It’s been over a week but I still can’t get over the Ruud van Nistelrooy goal for Holland against Italy. I’ve recovered from girlfriends leaving me quicker than this. Yes, I know Uefa has wheeled out expert after expert to say the goal was legitimate but it’s the criteria they’ve used which has caused me to scratch my head even more. To any proper fan, like you and me, van Nistelrooy was offside plain and simple. Uefa say he wasn’t, as Christian Panucci was playing him onside despite being on his backside, injured and off the pitch. The trouble with this argument is, quite simply, where do you draw the line? Using Uefa’s own explanation surely Russia’s goal against Greece should not have counted as Sergei Semak committed the same ‘crime’ as Panucci. After hooking the ball back in to the 6 yard box, Semak slid off the pitch (without the referees permission) before Konstatin Zyryanov stroked the ball home. If the rules say that a prone defender is active, surely an attacker, who’s just delivered a scoring pass, is equally active. And if he is, the officials should have chalked off the goal. Sadly, an organisation such as Uefa, who can ban Porto from the Champions League for cheating one week then review their decision a few days later, are unlikely to put much store on common sense and ditch such a rule. No doubt they’ll continue to play by the book, no matter how ridiculous it has become.
There was a great day of live international rugby union on the TV on Saturday, then later, some more examples of text book rugby tackles at Euro 2008 ? invariably before the taking of any corner. For years now, the penalty box melee before a corner is delivered more resembles a WWE ring than part of a football pitch. You half expect The Undertaker to walk on at any point and ‘tombstone’ the nearest attacker. So it must have been galling for the Poles to see referee Howard Webb point to the spot after a bit of over zealous grappling in the closing stages of their game against Austria. Webb was quite correct to award the spot kick as Mariusz Lewandowski was definitely holding Sebastian Prodl. But there must be a few dozen similar instances in every game that go unpunished. Coaches and players want consistency from officials. At Euro 2008, all they are getting is consistent inconsistency.
And there’s more. Players, we are told almost weekly by the likes of Andy Gray, can legitimately go to ground in the box if there’s ‘contact’ by a defender. That being the case, it’s hard to see how referee Peter Vink failed to award a penalty when Swedish defender Johan Elmander barged in to the back of Spain’s David Silva like a raging bull elephant after one too many cans of Irn Bru. That wasn’t just contact, it was closer to a mugging.
Does anyone else have a sneaky feeling that it might have been quite a good thing that England didn’t make it to Austria and Switzerland? We’d have suffered weeks of hype and tons of expectation and then ‘our boys’ would have come up against the likes of Portugal, Holland and Spain. I’m as patriotic as they come but I can’t help feeling that the likes of Rio, JT and Wazza would have fared little better than the England side of 1988. Three games, three defeats.