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Brazilian defender Leonardo copped the harshest penalty for foul...

By
TONY HARPER United Press International

Brazilian defender Leonardo copped the harshest penalty for foul play at the 1994 World Cup Wednesday when he was given a four-game ban, driving him out of the tournament. Three of the eight sides left in the Cup were affected by Wednesday's FIFA committee meeting. Italy's Gianfranco Zola suffered a two-game ban for a red card and Bulgaria's Emil Kremenliev received a one match dismissal for incidents in Tuesday's matches. Both appeared unlucky to receive the red cards at all -- Zola for a hard but fair challenge in the 2-1 win over Nigeria and Kremenliev for two yellow card offenses in Bulgaria's victory over Mexico. Zola was playing his first game of the tournament as a substitute and will only be featured again if Italy makes the final and coach Arrigo Saachi needs to call up the Parma striker. Kremenliev will miss Sunday's match against champion Germany, but would be available for the semifinal should Bulgaria win. Neither player is likely to be comforted by other FIFA events Wednesday where Arturo Brizio, who sent off Zola, and Jamal Al-Sharif, who marched Kremenliev, were sent home for not fitting into future plans for the Cup. 'I saw the referee approach me and I thought I'd get a yellow card,' Zola said Wednesday. Leonardo, meanwhile, deserved his dishonorable discharge from the tournament, his four-game ban outdoing the three given to Romania's Ion Vladiou who was sent home by his country. The Sao Paulo defender received a red card a minute before halftime of Monday's 1-0 win over the United States for a vicious elbow which flattened Tab Ramos, causing a fractured skull and concussion.

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Brazil has three days to appeal but are not expected to, with coach Carlos Alberto Parreira resigned to choosing a replacement. He indicated Wednesday that he was leaning towards defender Branco, a Fluminense star with eight goals in 76 games for his country. The other option for a potential classic quarterfinal against Holland Saturday is Cafu, another defender with a penchant for pushing forward. 'I'm not afraid of the challenge,' said Branco. 'The Dallas game against Holland does not scare me.' While the three players are all starting members of their sides, the quarterfinals match-up of world stars will not be affected. At Stanford, it will be Romania's brilliant playmaker Gheorghe Hagi against Parma ace Tomas Brolin, who is loading the gun for sharpshooter Martin Dahlin. In East Rutherford, Germany's Juergen Klinsmann will be bidding to join Oleg Salenko at the top of the goal chart with six, and perhaps outdo the Russian with a couple of goals against a Bulgarian team that went 17 World Cup games without a win, and now has three in a row thanks to Hristo Stoichkov's four goals. In Dallas, Brazil's Romario and Holland's Dennis Bergkamp are the stars, while Roberto Baggio's return to heroics sets up the Italy match against a solid all-round Spanish side. Baggio, a practicing Buddhist, remained serene throughout a run of three Group E games without a goal. He switched on at the right time Tuesday to fire an 88th minute equalizer, then an extra time penalty to get Italy through and earn embattled coach Arrigo Sacchi another day's pay. 'I never thought about saving anyone,' Baggio said Wednesday. 'I've always kicked penalties so it wasn't a problem.' Asked about the criticism which followed his three shoutouts, Baggio said: 'Intelligent people understand me.' But he agreed there had been some pressure. 'I felt I played well even before I scored. But scoring takes the weight off my shoulders.' Meanwhile, German captain Lothar Matthaeus said he had recovered from an ankle injury in time to equal the record of 21 World Cup matches against Bulgaria. 'I expect nothing to stand in my way of playing. I have a bit of pain but I expect to train fully on Friday,' the 33-year-old sweeper said. He is set to join fellow-German Uwe Seeler, Poland's Wladyslaw Zmuda and Argentinian star Diego Maradona. Maradona was suspended for drug use just hours before he should have set a new record in this tournament. Matthaeus, who has won 116 caps for the reigning champion, can set a new mark of 22 games if Germany reaches the July 13 semifinal. He sustained the injury during the match with South Korea and was only able to play the first half of the second round win over Belgium. 'But I am not here to break records. It is what the team does that matters,' Matthaeus said. Germany can set a new undefeated record of 14 games by winning back- to-back titles in the July 17 final. The current record is held by Brazil, which did not lose in 13 games in 1958, 1962 and the first game of 1966. Germany's last loss was a 3-2 to Argentina in the 1986 final. It has won nine and drawn two since. Brazil is the last team flying the flag for South America with seven of the eight sides left from Europe. The last time that happened was in 1958 -- and Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 in the title match.

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