Football / World Cup USA '94: Fifa set to banish Leonardo from cup

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LEONARDO, the Brazilian defender, could be suspended for the rest of the World Cup for throwing an elbow that fractured the skull of the United States midfield player, Tab Ramos.

The full-back, playing his 18th international, was sent off in the closing minutes of the first half of the second-round game which Brazil won 1-0 in San Francisco on Monday. They next play the Netherlands on Saturday.

Leonardo, who yesterday visited Ramos in hospital to apologise, denied the incident had been intentional, though he admitted it looked that way in the television replay.

'He was holding my arm and my natural reaction was to shake him off,' he said. 'Unfortunately, he was falling and I hit him in the face. It was only when I saw the reaction of the other players that I realised what had happened. To hit an opponent goes against my principles and all the things I stand for in football.

'From his (Ramos) reaction and from what he said to me, I felt he accepted it was an accident.'

Ramos was spun around and struck on the left side of the face. He lost consciousness briefly after suffering a fracture of the skull above his left ear. 'There has been a small amount of bleeding, but it is not a serious problem,' Dr Bill Garrett, the team physician, said. However, the player will need three to six months to recover.

The case will be among the items on the agenda of Fifa's disciplinary committee, according to Guido Tognoni, the organisation's spokesman.

Fifa said before the tournament that a red card would result in an automatic two-game suspension and it has maintained that stance. Romania's Ioan Vladoiu was suspended for three games after he brutally kicked a Swiss player during a first-round game. Vladoiu was later pulled out of the tournament.