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Saturday Night Circus

Published by marco on

The US and Italy squared off tonight in match that started off with a strong American side attacking into an Italian defense that was simply absorbing everything. The Italy that played Ghana using the midfield was gone and the classic counter-attacking Azurri style was back. Though the Americans controlled the run of the play for the first 20 minutes, Italy capitalized on a perfectly executed set play to hammer a headball past star goalkeeper Casey Keller. The US deflated slightly after that, but were suprised to see Italy bang home an own goal to tie things back up for them.[1]

 Mcbride's InjuryThat was the start of the circus. De Rossi, an Italian player with a history of discipline problems, targeted Brian McBride with an exceedingly deliberate elbow to the face, for which he was promptly ejected by the referee, who was standing not twenty feet away[2]. At this point, Italy had racked up an own goal and an ejection. Bravo. World class and relatively typical stumbling start to a World Cup for Italy.

America was not to be outdone on this front. Shortly before half time, Mastroeni, soon after launching a marvellous shot that almost put the US in the lead, sliced in cleats up and way late on a tackle and gets sent off as well. Again, the referee was not ten feet away from the play! Ten men to ten for those keeping track at home. Soon after both teams returned to the field, Eddie Pope (US), who already had a yellow card from the tenth minute in the first half, tackled Gilardino from behind with almost no chance on the ball and grabbed himself a second yellow card. Hit the showers, Eddie. Incredibly, the US had taken the advantage offered by a disintegrating Italian team and turned the tables on themselves.

The rest of the match played out terribly, with the Italians refusing to go on the attack until the last 8 or 9 minutes of the game and the Americans unable to mount much of an attack (though DeMarcus Beasley offered some excitement, the US ended up with zero shots on goal). The US defense was quite solid, but could hardly prove themselves heroic against the sluggish, out-of-sorts offense offered up by the Italians. The US technically has a chance of qualifying, but they play Ghana next, who shut out the number two in the world Czech Republic 2-0 in a game that they dominated from start to finish. The flying Czech Republic of the first game against the US was completely absent and the Ghanans showed the same good form they did against Italy in their first match.

A Plague of Offsides

Italy looked bad, but was dogged once again by incredibly poor officiating by linesmen calling offsides. In several cases, as in the last world cup (see Refereeing at World Cup (earthli News) for more information), Italy lost significant breakaway chances to offsides calls that were simply not offsides. The officiating has been relatively solid in this respect in other matches, which indicates either a conspiracy against Italy (read Corriere d’ella Sera tomorrow for the various flavors) or an inability to call the close-to-the-line Italian style accurately. As mentioned in the article above, the only real solution to this is to put a goddamned linesmen in the booth, where he or she has the same God-like perspective we all have watching at home. The referee is already wearing a microphone and earpiece taped to his face—what’s the problem, FIFA?

Questionable Cards

The other country robbed of a goal was Argentina, whose Hernan Crespo also got a yellow card for continuing play after the whistle was blown. Argentina is playing about 100 times better than Italy, so they don’t have to care about bad offsides calls—they got an incredible 6 other goals that game. The yellow card was a tough call as the Argentinian fans are staggeringly loud and the blown whistle wasn’t audible to the viewers at home either.

Yellow cards are important in the first round, as two cards accumulated over two games results not in ejection, but in missing the next game in group play. Again, Argentina has so much firepower that they wouldn’t miss Crespo too badly in their third game, but the referee shouldn’t be so fast and loose with yellow cards for non-gameplay fouls.

Other useless yellow cards have been issued to Francesco Totti of Italy, in which he tackled a ball in the open field (not in possession) and an American stumbled over his legs afterwards. At worst, this was a free kick, but a yellow card? For what? Drogba, another masterful player, of the Ivory Coast, was similarly punished for coming too close to the goalkeeper. The ball was not in goalkeeper possession until very late, Drogba made only incidental contact with the keeper, the keeper didn’t seem to notice, the referee was perfectly positioned and he issued a yellow card to the best playmaker on the Ivory Coast.

The first red card of the tournament was given early in the second half to Vladislav Vashchuk of the Ukraine in a match against Spain. Not only did the Swiss referee dole out a red card, but he saw fit to grant Spain a penalty kick as well. Vachchuk was dogging the Spanish attacker, and, in the replay, pulled on his uniform briefly while outside the penalty box. The Spanish player seemed not to notice, taking a well-struck shot that almost passed the Ukrainian keeper before stumbling to the ground several steps later (inside the penalty box). Knowledgable commentators have watched the replay and judged that the call was correct according to FIFA rules. This is utter bullshit. If it’s true, then the rules are bullshit. The tugging occurred outside of the penalty box—and far worse uniform pulling was perpetrated by the US on Italy during their match. Not a single instance was called by the referee—even for near undressings that occurred in the penalty box itself. There is a consistency problem, as there always is with referees. Ukraine gets to play a man down for 45 minutes against a powerful Spanish team—all for a foul that is at worst a free kick and at best, simply nonexistent.

Red cards should be reserved for plays that impede or bring down a player on a clear breakaway (as in ice hockey, which gives penalty shots), intentional handballs, and dangerous tackles, intentional or not. Intent to injure should be punished with multi-game suspensions and fines.

[1] Those keeping track at home will know that the US has managed to get a point out of this World Cup—but without scoring a goal of their own! Brilliant! It adds tension to the game we Americans play of guessing not whether the US will win a game (unlikely considering how masterfully Ghana is playing), but whether we exit the tournament with at least a goal under our belts. Fifth in the world? Really?
[2] Though commentators on Eurosport have wondered aloud whether there should be varying forms of punishment—á la ice hockey—instead of just a red card, the red card for all dangerous offenses is fine. DeRossi, whose attack was intentional and meant to inflinct harm, should (and will, according to commentators more knowledgable than I on Austrian television) be banned from the rest of the tournament and possible games beyond.


#1 − do you do other things than watching soccer these days?


but its cool for people out there like me to get the summaries of nearly everything happend in germany − go on ;-) does cathy like soccer as well (and therefore let you watch it all the time)? :-))))