Sunday, July 11, 2010

World Cup Final – Ugly, Ugly, Ugly

In a World Cup that has been beset by discussions and disputes about officiating, FIFA was not handed any favors by English official Howard Webb today.

And The Beautiful Game was not handed any favors by either side of the matchup.

A dozen or so yellow cards (along with 47 fouls, including some dives that would have contended in the Olympics), with three blatant foul-ups, will not help settle any of the disputes about officiating. And the mediocre display will likely not win any new fans to the game.

There’s no question that Netherlands was chippy. Spain was more aggressive, and the aggressive team often gets the benefit of calls because they get to the ball first. Netherlands seemed to be a half-step behind for a lot of the game.

Overall, the officiating wasn’t horrible. It was just that there were an awful lot of cautions, and three really strange calls.

A Netherlands player inexplicably received only a yellow card after a landing a studs-first blow into the chest of a Spaniard. It is hard to imagine what type of explanation other than “I didn’t see it” can justify only a yellow card there. But of course Webb saw it; he waved the yellow for it. It was dangerous. It was brutal. It was ugly. It was a red card offense.

Later, just minutes before the end of the game, Netherlands forward Robben was clearly impeded from behind on a breakaway to the goal. He tried to stay on his feet to save a scoring chance, which was blocked, due to a great play by Spain’s keeper combined with the defensive foul. The defender, Puyol, would have received a second yellow (possibly a straight red), consigning Spain to play a man down for the remainder of the match. But Webb waved the play on.

When you compare this play to the play that led to the second yellow for Netherlands Heitinga, it makes it even more curious. Heitinga’s foul from behind was clearly far less egregious than Puyol’s and Puyol’s was a desperation play to prevent a scoring chance on a dead breakaway.

Then in extra time, just before Spain’s goal, a goal kick was awarded to Spain, even though the ball clearly had been touched by Spain on its way off the pitch. Rather than a corner kick for a possible scoring chance, Spain received a goal kick that released the pressure and led to their goal.

Four years from now, it will be interesting to see what technological advances are incorporated into the World Cup. Chances are that it will not (and should not) change anything that happened today. Only keeping the card in the pocket, or showing an early red to calm things down, will do that.

The Netherlands lost because they failed to score, and they allowed a goal. They lost because they got chippy and did not play their game patiently. You can’t blame that on the men in blue shirts.

If you want to win, you gotta play better.


Robert said...

1) Seven refs, same as real football.

2) Mandatory yellow card for flopping. (Video review to enforce if the refs miss one.)

3) Delete the stupid offside rule.

I just fixed 90% of the problems with the "beautiful" game.

Larry said...

1) Football is played with the "foot" which means that "real football" is what was played the World Cup. American football only has one player that plays with his feet, which means it's not "foot"ball.

2) Seven refs in American football don't do a better job, and in fact, may do a worse job. Watching any game will bring that out. The number of missed calls in American football is significant.

3) Diving is already a yellow card offense. If FIFA made it an area of focus, it would help a lot. There was actually a player in a lower level match that got a yellow card for diving. TUrns out he fell dead of a heart attack.

4) The offside rule is actually a very good rule that helps the game considerably.

Robert said...

If by "helps the game considerably" you mean the offside rule does an admirable job of preventing teams from scoring, I would agree. :-)

The ref(s) in any sport can call a game tight or loose, and the players have to adapt. But given the size of the field and the number of participants in soccer, it just isn't reasonable to expect one man to see everything. Even three would be better if you think seven is too many.

Larry said...

There is an offside rule in both hockey and American football which accomplish similar things. So the idea of "offside" is not without merit. It makes the game more interesting by preventing it from being a long kick kind of game. It forces teamwork and passing through the defense and midfield, which is what makes soccer a beautiful game.

There are three officials in soccer. There is one who is the Referee, and two Assistant Referees. They do not have a whistle but they do assist in making calls of different types. They do assist in cards and infractions of the laws of the game. They do not have a whistle so that there is only one person in charge.