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World Cup: U.S. vs. Slovenia: Don't blame the referee from Mali

June 18, 2010 |  2:57 pm

Before American fans get all hot and bothered about the "goal" by Maurice Edu that was disallowed by referee Koman Coulibaly of Mali, they should rewind the U.S.-Slovenia game tape back to the very first minute.

That's when Clint Dempsey and Slovenia's Zlatan Ljubijankic rose together to head the ball. Trouble was, Dempsey led with his elbow, catching Ljubijankic in the side of the face.

The Slovenian player crumpled to the ground and Dempsey, who kept holding a finger to his head as if to indicate it had been a clash of heads, was extremely fortunate not to have been yellow-carded. If Coulibaly had been in the mood, he might even have shown a red, and it is unlikely the U.S. could have come from two goals down if it had been reduced to 10 men.

As it was, the referee dished out four yellow cards to Slovenia players and only one to the U.S., forward Robbie Findley picking up his second of the tournament. He will have to sit out the decisive game against Algeria on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, there was so much holding and shoving and jostling in the penalty area when Edu redirected Landon Donovan's free kick into the net five minutes from the end that no one could be sure which foul Coulibaly had spotted. He could just as easily have called several Slovenia players for holding.

He didn't explain his call and he does not have to, at least under FIFA's strange regulations. The match is history now. Chances are, the U.S. will defeat Algeria and secure a place in the knockout rounds. If so, all the hot air being expelled at the moment will be forgotten.

The man from Mali should not be taking the heat. In any case, how could he have been against the Americans? After all, he was born on the Fourth of July.

--Grahame L. Jones