By Satsh Sekar
Strife and Discord
Ten years ago Africa’s 80 year wait for the World Cup ended. However, South Africa became the first host to exit in the first round.
But the controversy began before a ball was kicked in Africa. The Republic of Ireland were victimised by an infamous handball by Thierry Henry.
The Irish lobbied for a 33 team World Cup. They were compensated belatedly but had to watch the most historic World Cup ever as spectators. They may have enjoyed seeing France acrimoniously turn on each other resulting in the expulsion of Nicolas Anelka for comments about then France coach, Raymond Domenech from the World Cup by the French Football Federation.
He was later banned for 18 matches after not turning up to his disciplinary hearing. Anelka later claimed that he had decided to retire from Les Bleus anyway. The French squad refused to train after Anelka was expelled. The whole squad was suspended for new France coach, Laurent Blanc’s first match.
Then captain, Patrice Evra, was suspended for five matches, Franck Ribèry for three and Jérémy Toulalan for one. France departed bottom of Group A along with hosts South Africa on goal difference, despite Siphiwe Tshabalala opening the scoring against México with a celebration that matched the superb goal. México and Uruguay advanced to the last 16.
A Bad Rule
The other major talking points were Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ against Germany and Luis Suárez Díaz’ handball in the last minute of extra time against Ghana, which changed the course of the match and both Ghana’s fate and Africa’s too.
Feyenord Fetteh academy product, Dominic Adiyah, was on the verge of making history. His effort was goal-bound – the goal that would have made him a Black Stars and African great. He would have been – there was a minute left to play – the man who took an African team to the semi-final of the World Cup for the first time.
Instead, Suárez handled on the goal-line, preventing a certain goal. Suárez took the red card but stayed to watch the penalty and celebrated when Asamoah Gyan – Africa’s record goal-scorer in the World Cup – blasted his penalty against the crossbar and over.
Ghana subsequently lost 4-2 on penalties – Africa’s dream of a semi-final place and more was over. Uruguay reached the semi-final. They finished fourth. Suárez says he will never return to Africa even as a coach, but all he did was save his country from elimination. Would any player have done differently (See Exploiting the Rules)?
The Case for Goal-line Technology
In the other case the replays clear any doubt that Frank Lampard’s shot had hit the crossbar and the ball had crossed the goal-line and bounced out again. It was clearly a goal, but the Uruguayan officials, Jorge Larrionda Petrafesa and Mauricio Espinosa Rodríguez got it badly wrong – the match was evenly poised when that happened after 38 minutes.
Germany was leading 2-1 at the time. Joachim Löw’s team went on to win 4-1 – the heaviest defeat England had suffered in the World Cup since Uruguay beat them 4-2 in Switzerland in 1954.
England were hard done by. Germany were the better team, but such gross errors have no place in the top football competition in the world.
Larrionda apologised and retired a year later. He had also been suspended for 6 months in 2002 allegedly for corruption after accusations from a rival referee organisation in Uruguay. Espinosa officiated at the 2018 World Cup. He was said to have exclaimed: “Oh my God,” when shown the error over Lampard’s goal at half time.
Lampard’s shot had clearly crossed the line by a foot. This incident led to demands for goal-line technology to be introduced – too late for England though. Four years later Lampard welcomed the use of such technology when I asked him about during England’s preparations in the USA. One incident in one match had played a vital part in ushering in the age of technology in football.
Cometh the Goal-line Technology
In December 2012 FIFA had announced that after trials, a system of 14 cameras targeted at the goals, called GoalControl, would be used for the first time in the Club World Cup. It was also used in the Confederations Cup in Brasil in 2013.
The English FA preferred Hawk-Eye. It was used for the first time in the 2013-14 season. Its first decision was showing that Lee Cattermole rather than Frank Lampard had converted César Azpilicueta’s cross in a League Cup quarter-final between Chelsea and Sunderland.
A month later Manchester City’s Edin Džeko – he now plays for AS Roma – scored the first goal given as a result of the technology. It was against Cardiff City, as there was no doubt about Chelsea’s goal against Sunderland – just the identity of the scorer.
The Technology at Work
Before Brasil hosted its first World Cup in 64 years it was obvious that goal-line technology was an idea whose time had come. The World Cup’s first goal given by goal-line technology occurred shortly after half-time in France’s match against Honduras on June 15th.
Karim Benzema – now effectively banned from ever playing for France again – saw his shot beat the goalkeeper, Noel Valladares rebound off the post, hit the goalkeeper and appear to cross the line.
GoalControl came to the party with two decisions. It showed that it was definitely a goal, but an own-goal as it did not cross the line until it hit the keeper after rebounding off the post.
Goal-line technology had come of age, or had it?
Errors of Judgement
Due to a series of errors France’s Ligue Un abandoned GoalControl in favour of Hawk-Eye, but no sooner had the break in football caused by the Coronavirus pandemic ended than Hawk-Eye found itself making news for the wrong reasons.
The first match in the EPL after the league was suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic saw Sheffield United denied a goal because Hawk-Eye did not work. VAR was not used as the officials trusted the goal-line technology.
An unreserved apology was scant consolation for the goal and possibly two points that the Blades were denied. The officials had every right to trust the technology, but the error should have been rectified in time – it was an entirely preventable error.
This post has been written Satish Sekar, published on fittedin.org and reproduced under license after due verbal permission