinsmann, 85.

BELGIUM (4-4-2): Preud'homme (Benfica); Emmers, De Wolf, Albert, Smidts (all Anderlecht); Staelens (Club Bruges), Grun (Parma), Van Der Elst (Club Bruges), Scifo (Monaco); Weber (Anderlecht), Nilis (PSV Eindhoven). Substitutes: Boffin (Anderlecht) for Smidts, 65; Czerniatynski (Mechelen) for Nilis, 77.

Referee: K Rothlisberger (Switzerland).