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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

FIFA: Frings decision should've come sooner

BERLIN, July 4 (Reuters) - FIFA's decision to ban Germany's Torsten Frings for Tuesday's semi-final clash with Italy should have come sooner, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said.

'The decision should come more than a day before the match,' Blatter told reporters on Tuesday. 'FIFA has learned something from this experience.

'We accept responsibility that it took so long. But the decision is final and clear.'

World soccer's governing body ruled on Monday that Frings could not play against Italy in Dortmund.

The decision followed FIFA's review of video footage that showed the midfielder throwing a punch at Argentina forward Julio Ricardo Cruz during a fracas that followed Germany's penalty shootout win in the quarter-finals.

FIFA had initially said it was taking no action against any Germany players but changed course on Sunday after the video footage was played on Italian and German television and was followed by a probe into Frings's role in the incident.

Although Frings may not be irreplaceable, he has superbly anchored the German midfield and had a key role on Friday in containing Argentina playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme.

Frings had said he was innocent and Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport quoted Cruz saying he had not received or felt any punch. But FIFA's disciplinary committee ruled on Monday that his actions were 'tantamount to an assault'.

Amid criticism in the German press that Italy had triggered the FIFA probe, coach Marcello Lippi denied on Monday that anybody in the Italian camp had pressed for Frings to be banned.

'Let this be clear for everyone, no-one from our side has lifted a finger for this to happen,' Lippi said.