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YOKOHAMA — Brazilian legend Pele is not too optimistic about Brazil’s semifinal against Turkey, slated for Wednesday night at Saitama Stadium 2002, saying the absence of forward Ronaldinho is “a big loss for Brazil.”

Ronaldinho of Paris Saint-Germain was red-carded in the 57th minute in Brazil’s quarterfinal game against England for stomping on the foot of Danny Mills after the two players battled for the ball. Pele, speaking at a press meeting hosted by World Cup sponsor MasterCard on Sunday, said the decision was too harsh.

“The law says if you go over the ball, you can get a red card or a yellow card and this is the decision of referee. But I think it should have been a yellow card,” Pele said referring to the sending off of Brazil’s young forward Ronaldinho against England, whom he named one of the best players in the tournament.

“Ronaldinho makes a big difference to the team. For Brazil at this time, it’s a big loss, bigger than the possible loss of Ronaldo,” Pele noted.

Pele, who won the World Cup with Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970, said Turkey’s success in reaching the semifinals was a surprise to the world, but not to him as he had been aware of the growth of Turkish soccer over the past three to four years.

“Many of their teams have reached the finals of European club competitions in the last three or four years. Their players play in big teams in Europe. But to have come this far was unexpected.

“Even Brazil and Germany were not favored to win the tournament. Nobody mentioned Brazil and Germany as favorites, even the coach of Brazil himself, (Luis) Felipe (Scolari), played down Brazil’s chances in an interview four months ago.

The favorites were Argentina, Portugal, Italy. This was something nobody had expected. But teams with experience like Germany often reach the final stages of the World Cup.”

Pele, who had earlier complained about Brazil’s poor performances in the tournament, praised his country’s play against England.

“I think Brazil played very well against England. When Brazil plays a big team, they play better. The other factor was that England respected Brazil too much. They were afraid of playing Brazil. Brazil was more confident.”

Asked who will win the semifinals, Pele replied, “I think my wish has a big chance — Brazil. But it’s hard to say as there have been a lot of surprises in this World Cup. The best team sometimes doesn’t win.”

In the other semifinal, slated for Tuesday in Seoul, South Korea will play Germany.

Asked which team he would prefer to see in the final out of South Korea and Germany, Pele said, “I prefer Korea, for the good of the sport. If Korea can reach the final, I think it will be good. Also, Germany has three World Cups and they could get closer to Brazil, too close to us.”

But Pele, who made his World Cup debut when he was 17 years old in 1958, pointed out that whoever plays against South Korea will have a hard time.

“South Korea may be a more difficult opponent to beat because they have advanced through tough games against big teams like Italy and Spain. So, it’s not just through luck they have had with referees. Compared to them, Brazil has had a much easier path to the semifinals.

“Whoever gets to the final, to play against Korea in the final would be much more complicated. With the physical condition of the Koreans, their power and motivation, you know, they are a tough team to beat. They run for 90 minutes without stopping,” he said.

Pele is also concerned about the quality of referees in the tournament.

“The important thing is, no matter where they are from, they should have the same philosophy and act equally. The problem here is that some call a foul and others don’t on the same kind of play. I don’t know if we had so many mistakes before. Referees are human beings. But their mistakes sometimes decide the game.”

He claimed a handball play committed by a German player near the goal line in the quarterfinal game against the United States should have been called a penalty. “It was a big mistake.”

Pele said introducing instant replay in soccer doesn’t suit the nature of the sport as the game cannot be stopped for every disputed call. However, replay should be used for checking fouls when a player is believed to have committed a serious one, he said.

Pele has proposed introducing another referee to judge plays at the goal-line.

“The idea is to have a referee behind the goal to look if the ball goes over the line. I think this is a good idea.”

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