by Kieran Healy on June 17, 2006

Where do FIFA find these guys?

I really hope the Yanks hold out for a draw.

I’m not sure what it is about Italian footballers that inspires sheer loathing. Their Oscar-worthy acting? The purity of their cynicism? Whatever it is they’ve got it to burn.

Final whistle. Well done the U.S.



Kieran Healy 06.17.06 at 3:10 pm

Uruguay, apparently.


Eszter 06.17.06 at 3:13 pm

No kidding, it totally spoils the game when you have to worry after every simple foul (or even just man down) whether it will turn into a red card. Ugh.


yabonn 06.17.06 at 3:36 pm

The acting talents in the italian team don’t help, neither.

Hope the US scores in the end, they deserve more than the draw. Wouldn’t be surprised to see the italian meanos scoring in the last 3 minutes, though.


harry b 06.17.06 at 4:00 pm

Not sure I agree. I haven’t watched much soccer since the seventies, but when I was watching it I think that at least 5 of the incidents I saw today would have been worth a send-off. Maybe, though, I’m completely misremembering.
Still, I’m glad they held out, and hope they win on thursday (and, for partisan reasons, that Italy beat the czechs, too).


Chris Bertram 06.17.06 at 4:10 pm

Disagree there Kieran. The first US sending off was pretty clear (and I’ve seen people walk in the Premiership for less … Gerrard v Everton this season for example). And Pope was already on a yellow, and his challenge merited a second, so there you go. The disallowed goal was probably correctly disallowed, though Liverpool got away with one like that (amid much controversy) last season too.

But congrats to the USA who merited their point.


Jar Jar 06.17.06 at 4:10 pm

It’s their hair.


Kieran Healy 06.17.06 at 4:12 pm

Chris — I will admit to a certain amount of partiality. I’d give you Pope — but not Mastroeni, though.


P O'Neill 06.17.06 at 4:15 pm

Maybe there’s a cycle in complaining about yellows but it definitely seems like they’re in the confetti stage at the moment. Pope’s 1st yellow was cheap which forced the ref’s hand on the second. The USA-Ghana match is now shredded by the yellows, with Gyan out for the Ghanaians — their best player today. And the USA’s first red seems like a stretch — straight red card very harsh. Does he make the same decision if he hadn’t (correctly) sent off the Italian thug? Unlikely.


Otto Pohl 06.17.06 at 4:23 pm

We were robbed. But, despite only having nine players and losing a goal we managed to tie Italy. I think we can advance to the next round. We always do better in the World Cup than the arrogant Europeans think we can.


P O'Neill 06.17.06 at 4:24 pm


Fence 06.17.06 at 4:33 pm

Oh please, for the first time this World Cup the majority of yellow cards were actually deserved. The USA went out to play with “passion” and heart, but all they did was foul.

And Italy responded in kind.

Worst match so far, neither team deserved to come away with anything.


a 06.17.06 at 4:34 pm

I think 1-1 was probably the most fitting outcome for the match. There were bad and missed calls throughout the game – but that’s soccer. I once complained to hardcore soccer fans in France that too many games were decided by referee decisions. They claimed that was exactly what made the games so interesting. Don’t know, I’ll still take baseball.


Randy Paul 06.17.06 at 4:50 pm

P. O’Neill,

In his FIFA profile, they mentioned that one of his hobbies is breeding animals, aka animal husbandry. Kind of reminds me of the Tom Lehrer song where he refers to someone who studied animal husbandry – until they caught him at it . . .


Randy Paul 06.17.06 at 4:53 pm

By the way, with one substitution still available, why didn’t Arena sub out McBride? He looked exhausted. Eddie Johnson’s speed would have served him well.


pdf23ds 06.17.06 at 4:58 pm

Man, there were a lot of falls in the later second half, and it seemed like none of them drew any fouls.


Chris Bertram 06.17.06 at 5:44 pm

Mastroeni — two footed, sliding in, studs up, dangerous. You can’t argue with that, surely Kieran? FWIW, Mark Lawrenson and Gavin Peacock on BBC MOTD take the same view.


Aeolus 06.17.06 at 6:01 pm

Refereeing is an art, not a science, and there will inevitably be grey areas: where one referee may give a penalty, another may not. That can’t be helped. The problem, it seems to me, is that in football the penalties (either a red or two yellows) are so severe, and penalize not just the offender but the whole team for the remainder of the match. And of course it makes a huge difference whether you go a man short two minutes into the game or two minutes before the final whistle. Hockey gets around this problem by making a team play shorthanded for two or five minutes. Has anyone suggested that football do something similar (e.g., make a team play a man short for, say 15 minutes, while not allowing the offending player to return for the remainder of the match and the next match)?


Xero 06.17.06 at 6:07 pm

After reading the FIFA rules of soccer I now realize why people from the US tend to not enjoy the game. As far as I am aware (and I’m not really a sports fan at all) it’s pretty hard to get ejected from a US sporting event because of a foul during play. Don’t most games have rules to handle this other than ejecting players? Aren’t there penalty kicks or something? Heck in Hockey it’s usually only a short time out for fighting, not ejection from the entire game.


Aeolus 06.17.06 at 6:15 pm

In hockey you can indeed be ejected for the rest of the game; the point is that your team will only play shorthanded for, say, five minutes.


Matthew 06.17.06 at 6:29 pm

If De Rossi’s fould had not happened, I don’t think Mastroeni’s would have been that controversial. It’s only because in comparison to De Rossi’s it seemed harmless that we’re discussing it.

Two yellows is a always a bit of a problem in soccer as one yellow can be for something very minor. You can take the view that the player shouldn’t have been so silly to get a silly yellow card, but I think perhaps two yellows should merit something weaker than sending off for the rest of the game.


blah 06.17.06 at 6:32 pm

Soccer is pretty much the only sport where a penalty can cause the team to play short-handed for the rest of the game.

I think it’s ridiculous to give the refs that much power.


novakant 06.17.06 at 6:45 pm

while I don’t have any statistics at hand, I think from all the matches I’ve seen were a red card was handed out, it was not necessarily to the disadvantage of the team being punished, at least as far as the end-result was concerned – sometimes it even gave them an unexplicable psychological that led them to to win the match

I think the referee was pretty good actually, even though the second red was a bit forced by the first one, but the last one was clear – blame it on the teams, they were both crap today


novakant 06.17.06 at 6:46 pm

that is: “psychological kick”


Chris Bertram 06.17.06 at 6:46 pm

Rugby Union has permanent sendings off too (to give but one example) plus temporary exclusions (the “sin-bin” 10 mins) for yellow cards.

The tendency to generalise about soccer on the basis of this one game is rather absurd. This was only the 4th world cup game in history with three sendings off.


kb 06.17.06 at 6:47 pm

“I think it’s ridiculous to give the refs that much power”

Part of the problem is that red cards are much easier to earn now than they were before.

I was looking up the stats on the team i support, dundee,and in the first 20 postwar seasons the club had 4 players sent off in total in all comps.

In the 2002-2003 season alone we had 5 red cards.

In the old days to get a red card was a mark of utter disgrace and would be the major talking point in the press on the sunday.

In 1954 the rangers and scotland player willie woodburn was send off for the 4th time in his career. He was banned for life from the game.

These days , however, the red cards come up with the rations, and I’ve seen too many games ruined over the last few years because the ref has to follow FIFA rulings and issue cards for trivial offences.

I’ve seen a proposal which would allow the ref to award more than 2 yellow cards for non violent offences and i think that’s the route FIFA should be looking at.


Rich 06.17.06 at 6:56 pm

Freakin’ unelected refs interpreting the rules to further their own agendas.

I think that because the coaches know the most about soccer, they should be the ones to determine if a foul was committed.

Maybe even the players. Hell, they’re both professionals and play soccer because they know the most about it.

-Thomas Jefferson.


JakeBCool 06.17.06 at 7:43 pm

It’s not just Italians, though, although I sometimes suspect their history with opera tends to make them the most dramatic.

A Portuguese player cleated an Iranian player’s arm (albeit unintentionally)today and then fell to the ground as if his tibia had suffered a comminuted fracture. I think the game might be improved if they started treating these players like racehorses and putting them down on the field if they’re in so much pain . . . .


foolishmortal 06.17.06 at 8:30 pm

My fellow Americans, do not judge the sport of soccer by today’s referee. This is very much the exception, rather than the rule. And when this kind of thing does occur, it isn’t always bad for the quality of play (had Beasley’s goal stood I would have kept the recording I have of this forever).

All that said, I don’t give two shits what Mark Fucking Lawrenson has to say about this or anything, it was never a red. Never.

Two footed, yes, but only one w/ a bit of stud showing. It was an attempt to play the ball, not the man, that happened to be late. The ball was there to be won, and Mastroeni gave it his best shot and came up short. No intent, no violence, and only a modicum of dangerous play.

Re: chris’ comments. In Gerrard v. Everton there was, imho, intent, without which a tackle like that is a yellow. And in terms of the offside, McBride was technically offside but you never see that called. The Liverpool goal you are referring to is Cisse’s fake touch of the ball vs. Blackburn, yes? In that case, again, there was clear intent on Cisse’s part to gain advantage, i.e. the motion of faking the touch. In McBride’s case no such evidence exists.

Anyway, we was robbed and bring on Ghana.


Randy Paul 06.17.06 at 9:08 pm

We Yanks can get a little snarky satisfaction here.


Tom Hurka 06.17.06 at 9:10 pm

Isn’t it just a general feature of games invented by the English that they give referees tremendous power to decide the outcome, e.g. by awarding (or not) a penalty? I’ve always thought it was the legacy of a deeply authoritarian society.


Cranky Observer 06.17.06 at 9:15 pm

> The USA went out to play with “passion”
> and heart, but all they did was foul.

There is no doubt the US team was being aggressive, and deserved at least some of the fouls. But the acting after contact by the Italians reminded me of nothing so much as Jerry Sloan of the Chicago Bulls in the early 1970s: sometimes a sneeze by an opponent would send him to the floor screaming in pain, simultaneously clutching knee, foot, face, and groin. But oddly enough the foul whistle would be enough to cure his “wounds”!



DC 06.17.06 at 9:18 pm

Initially I though Mastroeni’s red was harsh. But on reflection, I’m not sure at all. It was reckless AND slightly high. (There’s no need for a reckless tackle to intend harm for it to warrant a red.) It could very easily have broken the Italian’s ankle. It’s hard to tell how much of it was just bad tackling (he should have tackled with his left foot) and how much was reckless and aggressive. (Apparently the US had flagged their aggresive gameplan before the game – someone, perhaps Donovan, said the match would be “war”. Well, careful what you wish for I suppose.)

On Irish TV both Johhny Giles and Liam Brady agreed with the decision. (Ray Houghton didn’t in commentary). For me, as pundits and players they’re not authorities, but they’re close. At least I don’t think the US have any right to be bitter over the decisions.

Still, I’m glad they held out for a point, though I expect Ghana to win the last game – they’ve been very impressive in both their games so far.


P O'Neill 06.17.06 at 9:48 pm

Since this is the active WC thread, America-based readers may be interested to know that it’s not only the ABC/ESPN pundits who are driving viewers up the wall.


z 06.18.06 at 12:19 am

With respect to penalties for physical play, the comparison between soccer and hockey/football makes no sense. Hockey and football explicitly involve knocking each other down even when not handling the ball/puck. In soccer, only the ball is subject to direct force.

In hockey, being one man down is a very large disadvantage, which is likely to result in a goal very soon. If the power play were to continue indefinitely, the final score would be ludicrous. In soccer, it doesn’t really work out that way. In 10 vs 11, the 10-man still has a chance, as was clearly shown with 9 vs 10 in this game.

Also, except for thin shin guards, soccer players play with virtually no protection, and their precious legs can easily be injured in career-ending or diminishing ways. Hockey and football players are practically in full armour. Two-legged soccer tackles can break ankles, the punishment needs to be severe.


nameless 06.18.06 at 1:18 am

Brent Musberger channeling the late Chris Schenkel. Apparently there is no escape.


Chris Bertram 06.18.06 at 3:11 am

Foolish mortal: (1) the test is not intent. A reckless but dangerous tackle (which this was) can break a player’s ankle if they get their studs caught in the grass. And players were specifically warned about this type of tackle at the beginning of the competition.

(2) On McBride: again the test is not whether he was intending to interfere with play, the test is whether he did. He was in Buffon’s line of sight and he moved his leg. Pretty clear, if you ask me.


Finnsense 06.18.06 at 3:22 am

Chris Bertram is the only one talking sense here. The refereeing was laudable. It takes serious guts to change a game by giving out red cards but these were all no-brainer red cards. How anyone can think Mastroeni’s challenge was not a red is beyond me. He was very late, two footed and studs up. I thought he was off the instant I saw it. It was vicious.

Sadly, this game was an example of pure filth and not much talent. Neither team deserves to get through.


reuben 06.18.06 at 3:30 am

watched the game twice. the first time, i would have sworn that it wasn’t a red card and that mcbride shouldn’t have been considered part of play. watching it again, i think the ref got both these calls right. Mastroeni was sliding in from too far out, too fast. As Chris says, intent isn’t the only factor; in this case, he was reckless.

As a bookend to the sheer brilliance of the Argentine performance, though, this game was one of the highlights of the tournament. (Though if every game was like this it would be a tragedy.) And it sets up a brilliant final day. I think the Italians will defeat the stirker-less Czechs (how poor was Nedved, by the way?), and that one of Ghana v US will go through. Brilliant stuff.


Cheryl Morgan 06.18.06 at 3:36 am

Everyone seems to have forgotten that it is remarkably easy to get thrown out of a game of baseball. All you have to do is look at an umpire the wrong way and he’ll throw a tantrum. Baseball is the only sport I know of where the umpires seem convinced that the crowd has come to see them rather than the players. The sight of umpires thrusting out their beer bellies and mouthing off at players and coaches is one of the few ugly aspects of an otherwise beautiful game.

As for soccer, wingeing about referee decisions is indeed part of the game. It was invented by the English so it would be unusual if a large degree of whingeing were not involved. What teams need to do is learn referees’ habits. Much of the commentator chat before yesterday’s New Zealand – Ireland rugby match was about how the teams would be adjusting their playing style to take account of Jonathan Kaplan’s reputation for strictness. The US and Italian teams might have benefited from doing something similar.


Chris Bertram 06.18.06 at 4:20 am

Just to note, btw, that this thread, started by an Irishman about a game between Americans and Italians that was refereed by a Uruguayan, now contains two ethnic slurs about the English, one of which comes from a Canadian. And Canadians are notorious for thinking of themselves as rather cool, but coming across to everyone else as smug, self-satisfied, pompous know-it-alls.


reuben 06.18.06 at 4:42 am

re Canadians: I do some part-time studying at the London School of Economics, and the most aggressive people on my course (in terms of challenging lecturers on ideological rather than factual grounds) are Canadian women.

But as England’s lone supporter of Owen Hargreaves, I’m not prepared to condemn the Canucks just yet.


reuben 06.18.06 at 4:50 am

Re McBride, the WaPo reports that he himself says that he was offside.

Sadly, at Drezner, he’s claiming that the referee unfairly stacked the deck against the Americans.

It’s a bad tendency, when things go against you, to claim that it’s because the world (or the ref, or whoever) is anti-American.


a lamb with no guiding light 06.18.06 at 5:29 am

The refereeing in the USA-Italy game was pretty good and the controversial incidents were decided correctly. McBride was interfering with the play and was thus offside. Mastroeni got nowhere near the ball and the resulting contact was quite dangerous. It was just the sort of infraction FIFA deemed worthy of a red card before the tournament.

As for play-acting, it was all well within my tolerance level for such behaviour. It’s not like there was a Joe Cole (or even a Michael Owen) flopping around on the field.


gr 06.18.06 at 5:30 am

“How anyone can think Mastroeni’s challenge was not a red is beyond me.”

I totally agree. One rarely sees these kinds of nasty challenges these days, and that’s a good thing too. If there’s anything refs should clamp down on, this is it.

As to the comment about soccer giving too much power to refs because it comes from an authoritarian society: Soccer may have been invented in England, but it’s caught on in the rest of the world (with one notable exception) almost instantly, powerful refs and all. So either everyone else (othern than north Americans) is/was also authoritarian or there is something wrong with the hypothesis.

There’s a different interpretation, in any case. The fact that there’s only one referee with a lot of ‘power’ (and not a whole army of referees, and video playbacks, and nameless invisible people who sit in some booth and get to decide whether a puck crossed the line, etc.) suggests that the people who invented the game thought that one should rather put trust in the sportsmanship of the players and in a referee’s willingness to discharge his task responsibly and in good faith. After all, who would want to play with people for whom that’s not good enough?


Rob 06.18.06 at 5:55 am

I thought the Americans were a little lucky not to lose another player. Whoever it was who injured Perotta about halfway through the second half was as late and two-footed as Mastroeni, and, if Perotta hadn’t been able to come back on, would have evened up the numbers through foul play.


Tom Hurka 06.18.06 at 7:07 am


Wow, testy or what?

1. Canadians don’t think of themselves as cool — the opposite, if anything.

2. If you were designing a game, wouldn’t you want to minimize the extent to which outcomes depend on contentious judgement-calls by referees? Despite their many other merits, I think soccer and rugby (though maybe not cricket) fare worse on this dimension than most other sports.

3. Designing games and establishing their rules is an art. Do you think 19th-century English public school masters were likely to be specially adept at this art? Isn’t it possible that some of their other attitudes would seep into the way they designed games? (Think about it: they’re school masters designing games their schoolboys will play and that they, the masters, will referee. And it’s a surprise that the rules give referees enormous power?)


harry b 06.18.06 at 7:16 am

tom — cricket actually also gives umpires a good deal of discretion about whether a player is out or not (LBWs, disputed edges and catches etc), and these decisions frequently decide matches in much the same way as penalty and red card decisions do. I can’t imagine how a sport with a ball could not give such discretion to referee/umpires though and remain interesting…

I think CB is teasing, not testy, btw.

And I’d like to point out, pompously, to finnsense that I was the first person on the thread to defend the ref — I just did it with less confidence than CB (and appropriately so, knowing far less about the game).


Chris Bertram 06.18.06 at 7:17 am

Well now I am calling BS. Tom Hurka’s view is simply the triumph of his a priori conception of how it must have been over the way it actually was. From Ken Bray’s “How to Score” page one:

bq. Compared with the Corinthian ideals — that is, the gentleman amateur values — of the clubs who formed the early Football Association in England in the 1860s, football has a harder professional edge wherever it is now played. *There was originally no need for referees; captains resolved disputes in amicable discussion despite the fact that the early cam was much more robustly physical than today’s, and would agree punishments for playing infringements such as deliberate fouls.* There were no formal sanctions for foul play originally because no player would set out with such a nefarious purpose in mind.”


Chris Bertram 06.18.06 at 7:18 am

sorry … “the early game” that should have been.


novakant 06.18.06 at 7:39 am

gee, this is very amusing; while during the course of my football watching career I’ve heard a lot of both justified, unjustified and sore-loser referee bashing, nobody ever claimed that

a.) football was a badly designed game
b.) referees in general where a force detrimental to the game
c.) therefore they shouldn’t be able to award penalties and hand out cards


Tom Hurka 06.18.06 at 8:41 am

OK, fair cop — I’m corrected on the history, both by Chris’s quote and by looking further myself. (I was extrapolating too hastily from the fact that soccer originated as a public-school game — my bad.) And actually Harry’s cricket examples count on Chris’s side, since isn’t it famously the case that batsmen used to give themselves out for things such as balls hitting the edge of their bat that referees now decide? Anyway, it’s interesting that the role of referees was so much less in the early phases of those games.

All that said, and allowing as Harry says that any game played with a ball must give some discretion to referees, there should be a proportion between the seriousness of an offence in the game and the magnitude of the penalty for it. I still think that soccer, especially with the awarding of penalties, and rugby get that proportion wrong. Great games in many respects, but too prone to generate post-match discussions of refereeing like this one.

And if Novakant has never heard it claimed that soccer is a badly designed game, he’s never listened to American sports talk radio, where that’s a standard theme (see esp. Jim Rome). A common complaint is that there’s not enough scoring, though that isn’t something I would say.

Anyway, fair cop on the a priori history.


a 06.18.06 at 8:43 am

“…but it’s caught on in the rest of the world (with one notable exception)…”

Well, I don’t see either India or China in the “World” Cup – that’s pretty much a third of the world’s population not there.


a 06.18.06 at 8:46 am

By the way, the most egregious missed call, IMHO, was when nothing was called on the American who was holding the Italian player’s shirt, stopping him from breaking away and getting a clear kick at the goal in the second half. Wish I could remember the player’s names…


novakant 06.18.06 at 9:44 am

erm, yeah, I’ve never listened to American sports talk radio – it seems they don’t understand what football is about though, a bit like those two guys in the Budweiser ads we have over here maybe


reuben 06.18.06 at 9:51 am

Well, I don’t see either India or China in the “World” Cup – that’s pretty much a third of the world’s population not there.

Um, that’s because they didn’t qualify – though not without trying, at least in China’s case. India might not care about football very much, but China certainly does, as a cursory glance at wikipedia or the interwebs would tell you.

So can we take the quotation marks off “World” Cup?


a 06.18.06 at 10:24 am

If football had “caught on” in India or China, then both would have qualified rather easily, don’t you think?


reuben 06.18.06 at 10:37 am

If football had “caught on” in India or China, then both would have qualified rather easily, don’t you think?

So what you’re saying is that you don’t know anything about football, right?

Do you think it’s fair to say that in England, between the years 1974 and 1978, football had “caught on” yet?

If you don’t know what I’m alluding to, please look it up. It would save you further embarrassment.

Sorry to be rude, but it really would behoove you to learn a tiny bit more before advancing strong opinions.


P O'Neill 06.18.06 at 10:43 am

Another match postscript

“I ask for forgiveness,” said De Rossi, who made a positive impact in his team’s opening 2-0 triumph against Ghana. “I didn’t want to hurt the player (McBride) and I spoke to him immediately after. I certainly didn’t do it on purpose, that is the way I always jump to head the ball.

With arm flailing into the other guy’s face?


a 06.18.06 at 11:00 am

reuben: Yes you’re rude – glad you’re capable of that modicum of self-reflexion. Whether England qualified in 74 or 78 is not germane; it’s a small country, had qualified many times before, and gasp (although probably not deservedly) won in 66. Please show me the evidence that football has “caught on” in India or China. China qualified in 2002 (because Japan and Korea got automatic qualifications) and when before that? And India has never qualified.


novakant 06.18.06 at 11:32 am

from Wikipedia:

Association football is one of India’s most popular sports, and is said to rank second only behind cricket in popularity, although some reporting considers football to be more popular [1]. Football is a played in almost all schools in India. Football is also said to be the top sport in the states of Goa, Kerala and West Bengal.


reuben 06.18.06 at 11:47 am

I was merely responding to your statements.

1. You implied that since china and india were not at this world cup, the it was only a “world” cup. By your logic, this would mean that in 2002, it was a world cup, but in the years that China doesn’t qualify, it’s not. Or do you feel that it’s only a world sport if India also qualify for the world cup, too? China tried and failed, and India don’t care. It’s by far the most populare sport in the world, but by your logic, it can’t call its premier tournament, to which every country in the world is invited to attempt to attend (and which almost every country does try to get into), a world cup. That’s pedantic and sophmoric, but if quote marks turn you on in this context, live it up.

2. I expressly said that india didn’t care about football.

3. 300m Chinese watched the 2002 world cup, according to wikipedia. While they may not love it nearly as much as England or Holland do, I think this qualifies as catching on. More importantly, “caught on” was your phrase, not mine. I was merely responding to your silly implication that this is only a “world” cup.

But really, I don’t feel like having an argument with someone who calls it the “world” cup. If the Chinese (and Indians) aren’t interested enough in this tournament for you to think it deserves being called the world cup, then fine, you’re a pedant, and I’ll argue the point no further.


vice 06.18.06 at 12:45 pm

the us is certainly not in the rareified air of the big boys…but did i see 3 or four italians stretchered off, but when mcbride’s face is smashed he managed – somehow – to walk off the pitch to get treatment? THAT’S why we all loathe the azzuri: meal-making as an art form…


Cheryl Morgan 06.18.06 at 1:41 pm

cricket actually also gives umpires a good deal of discretion about whether a player is out or not (LBWs, disputed edges and catches etc)

This is totally wrong. Cricket gives no discretion to the umpire in these cases whatsoever. The job of the umpire is simply to decide whether the player was out or not, according to the rules of the game. Umpires can still get decisions wrong – the action takes place in a split second and tremendous concentration is required – but technology such as slow motion replays, the “snickometer” and “Hawkeye” can give very consistent results.

This is very different from a soccer referee who has to decide whether a tackle was “dangerous” or not. A lot of the current problems are a result of FIFA trying to define more closely what they mean by “dangerous” in order to improve the consistency of discretionary decisions. What we are seeing is that such things should be a judgement call because any attempt to provide structured guidelines for decision making (eg “did the tackler leave his feet?” “was the tackle from behind?”) tends to lead to as many disputed decisions as not using such rules.


Rob G 06.18.06 at 2:49 pm

Mastroeni’s tackle was two-footed, with studs showing. Could easily have broken the Italian’s ankle. It’s not up there with Premier Wanker Roy Keane’s knee-high tackle on Alf Inge Haaland, but it’s in the same league. That said, C**t of the Match was doubtless de Rossi. Put me in mind of Claudio Gentile.


harry b 06.18.06 at 3:33 pm


I don’t see the difference between deciding whether a tackle was dangerous and whether a ball hitting a player on the leg counts as LBW. Both are empirical judgments on which the evidence of one’s own senses, one’s experience, and knowledge of the rules of the game (or laws in the case of cricket) are all that one has to go on. Umpires also have to judge about wides, about whether a bowler is bowling in an intimidatory fashion, make judgements about whether the light is too poor for the match to continue (which very often decides matches). Finally, its true that the snickometer and Hawkeye are more accurate than the umpire — allowing them to substitute for the umpire’s judgment would kill (or at least substantially damage) the game — they need to be given considerable discretion. Finally, I’m a complete outside in football, and can see that much of this fuss is the result of changes in the interpretation of the laws. Exactly the same kinds of fuss occur in the periods when the ICC changes the laws of cricket.


Cheryl Morgan 06.18.06 at 4:41 pm

Hi Harry – you are right that both types of decision involve the use of the umpire/referee’s senses. However, with LBW and catches a cricket umpire is (mainly) making a decision of matters of fact: did the ball hit the bat, where did the ball pitch, would the ball have hit the wicket? The question as to whether a tackle was dangerous or not is a matter of opinion. The Laws of Cricket clearly define what LBW means, but the rules of soccer are not at all clear on what “dangerous” means. (Hopefully there is a lawyer around here somewhere who can explain this more succintly.)

You are on safer grounds with wides. The old definition, which required the batsman to be unable to reach the ball from his usual stance, was largely a matter of fact. Now that they have brought in this idea of a wide being given for “negative bowling” it has become a matter of opinion. I’ve seen balls that were within a whisker of brushing the batsman’s pads given wide.

There is also one element of the LBW law that is a matter of opinion rather than fact. If the ball piches outside of the off stump the umpire needs to decide whether the batsman was playing a shot. That’s not something you can easily measure. (Note to baseball fans – it is not simply a matter of “did he swing through?”).

As to technology, I disagree strongly. What would kill the game would be if umpires were given discretion. It is not up to the umpire to decide whether he thinks the batsman ought to be out because he played a bad shot, or whether the flow of the game would be improved if the batsman were not given out. The umpire only has to decide whether the batsman is out (and if he is not sure to rule “not out”). If you want an example of this, go look at baseball where some umpires appear to arbitrarily change their definition of the strike zone dependent on the state of the game and who is at the plate.


Rrose Sélavy 06.18.06 at 4:56 pm

It’s Sunday goddamnit. Where’s the Brazil thread?


Hedley Lamarr 06.18.06 at 5:37 pm

I agree with the Fence. The U.S. began the game fouling like crazy, to send a message I suppose. That message went against what the refs were told to do in order to control matches.

It was good to hear that the Italian appologized.


yabonn 06.18.06 at 5:41 pm


Not that this match really deserves a thread. The mummies drawed against Korea.

A refused goal could have given them victory, but they were out of gas after 1 hour anyways, so all in all a rather deserved result.

A morose, ageing team. They could (could!) wake up if they qualify. Grmbl.


Randy Paul 06.18.06 at 6:37 pm

Well, I don’t see either India or China in the “World” Cup – that’s pretty much a third of the world’s population not there.

China playe in the last one. India qualified in 1950, but refused to particpate when FIFA wouldn’t let them play barefoot.

True story.


P O'Neill 06.18.06 at 6:38 pm

The best news for France from the match was that it looks like Balthazar — the rooster smuggled into each match — made it in yet again (for I think his 101st appearance).


Rrose Sélavy 06.18.06 at 7:46 pm

The French seem to have reverse engineered a life size game of straight billiards. The object is now to see how long they can maintain control over the ball while on the opponents’ side of the field.


Amardeep 06.18.06 at 9:31 pm

On the current popularity of El Futbol in India: Asia Times.

150 million expected viewers; ESPN-India has Hindi language commentators; a huge advertising bonanza. As for people playing the game, it’s true that it’s lost prestige to cricket. Some reasons are discussed here.


SeamusMcP 06.19.06 at 12:15 am

After seeing Wiki’s update to the referee’s page I checked the reference for the guy who refereed this morning between Brazil and Australia and, sure enough, there was something there about his dodgy decisions causing Australia’s loss – not something I agree with, the way I figure it you accept the call and just move on (“no need to be a bloody sook” as many an Australian fan would clamour).

Would love to see a match between Australia and the US in the round of 16, but I figure this could only happen if Italy loses and the US and Australia win their respective matches – yeah?


Chris Bertram 06.19.06 at 2:17 am

There’s at least one player of Indian origin at the WC, France’s Vikash Dhorasoo

In England there seems to be a long-standing racist prejudice among coaches that people from the subcontinent cannot play football. Despite the fact that there are many more people in the UK with origins in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh than there are, say people of Afro-Caribbean backround, there are no players in the Premier league of subcontinental background.


dale 06.19.06 at 2:39 am

from the moment colina resigned i gave up any expectation of meaningful refereeing anywhere – everyone’s more or less a version of uriah rennie, really.


harry b 06.19.06 at 7:40 am

cheryl — I think that we disagree about the distinction between matters of opinion and matters of fact. Whether a tackle is dangerous seems to me to be a matter of fact, similarly whether a batsman was playing a shot; just matters of fact that are not eaily measurable (though no harder to determine than LBWs were for most of the history of cricket, prior to these very very new technologies). So all these matters involve judgment, and the umpire has discretion in the sense that it is left up to his judgment, not in the sense that he gets to decide on a whim.


dave heasman 06.19.06 at 8:25 am

“there are no players in the Premier league of subcontinental background”

Michael Chopra?


Cheryl Morgan 06.19.06 at 9:58 am

Harry, if it were a matter of fact whether a tackle was dangerous or not we wouldn’t be reading this thread, we would just have watched the action replay and it would have been obvious to all of us.


harry b 06.19.06 at 10:48 am

cheryl (I hope, btw, that you recognise my disagreement with you as friendly and good-natured!) — I don’t agree. There are lots of hard cases, even when there’s a lot of information available; hard cases can still be about matters of fact. In fact (sorry) I’m a bit bemused by the thread, as I was by the ABC commentators, since it just seems obvious to me (as it does to a few others) that the referee got things right, except in the couple of cases where he was too lenient!


nick s 06.19.06 at 11:25 pm

In situations like this, referees are often in a no-win situation. They have FIFA directives stacked up on their desks, with the risk of getting booted if they use their common sense. Many don’t have the kind of exposure to high-focus matches.

(You could get away with bending the directives if you were a Collina — he famously prepared by looking at the history between the teams and the history of the players. Some high-profile refs still have that power.)

But it’s also up to players and managers to do their bit to ensure that refs don’t feel obliged to hand out cards like sweets.

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