England and Mexico out of the World Cup, officiating and history take centre stage

The family is off on holiday so blogging is becoming more challenging... Not to mention that it was hard to write about England's loss to Germany on Sunday.

Over the years there have been many controversial refereeing decisions (or non-decisions) in the World Cup however I cannot remember when refereeing has so clearly affected the course of games. Prior to Sunday's games refereeing had denied the USA what seemed like a winning goal against Slovenia. Sunday's round of 16 matches saw two brutal refereeing decisions which undoubtedly altered the course of the games, perhaps changing the results. Trevor Lampard's goal that wasn't would have brought England level with Germany before half time of their round of 16 game.

Each game between England and Germany is laden with memories. "Two world wars, one world cup" seem always to be in the background, at least for the English. Late in the first half, when Trevor Lampard's chip struck the underside of the bar and bounced down near the goal line, my first thought, no, feeling, was that the ball couldn't have gone in. I remembered Geoff Hurst's 1966 goal against Germany which did count even though it may never have crossed the line... And I thought... in fact believed that I had seen the ball come down on the line and bounce out. I wonder if a similar process went through the referee and assistant referee's minds in making the decision. It was only when I saw the replays that i realized that in fact the ball had crossed the line. In general I believe that FIFA has been right to be cautious about adopting video replay, its hard to understand the reluctance to adopt video replay to determine if the ball has gone into the goal or not.

In the Mexico v Argentina game later on Sunday Carlos Teves headed in Argentina's first goal from a clearly offside postion. The offside rule is one of the most difficult rules in soccer to monitor. Generally speaking, the referee is not in a the ideal position to call offside and so leaves the job to the assitant referees. Determining whether a player is offside actually involves looking at two different areas of the field simultaneously. Thus, since we're not endowed with eyes that can look in two directions at the same time, errors are inevitable. The result of the refereeing error in this case was that Mexico's morale seemed to collapse.

In one game a goal was given, in the other a goal denied. In both cases the incorrect decisions turned what were interesting contests into relative routes. It is easy to argue that the better team won on both occasions, since Germany won by 3 goals and Argentina by 2, but had the officials made the correct decsions, both games would have been tied following the decisions. And given the importance of goals in soccer, the results of the games were far from certain.

Given this same importance of goals, when the games are of such importance, when the video footage is so merciless, FIFA will need to find a way to ensure that less of these kinds of errors are made. June 27, 2010 may be the day that ushers in some changes in officiating in soccer.

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