Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Cup 2010 Game 51: Germany 4, England 1

FIFA will no doubt take the position that the final score of the match supports the contention that England's disallowed goal did not determine the outcome of the match.

As even the casual observer over the last two weeks will have noted, though, playing from behind in soccer is a very different proposition from playing level, and the notion that all other things would have been the same moving forward from that point on is as laughable as the failure to award England a goal for a ball that struck the crossbar and bounced inward a yard inside the box and over the line. When the backspin on the ball bounced it back to Germany's keeper, play quickly continued despite the protests of the English side.

In eschewing goal line technology, FIFA has said that it likes the controversy that the human element introduces to the game. Let's be clear on something, then. This was not a controversial decision. This was a wrong decision. There was nothing controversial about it. It is not and was not a judgment call. It was not a borderline decision. It was a flat error. At one of the showcase events of the largest tournament in the world.

As an American with a non-rooting interest in this particular game, I can only say that my hope is now that the final gets somehow marred by an error of this magnitude. Even then, will that be enough to make the governing body heed the cries to take even the most basic steps to correct the most blatant errors? Chip technology has existed for years to measure these sorts of plays and is used effectively in hockey, a much harder sport to judge goal line technology. As American coach Bob Bradley has pointed out, diving could be effectively eliminated without stopping play or altering decisions on the field by rescinding automatic suspensions after review and penalizing the players that took a dive.

When an error of this magnitude takes place, it is customary to focus on the unfairness to the losing side, in this case, England. There is an unfairness to Germany, too. Germany could very well go on to win the World Cup (though they face some fierce competition). If they do, will there always be a nagging question to mitigate their sense of accomplishment? Maybe not. And certainly everyone would rather be on one side of these decisions than the other. It is easy enough to believe you would have prevailed regardless. But believing you are the best team on the field and knowing it, proving it, are two different things.

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