Germany, Argentina Outclass England and Mexico Amid Controversy

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Germany took down England 4-1 in the early match before Argentina sent home Mexico in equally impressive fashion with a 3-1 victory. Unfortunately, on a day when we saw some great attacking soccer and nine goals scored in two games, the matches today will probably be best remembered for the bad calls.

Trailing 2-1, England scored what should have been the game-tying goal against Germany off a Frank Lampard strike only to see play continue after the linesman claimed the ball didn’t cross the line. Lampard’s shot caromed off the crossbar and bounced down a solid two feet inside the goal, but the linesman, who was probably 10 or 15 yards downfield when it happened, didn’t see it cross the line. German keeper Manuel Neuer snatched the ball out of the air and quickly put the ball back into play amid the English players’ pointless complaints. I don’t really blame the linesman that much. Anybody that’s been in his position knows that there’s not much you can do when you’re lined up with the last defender and somebody takes a shot from distance. You can make a break for the end line, but the ball’s always going to beat you there. It’s just unfortunate for the refs, and there will be plenty of calls for FIFA to implement replay reviews for calls like this.

I understand FIFA’s worries about interfering with the referees’ authorities and disrupting the flow of the game, but there has to be a way of doing this on a very limited basis. After all, this particular kind of call doesn’t happen that often. It reminds me of Bud Selig refusing to overturn the Jim Joyce’s bad call that took away Armando Galarraga’s perfect game last month. People claimed that Selig shouldn’t “set a precedent” by changing a call. What kind of precedent are you setting? That you’re going to change a call on the third out of the ninth inning if it ruins a perfect game? Fine, I’d say. I’m going to start implementing a more comprehensive replay system, and, in the meantime, call me when this happens again.

The thing with soccer is that there’s also been another option discussed-putting a fifth and sixth referee on the end lines. (Technically, FIFA matches have four referees, although the fourth ref really only deals with the benches and substitutions.) It’s kind of crazy that soccer uses three refs to cover it’s games, with one ref making the vast majority of the calls, when NBA games have three refs covering an area the fraction of the size of a soccer field. I don’t see how putting refs on each of the end lines to patrol that area is a bad idea. You could give them the same authority as linemen (minus the offsides calls) or you could even just have them there solely to make end line calls.

Anyway, the whole refereeing thing shouldn’t overshadow how good Germany looked for stretches of this game. Even though that goal could’ve changed the course of the game, Germany did win by three goals after all. You can’t let a bad call deflate your team that badly, but England, despite only trailing by one goal at halftime, never showed any fight in the second half. Besides, when you give up the kind of goal that England did to Miroslav Klose in the first half, you deserve to lose. As John Harkes (I think) said on TV that you would be embarrassed to give up a goal like that (the English defense basically allowed Klose free reign to run onto a long goal kick that John Terry badly misjudged) if you were 12 or 13 years old.

The bad call in Mexico-Argentina was equally important, but it won’t inspire the same kind of debate that the mistake in England-Germany will. This was simply a case of a linesman missing an offsides call. It was sort of a strange play, anyway, with Argentine forward Carlos Tevez’ first attempt being cleared only to arrive at the foot of Lionel Messi, who sent the ball soaring back towards the goal. Tevez, who appeared to be in an offsides position on replays, spurred Messi’s ball past two Mexican defenders with a nodded header.

Mexico looked dangerous (and Argentina’s keeper shaky) at times, but I don’t think anybody would argue that Argentina didn’t deserve to win this game.

Despite the bad calls, I’m happy with the results (partly because I picked them!), because the two better teams won today.

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