Australia v Ghana
Russell Degnan

No team is a more natural to the role of plucky losers than Australia. No doubt everyone involved in Australian soccer is happy and comfortable with the situation: last in their group, extremely unlikely to qualify, but teeming with righteous indignation.

Naturally, the Kewell send-off is the main talking point, not least because Australia had dominated the game up to that point, and for long periods after, against a poor Ghanaian side.

The law is suitably unclear, but it is not a foul unless the handball was "deliberate". Given the shot from 8 yards, Kewell's reaction time (roughly 0.2s), and the speed of shot (probably 24 m/s) it is impossible for Kewell to either avoid the ball or make a play at it. The determining factor therefore is whether Kewell had his arm in an unusual position, such that he could have expected the ball to hit it. Clearly, as the photo shows, that is not the case. His hand might have been out a little, but his upper arm couldn't have been much closer to his body.

As always with football, plenty of these are given (plenty of referees are rubbish and most players are unfamiliar with the laws). But if it was a foul, it was a penalty, and it was a red card. Triple punishment is a bitch.

On a related note, this is one of several football laws that are poorly implemented in comparison with other sports.

  • Advantage is either given or play is stopped. The rugby union approach, where play continues until no advantage is clear (lost possession/out of play) and then play brought back, would improve several things. Not least, there would be less advantage to diving for a free kick when, if given for minor contact, a player could get both the free kick and the goal scoring opportunity.
  • Non-deliberate Handball gives a clear advantage to a defending side. Basketball plays foot contact as a side-ball, unless advantage is played. An indirect free kick from outside the penalty area would have been more appropriate for Kewell's contact.
  • Time-keeping is just a mess. The fourth official should do it. Time should also stop when the ball is out of play during injury time to save the pointless time-wasting.
  • More referees/linesmen and/or video refereeing would be a huge improvement. Basketball is played on a much smaller area, and it has two referees. Mind you, there is no point having a referee at all if minor infringements go unpunished, unless the player crumples to the ground. FIFA have made a rod for their own back for the joke they have made of shirt-pulling and incidental contact.
  • A sin-bin rather than sending-offs. As usual, the haphazard display of cards is having far too big an effect on the results.

But back to Australia. They played their natural game against Ghana, getting numbers forward (a sloppy goal), harassing the players on the ball (fouling indiscriminately), and pumping the ball long. Australia makes up for a lot of poor technique and organisation with effort, but we also fail to score from opportunities where a clinical finish is required, and give up soft goals from sloppy play. Ghana's build-up to the goal was a typical example of this, where Wilkshire and Emerton failed to stop the cross, despite having an opportunity to put the ball out for a corner.

Ultimately, Australia should ave won, even with 10 men, which makes the draw galling, as now we depend on either a Ghana win, or a thumping result by either Germany or ourselves (or both) to get through. Unlikely.

Football 20th June, 2010 12:38:43   [#] 


Australia v Ghana
The fact that his arm was directly between the ball and the back of the net made me sympathetic to the giving of the penalty. But it would be good if this could be done without penalising him for a non intentional act, perhaps in a manner akin to LBWs?

I think generally the world of penalties needs a massive shake up in soccer. Arguments about penalties completely dominate the sport, and every other high level match has an outcome that rides on one.
armagny  21st June, 2010 15:05:39  

Australia v Ghana
Armagny, I don't disagree. The problem lies in the fact that reward for receiving fouls in the penalty area is very high, so referees are reluctant to reward them, and players are keen to receive them (play for them). If every foul committed by a defender was called there would be 20 penalties a game, which would be a farce.

If I was to suggest something, it would be to only give penalties when they prevent a player from shooting, or are violent or cynical (yellow card offenses). Incidental contact, non-deliberate hand-balls, etc. should be rewarded with a free kick from the circle above the penalty box (21m from goal). That's also how I'd end tied games - first to score wins - instead of penalties.
Russ  22nd June, 2010 12:14:56