Best 4?

Best 4?
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Best 4?
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For many years, the world will talk about the scandal of 2002—the atrocious refereeing that resulted in the ousting of favorites Spain and Italy and a string of improbable South Korean victories. According to this flourishing theory, the international soccer federation (FIFA) rigged the tournament to benefit Korea, the host nation, and enhance soccer's popularity in the lucrative Asian market. To ensure Korean wins, FIFA gave them inexperienced referees from soccer minnows like Ecuador and Trinidad, susceptible to the pressure of the loud Korean crowds. Argentina's La Nacion has asserted, "The World Cup should be declared null and void." Italian and Spanish television have threatened to sue FIFA, contending that the skewed refereeing has cost them millions.

Anyone who has watched the last rounds of the World Cup knows that these scandalmongers have a point. There's been a barge-full of lousy calls and unjust penalties. But the conspiracy theorists have completely misdiagnosed the crisis.

World Football: Ranking the Top 10 Scandals of All Time

Going into the 2002 World Cup, South Korea (who were one of the two host nations) expected themselves to finally advance out of the group stage for the first time in their history, but their great World Cup run will always be overshadowed by the referees.

After the group stage, South Korea got their first "break" against Italy in the Round of 16, in which the referee (Byron Moreno of Ecuador), seemed hell-bent on ensuring the Koreans progressed, disallowing a perfectly fine Italian goal and controversially sending off Francesco Totti for diving in extra time.

As a result of this, South Korea won 2-1 on a golden goal from Ahn Jung-Hwan.

And in the quarterfinal, South Korea once again got the benefit of the doubt as Egyptian Referee Gamal Al-Ghandour disallowed two legitimate Spanish goals and his linesmen judged one Spanish attack after another to be offside. South Korea went on to win 5-3 on penalties to reach the semifinals.

Shortly afterward, both referees were forced to retire due to match-fixing (Moreno) and allegations of receiving a new car for helping South Korea to advance (Ghandour).

Byron Aldemar Moreno Ruales (born November 23, 1969) is a former Ecuadorian football referee.

Italy vs South Korea

Moreno was widely blamed by the Italian community, the world of international football, and many others for Italy's elimination from the 2002 FIFA World Cup after being beaten by South Korea in the Round of 16. Members of the Italian team, most notably striker Francesco Totti and coach Giovanni Trapattoni, suggested a conspiracy to eliminate Italy from the competition.[1] Trapattoni even obliquely accused FIFA of ordering the official to ensure a Korean victory so that one of the two host nations would remain in the tournament. The most contentious decisions were an early penalty awarded to South Korea, a golden goal by Damiano Tommasi ruled offside, and a second yellow card shown to Totti for an alleged dive.

FIFA response

FIFA President Sepp Blatter stated that the linesmen had been a "disaster" and admitted that Italy suffered from bad offside calls from the group matches, but he denied conspiracy allegations. While ruing Totti's sending off by Moreno, Blatter refused to blame Italy's loss on Moreno but stated: "Italy's elimination is not only down to referees and linesmen who made human not premeditated errors ... Italy made mistakes both in defense and in attack."

After the 2002 World Cup

In September 2002, Moreno, while a candidate in October elections for places on the Quito city council, was suspended for twenty matches and investigated by Ecuadorian football authorities and FIFA after a match he officiated between Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito and Barcelona Sporting Club from Guayaquil. With Liga de Quito trailing 3–2 at the end of the match, Moreno signalled six minutes of injury time, then allowed play to continue for thirteen minutes, during which Liga de Quito scored an equaliser in the 99th minute, then won the game in the 101st minute. Moreno was also accused of falsifying the minutes in which Liga de Quito scored their equalising and winning goals in his official match report.

In May 2003, in his third game back from his suspension, Moreno was again suspended, for one match, after he sent off three players from visiting Deportivo Quito in a 1–1 draw at Deportivo Cuenca. He retired the following month, blaming low performance marks for his retirement. Even after all this, he is still regarded as one of the worst referees to have ever been in the World Cup.

Criminal records

Moreno was arrested on September 21, 2010 at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, while trying to smuggle in six kilograms (over ten pounds) of heroin, which was hidden in his underwear. In January 2011, he pleaded guilty to the charges in a New York courthouse, facing a possible ten years in prison. On September 23, 2011, Moreno was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on the heroin smuggling charges. He was released from prison 26 months later and returned to Ecuador.