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Austrians lash out at ‘bad’ Greek referee

VIENNA – Austria’s soccer association will complain to FIFA after the refereeing in Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland «endangered» its players. The association’s president Friedrich Stickler said yesterday that Greek referee Athanassios Briakos «acted carelessly and endangered our players» by failing to punish Northern Ireland’s physical play. Austria won the match 2-0, but was already out of the running for a place at next year’s finals. «I cannot say everything that comes to my mind about the referee, because a lot would be below the belt,» Stickler said. «All I can say is that I have never seen such bad refereeing before. We were lucky that not more of our players were badly injured.» Stickler wants soccer’s governing body to suspend Briakos. In one incident, defender Emanuel Pogatetz was mowed down by Damien Johnson and took revenge by choking the striker. Referee Briakos sent both players off, although Pogatetz had to be carried off with a bleeding left shin. «That was simply scandalous. Pogatetz was about the fourth or fifth player on our team who was badly fouled,» Stickler said. «It is not excusable that he attacked his opponent, but understandable. His red card was justified, but several players of the visitors should have seen it previously. Their game had nothing to do with fairness or the famous British physical game. It was simply unfair.» Austria team manager Andreas Herzog agreed. «You could possibly not find a bigger idiot for a game. That guy did not even know the difference between a regular foul and criminal assault,» Herzog said. «But some of their tackles could have sent three or four of our players to hospital. The ref did not do anything. I don’t know if he is usually somewhere in Greece watching sharks, but he is no real ref.»