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ALL THE WORLD SEES RED
GRANT WAHL
July 12, 2010
Across the globe, fans are in an uproar over the blatant officiating errors that have marred soccer's showcase event. Here's what can be done about it
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July 12, 2010

All The World Sees Red

Across the globe, fans are in an uproar over the blatant officiating errors that have marred soccer's showcase event. Here's what can be done about it

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It will be a lasting image of the 2010 World Cup: an Adidas Jabulani ball landing a full two feet behind the German goal line courtesy of a shot by England's Frank Lampard in a second-round game on June 27. Lampard's strike, which first hit the crossbar, wasn't counted as a goal by the match's referee, Jorge Larrionda—neither he nor assistant ref Mauricio Espinosa saw the ball cross the line—denying England a game-changing 2--2 tie. Germany eventually won 4--1, and the furor afterward forced FIFA president Sepp Blatter to apologize to England and promise to reconsider the idea of using goal line technology to prevent such incidents in the future.

Whether or not FIFA and Blatter come out of the Dark Ages, soccer's credibility was damaged significantly during this World Cup by a series of officiating blunders, many of which would not have happened if the referee and his crew had access to the same video replays seen by a global audience of hundreds of millions. The use of instant replay in officiating has improved a number of sports, from tennis to cricket to American football, and the argument that soccer's continuous action would prevent judicious use of replay is ludicrous. England's uncounted goal may have been the most glaring correctable mistake of the 2010 World Cup, but it wasn't the only one.

The Hand of Gaul

The tone of this tournament was set in one of its final qualifying games last November, when Thierry Henry handled the ball twice with impunity on the scoring sequence that sent France to South Africa at the expense of Ireland. Karma paid back the French in spades—they imploded in the first round—but their controversial qualification didn't have to happen that way. A solution: If the teams had been allowed one video-replay challenge per half, Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni no doubt would have used it on the French goal. The challenge would not have created an unnecessary stoppage of play, since the game halted anyway after the goal.

Argentina's offside advantage

In a second-round game on June 27, Carlos Tévez gave Argentina a 1--0 lead over Mexico by scoring when he was clearly offside: Video showed Tévez well beyond the second-to-last defender as teammate Lionel Messi passed him the ball. Mexico protested when the stadium scoreboard showed the replay, prompting the tone-deaf FIFA to stop showing replays in stadiums. Argentina went on to win 3--1. As in the Henry incident, Mexico coach Javier Aguirre could have used a replay challenge, forcing a reversal that would have taken little time.

Coulibaly's curious call

In a first-round game on June 18, U.S. midfielder Maurice Edu appeared to give the Americans a 3--2 lead in the final minutes against Slovenia when he volleyed a U.S. free kick into the net. But Malian referee Koman Coulibaly disallowed the goal for reasons that remain unclear. The most logical possibilities were fouls on either Clint Dempsey or Carlos Bocanegra, but the official FIFA play-by-play gave the foul to Edu himself. While technology wouldn't help in this instance, FIFA would be wise to implement two commonsense initiatives. One, it should follow other sports and allow a media pool reporter to ask the referee to explain a controversial decision. (Coulibaly declined such a chance last week on ESPN Radio, saying he'd given the reason in his match report to FIFA, which had not been made public.) Two, FIFA needs to clamp down on the rugby scrum in the penalty box on set pieces. During the past season, the Europa League experimented with an additional assistant referee behind each end line. Those ARs would be in position to help police the box and also to make calls such as Henry's hand ball and Lampard's goal. What's clear from many of the World Cup foul-ups is that more sets of eyes are needed.

Suárez's cynical hand ball

At the end of last Friday's quarterfinal against Ghana, Uruguay's Luis Suárez intentionally used his hands to prevent a shot by Dominic Adiyiah from crossing the line for a game-winning strike in the final seconds of extra time. In this case referee Olegário Benquerença made the correct call according to the rules: He awarded Ghana a penalty kick and ejected Suárez from the game. Asamoah Gyan failed to convert the penalty, however, and Uruguay subsequently won in a penalty-kick shootout. Again, this wasn't an issue for technology. Instead, FIFA should consider changing the rules so that a sure goal prevented by an intentional hand ball is counted as a goal, no penalty kick necessary.

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