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Friday, June 18, 2010


It's only been a few hours since the game ended, so I'm going to keep my remarks moderate and free of hyperbole. FIFA should fire the referee, South Africa should open up a criminal corruption investigation, and then Obama should order an assault team to capture him and then turn him over to George Bush's CIA. Because, really, a drone attack in the middle of the night would be too kind.

If you haven't seen it, the US soccer team got royally screwed today. The call, which nullified the US's winning goal against Slovenia with five minutes left in the game, is being euphemistically labeled "controversial." But no one who has looked at it has any idea what the ref was looking at. Not only is there no US foul, nor offsides, but there are at least two or three Slovenian fouls in the box that could have resulted in a US penalty kick had not the ball gone in. Which it did anyway. Props to Landon Donovan for a great cross and Maurice Edu for a strong finishing touch.

Now, you may say, it was just one really bad call, and that happens all the time. Sure. But the ref had it in for the Yanks all day. There were at least half a dozen mystery calls against the US that left the announcers (only one of whom was American) baffled--and NONE going the other way. Earlier, Robbie Findley got a yellow card for getting hit in the face with the ball. Plus, no one will comment on the ref's call. The ref is mum, and so is FIFA. They wouldn't explain it on the field, and they won't explain it well after the game is over. This whole thing looks deeply, unforgivably rotten.

Bad reffing happens, and it costs games. The Germans got the bad end against Serbia just hours before when the ref went so yellow card-happy that the Germans lost their best scorer early in the first half off ticky tack shit. Still, that was at least non-partisan badness. Both sides got burned, and Klose was dumb to push it with a weak foul when he knew the ref was playing Miss Priss. The US, by contrast, got a thumb, hand, and shoulder thrown onto the scale. I hope this ends badly for that dude.

UPDATE: Surprised that no one has made the connection between this game and the movie it so closely resembles, Victory (1981): the allies come back from a big halftime deficit to win in the final minutes only to have a corrupt ref negate their winning goal. All that's missing is Sly Stallone, Pele, and the Nazis. I half expected the American crowd to rush the field and carry off the players while chanting, "Victoire! Victoire!"


At 10:23 AM, Blogger fronesis said...

I do not disagree even one iota with your position on the call. It would be hard to find a hyperbolic position on how bad it was. It would have been an incredibly bad call if it was the one aberration in an otherwise well-called game, but in the context of all the other

However, I will say this: it's not at all clear to me that the Americans in any way deserved to win this game. Their defense in the first half was appallingly bad, and there's no excuse for coming out that way in a must-win World Cup match. Plus, we were very lucky that England was so rubbish in their match, and we still just have to play one good, complete game to go through. So in the end, the call shouldn't matter.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Fro, that's what I would call the Alexi Lalas position, since he's been hitting the point a lot, not unreasonably. The US played a pretty shitty first half, even if they carried most of the play save for those two catastrophic defensive lapses.

But here's the thing. They also played an amazing second half, maybe the best half of any team so far in the Cup. How many teams have scored three goals in an entire GAME, not just a half? (Germany, Uruguay, and . . . ?) The truth is, it only takes one good half to earn a Cup win. Just about every winning side has played at least one mediocre half. By any objective standard--by which I mean one that compares to other games played rather than an abstract standard of how a team ideally COULD play--the US deserved that win.

Did Brazil deserve to lose to the US in the Confederations Cup last year after going down by two at the half? No. Their second half surge outweighed their first half swoon. Same is true in every pro sport, where rough parity tends to be the norm. If you used the idealized standard of "deserving" a win, the only games you'd take seriously are the blowouts, but no sports fan wants to be left with only those matches.

Plus, if you think about it, that idealized view makes the tacit assumption that the opposition were, almost by definition, undeserving to even share the field with you. If you face good competition, you will have bad periods of play. Slovenia may be a small nation, but they beat the Russians to qualify (ranked higher than the US) and then Algeria in their opening cup match. They were good, but we deserved to beat them.

At 10:13 PM, Blogger fronesis said...

Well-argued tmcd. I like your passion for football! I'll just say this: if the Americans play the game they should on Wednesday then it will all be a moot point. I hope it is!!

At 6:09 AM, Blogger Number Three said...

I am shocked that there is bias against American teams in international competition. Shocked, shocked, shocked.

Seriously, though, this points to the same thing as the Galarraga near-perfect game, which is that the human element in officiating is becoming a drain on sport.


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