Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 18, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

SOCCER BLOGGING....The blogosphere and the airwaves are practically dripping with derision for the performance of Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda in Saturday's USA-Italy World Cup match. Kieran Healy asks, "Where do FIFA find these guys?" Frank Foer is aghast: "How can we account for his Mickey Mouse performance?"

I didn't get to see the game, but I've now read half a dozen stories about it. And I don't get it. Larrionda's sins included three red cards and an offside call against USA, but all of them appear to have been justified. Here's a rundown:

  • BBC comment on the red card against Italy's Daniele De Rossi: "De Rossi disgraced himself with a sickening, needless elbow on Brian McBride and was given his marching orders."

  • BBC comment on the red card against USA's Pablo Mastroeni: "His two-footed, reckless lunge on Pirlo was deserving of a red card and left referee Jorge Larrionda with little option." And the New York Times: "The officials' guidelines call for red cards for two-footed cleats-up tackles."

  • LA Times comment on both red cards against USA, including the second against Eddie Pope: "Although the U.S. questioned the calls, replays appeared to show that both were justified."

  • Washington Post comment on the offside call against Brian McBride that negated a second half goal: "Afterward, McBride admitted that he was not only offside, but had screened goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon."

Here's The Telegraph's summary comment on the match: "It was the United States' own fault that they found themselves with nine players one fewer than the Italians for nearly half this extraordinary match." And The Times: "There were three red cards, all of them justified, and three more yellow cards that might have turned the deeper colour."

I gather that the American team played brilliantly after Pope was sent off, and deserves all the accolades it's getting. But why the invective against Larrionda? I don't know the first thing about soccer, but the press reports all seem to indicate he called the match fairly. What's up?

Kevin Drum 2:19 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (139)

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Comments

The anti-American refs were, as usual, trying to tilt the game against the USA. It's no surprise that the anti-American press, both foreign and domestic, is covering for them. The bloggers who actually saw the game know the truth.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 18, 2006 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

you watch soccer, AH???? ... your immigrant status is showing again ... you may want to have your documents ready.

Posted by: Nads on June 18, 2006 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

I don't really get soccer, but thought I'd give it a try. Watched both games today.

I still don't understand the whole off sides thing, and I read a couple of discussions trying to get a feel for why it's there. But according to the rules, he was clearly off sides.

The announcer (I think the one who had played in a world cup) was pissed about both of the USA's red cards. He kept calling the first a 'make up' red, as if the ref had missed giving out the first yellow and was making up for it. The second was a second yellow, clearly a late hit, and seems it should have been a red.

The announcer dude seems to think that in both cases, the ref should have given them a talking to, but no card. Which seems wierd to me. Kept saying 'there's gonna be late tackles'. Yeah, but you're not supposed to. Thus, the penalties.

Also, announcer dude doesn't think the ref will ref anymore this Cup. Also, apparently the ref had been sanctioned years ago, which apparently means he will always be a bad ref.

Posted by: Oneiros Dreaming on June 18, 2006 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

Well, in part it was some pretty incendiary commentary from the ABC broadcasters after the first red card. The second one just added to their rage. That probably helped incite those who don't really know the rules (like me). The first red card looked like a late but not unreasonable tackle; I had no clue about the "cleats up" business, and the commentators said nothing about that.

Posted by: Linkmeister on June 18, 2006 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

Mixed bag. Maybe the late-tackle calls were justified, but I couldn't really tell the difference between them and a hundred other tackles. And to quote that notorious hotbed of American homer-ism, the Guardian's soccer blog, "If that was a tackle, we might as well go back to playing chess and golf."

Once again, as against Germany in '02, the USA boys outplayed a top Euro squad and came away with nothing to show for it. The lack of an ability to perform consistently is the only thing keeping the USA out of top three or four teams in the world, but it's a hell of a lot to overcome (as the English will tell you at the drop of a hat).

Posted by: jon on June 18, 2006 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

The reason everyone is mad at the ref is because he made a big impact on the game. He gave yellow cards when he should have given warnings. He called offsides incorrectly several times. Italy even scored a goal that was taken back on a bad offsides call.

It was crap. You couldn't see a guy go down without wondering what crap the ref was going to call, either for or against the U.S.

Posted by: enozinho on June 18, 2006 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK

OD, to quote The Princess Bride, "you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."


A sanction (noun) is a penalty.


To sanction (verb) is to give approval.


Let's try not to debase the language any more than it is already.

Posted by: don hosek on June 18, 2006 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK

The red card against De Rossi was obvious, and the offsides call was fair. The red card for Mastroeni however was a real stretch because Mastroeni very obviously was trying to do anything but put his cleats up; aside from getting a good running start against a mostly stationary player, what Mastroeni did was hardly exceptional within the context of that game or really of any game this World Cup. Foul? Certainly. Yellow card? Justifiable. But a straight red card? The ref clearly was trying to even out his previous leniancy (the US was playing very aggressive in the first half, seemingly making deliberate fouls while doing nothing too overt). As for the second red card for the US, with that many players carrying yellows, it was bound to happen.

Posted by: pantomimeHorse on June 18, 2006 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

Echoing pantomimeHorse, the second red was questionable. A straight red is for those instances when there is an intent to injure the other player (see, e.g., De Rossi elbowing the crap out of McBride). This is also why cleets up tackles can result in red if you ignore the ball and go straight for the opponent's ankles. But Maestreoni's tackle was a far cry from that.

The offside call was a good call. There was even a shot of McBride apologizing to Beasely. McBride was behind the defenders and he moved out of the way to let the ball get through. Thus he was part of the play and gained an advantage. That's offsides.

Similarly, Eddie Pope was yanking on the Italians the whole game. He should have seen the yellow coming. So, again, it's that second red that was just a terrible call.

Posted by: Armen on June 18, 2006 at 2:46 AM | PERMALINK

According to the rule clarifications handed down by FIFA before the WC began, yes Mastroeni's tackle could have been penalized with a red card. But through the 10 or so WC games that I have watched, the referees has not been calling things that way. At worst they have been handing out yellow cards for that type of tackle. I believe that the ref elevated that yellow that normally was given to a red only because Italy had their player sent off earlier.

Pope's tackle, I am sort of ambivalent about. I think there is a question whether or not it was acually a foul on Pope to begin with (I thought he got a piece of ball before the Italy player IIRC). Many referees have given a yellow card on fould in that area on the field (just outside the penalty area) in other games, so the yellow didnt suprise me (Pope already had a yellow and the second yellow got him a red card). With the questionable red card handed out earlier, the Pope foul should have only resulted in a free kick and not a card IMO. (I have heard that the referee may not have realized at the time that Pope already had a yellow card....and may not have handed out the second yellow if he remembered...who the fsck knows what was going on in his head).

But I also believe this. Both Pope and Mastroeni should have never given the referee the chance to let the referee make the controversial calls.

Mastroeni should have never attempted his tackle in the first place. 1) he was too far away from the Italian player to have a reasonable chance of breaking up the play without a foul. 2) The ball was only a few yards outside of the Italian penalty box. They werent about to launch a dangerous counter, and it want in a danger area on their own end of the field, why risk it? 2) There was only like 2-3 minutes till half time, just play some good D and go into the second half with a tie, regroup and take advantage of the man advantage you would have had.

As for Pope. Fscking realize you already have a yellow card. You dont make a risky tackle like that when you already have one yellow. Use your brain.

As for the offsides, it was offsides, good call.

If you could ask ppl (from around the world) if the four calls were called correctly I think you would end up with something like this:

1) De Rossi - 80% say good call
2) Mastroeni - 30-50% say good call (depending on if they like Italy or the US :))
3) Pope - 50-70% say good call
4) Offsides - >90% say good call.

Posted by: zAmboni on June 18, 2006 at 2:55 AM | PERMALINK

You can't give a red card for a tackle when the player strikes the ball first, you just can't. That's the biggest beef with the first red card against the Americans.

It is too funny that the referee had a mark against him for corruption. I am desperate to know how a ref can have a gig at the world's biggest sports show after having been suspended for being corrupt.

The mind boggles.

Posted by: mere mortal on June 18, 2006 at 2:59 AM | PERMALINK

How bout another call the ref missed? I dont hear that many people talking about it. Towards the end of the game Conrad on the US should have been assesed a yellow card and Italy rewarded a penalty because Conrad was pulling on the Italy forward's jersey in the penalty box.

Several of my friend with more football knowledge than I said that should have been a penalty.

Posted by: zAmboni on June 18, 2006 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

Well having watched the game, I think where one could knock the ref lies in the fact that game got a bit out of hand as evidenced by the cards. A more able ref would have talked with the captains and other players and tried to settle things down. I actually thought the linesmen had a bad game as the Italians were not offside in at least three of the times it was called.

Posted by: Lurch on June 18, 2006 at 3:12 AM | PERMALINK

We must immediately nuke Uruguay.

Posted by: nut on June 18, 2006 at 3:12 AM | PERMALINK

I saw the entire game, but know only basic things about soccer, so why shouldn't I add my opinion?

First things first: OD, offsides is in soccer for the same reason it's in every other sport--to prevent cherry-picking, i.e. one player just hanging out by the goal away from the play and waiting for his team to get the ball and send a long pass his way.

As for the calls--as far as I can tell, refereeing in soccer works like it does in basketball. That is, there are lots of stuff you COULD call fouls on, but what actually gets called is dependent on how the ref wants to call the game (BTW, you can call fouls without giving cards--it's a free kick for the other team, IIRC). And the whole game the ref seemed to be calling it really tight, compared to the other Cup games I've seen.

I imagine that hurts the U.S., since we're probably slower than Italy, so more fouls=more free-flowing gameplay=advantage for fast players. Just a guess.

Anyway, Italy's red card didn't seem too bad to me, but he drew about 5 gallons of blood from McBride so I guess you gotta do that. Mastreoni's red card was a joke--he hit the ball! Shoulda been a foul, sure, but a red card definitely seemed excessive. Pope's was questionable, but he probably got away with enough throughout the match to balance it out, anyway.

As for the offsides--my understanding was that the call was for screening the goalie, not offsides. He was definitely offsides, but it wasn't a pass, and I wasn't aware you could get called for offsides on a shot. But again, I know very little about soccer.

Posted by: Kenneth on June 18, 2006 at 3:20 AM | PERMALINK

It's very simple: Larrionda and FIFA refuse to recognize that 9/11 changed everything. Giving red cards to the #1 terror-fighting nation means that Larrionda is a catspaw for the terrorists, at best.

Posted by: herostratus on June 18, 2006 at 3:25 AM | PERMALINK

zAmobini,

Minor quibbles with your percentages -- I think you'd be hard pressed to find 20% who dispute De Rossi's red card (maybe 20% of Italians), and it would have been a travesty if Convey's jersey pull had resulted in a penalty. If you're going to go there, the Italians had a handball in the box that could have been a penalty.

With respect to Mastroeni's red card, if you watched the previous few World Cups, or if you've ever watched a South American game, then you would know what a "cleats up" tackle really looks like. It generally involves going over the top of the ball into the legs of the other guy. Mastroeni's feet were basically along the ground and he was going for the ball -- big difference.

The game is actually on right now -- 15th minute. Nesta just took out Convey at the top of the Italian box with a tackle directly from behind -- technically much worse than Pope's or Mastroeni's, but not with the run up -- No card.

Posted by: dbm on June 18, 2006 at 3:28 AM | PERMALINK

One last thing before I sign off for the night...

Something to think about for Thursday's games:
While the US loses both Pope and Mastreoni because of cards.

Ghana loses two forwards who accounted for both goals in the Czech game because of accumulated yellows.
The Czechs lose two forwards because of cards also.

If the US can put the ball in the net themselves, a US win plus Italy win looks pretty achievable. (that would put the US in the final 16).

And for some totally off the wall hypotheticals. Imagine the possibility:
If the US beats Ghana 3-0 and
The Czechs beat Italy 3-0

Both Italy and the US finish 1-1-1, both teams have the same goal differential (-1), but the US beats out Italy because of total goals 4-3.

The deciding goal would be the own goal given up by Italy.

Posted by: zAmboni on June 18, 2006 at 3:57 AM | PERMALINK

G'night zAmboni,

I agree with your comment about the impact of the unavailable players. The U.S's players are, relatively speaking, replaceable. Pope has not had a particularly good tournament, and there are others who can do Mastroeni's job. The players lost to the the Czech and Ghana teams are much more difficult to replace.

Here's hoping...

Posted by: dbm on June 18, 2006 at 4:10 AM | PERMALINK

Ondeiros Dreaming --
The offside rule is basically fairly simple.
At the moment the ball is kicked or passed forward there must be 2 defenders between the furthest forward player and the opposing goal -- a line drawn perpendicularly across the field. In a direct pass this is usually fairly obvious. However a player can still be called offside even if not passed to if deemed to have distracted or affected the defence. The off side rule only applies in the opposition's half. The defence is often trying to work an "offside trap" which the US used ineffectively to allow the Italian goal.

The referee makes judgemant calls throughout the game. There's no papal infallibility; it's an accepted part of the game.

enozinho -- the linesman signal and effectively call the offsides.

The Italian red card was obvious. A deliberate agressive foul with intent to hurt. The first US red card was a cleats-up, very late (at professional level) tackle aimed directly at the ankles. The player made no attempt to ameliorate it, the ball was long gone and it had all the deliberation of the prior elbow. I missed the second US red card but I thought the referee allowed the US to handle/wrestle the opposition very unsubtley without penalty on many occasions.

American Hawk immediately jumps to paranoid xenophobia. I don't think you're going to find any bias in the British press in a US v Italy game, and a lot more knowledge than is getting spouted here. Beckenbauer seems to have something to say about the refs overplaying their hand and underinforming players. In both Association Football and Rugby Football, being flowing games, referee communication with the players helps maintain control, reduce infractions and maintain continuity. Does that happen in any major US sport? It also happens in boxing.

Bottom line, if the referee and linesmen call the same for both sides and are not totally incompetent, it's a fair game.

Posted by: notthere on June 18, 2006 at 4:13 AM | PERMALINK

I didn't see the game but I've been watching the sport for ages. I'd like to point out though that the rules say:

If you run across the field and tackle the opposing player with the ball, but manage to somehow hit the ball first, does NOT excuse you from a card. The color is dependent on the referee's judgement on your intent.

The linesmen make the offsides call with their flags and the referee merely acknowledges their much better positioning.

A champion pretender takes into consideration both the opponent - by not making stupid "this is a war" comments, Robinson - but also the refereeing crew and their history and tendencies.

Good luck in the next game USA...

Go Deutschland

Posted by: Dirk on June 18, 2006 at 4:20 AM | PERMALINK

De Rossi's red card for Italy was deserved. Hardly any controversy there. The larger question is whether FIFA will crack down on him with an extended suspension.

As for the US expulsions, Mastroeni was given a red card for two-footing the tackle. It was reckless, particularly since he did it right in front of the referee. It wasn't an overly harsh tackle, especially when viewed in the context of the World Cup as a whole, but the second leg cutting in is what got him. FIFA's been trying to clamp down on those sorts of tackles for quite some time.

Straight up, Pope's second yellow was undeserved. As a stand alone play, it might have warranted a yellow card, but any decent referee would give him the benefit of the doubt because showing the card means he's tossed.

If you look at tape of the game, it seems like Larrionda flashed the yellow without realizing he had already dished one out to Pope in the first half (that yellow was even less justifiable, it might be said). After he looked at his pad with the list of cards, he then realized that it was Eddie's second. Good refs keep a running mental tally of what cards they've dished out, but it seems Larrionda did not in this case.

Whatever "controversy" you're hearing about the offsides that was called on Beasley's no-goal is without merit. McBride, the culprit, clearly affected the play.

Larrionda had a poor game, but mostly for the Pope card, which was so consequential. I don't think the other calls were all that bad.

Oh, and lastly, soccer journalism is notoriously shoddy and unreliable. Just because you see a variety of 'press accounts' saying one thing doesn't make the issue cut and dry.

Posted by: Bill on June 18, 2006 at 4:27 AM | PERMALINK

Notthere -

The replay is on here, and we're in the 48th minute, meaning I've just had the opportunity to watch both U.S. red cards again. Gotta disagree with you on these. Mastroeni's foul was not even remotely of the same type at De Rossi's. Mastroeni was late, but it was not a vicious foul that you would expect to result in a straight red.

Pope's was just a routine foul -- see my comment above about Nesta's foul in the 12th minute. I would have to grant that Pope had been fouling quite a bit in the first half, but the idea of "cumulative" fouls leading to a card usually means a whole bunch right in a row, not carrying over from a previous half.

Agree with you on the offsides, particularly the more I've seen it. McBride basically dummied the ball and definitely impacted the play.

And I don't think the referee was particularly anti-American, he just wasn't up the occasion. And neither were the linesman, but that actually worked to the American's advantage, as most of the blown offsides calls went against the Italians.

Posted by: dbm on June 18, 2006 at 4:28 AM | PERMALINK

Too bad USA played like third-graders against the Czechs. Last night's team was vastly better. Credit should likely go to coach Bruce Arena for whatever he said to the guys after the Czech game and goalie Kasey Keller for at least 3 magnificent saves. Ghana-Czech Republic, however, was a better game. Could a USA victory over Ghana give them enough points to go on to the second round? It could if the Czechs lose. Right now the points in Group E:
Italy (ITA) 4
Czech Republic (CZE) 3
Ghana (GHA) 3
United States (USA) 1

Posted by: kostya on June 18, 2006 at 4:30 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, wrong "points." Italy 1 win, 1 draw; Czech Rep. 1 win, 1 loss; Ghana 1 win, 1 loss; US 1 draw, 1 loss. So the points are 3,3,2,1.

Posted by: kostya on June 18, 2006 at 4:42 AM | PERMALINK

The announcer (I think the one who had played in a world cup) was pissed about both of the USA's red cards...The announcer dude seems to think that in both cases, the ref should have given them a talking to, but no card...Also, announcer dude doesn't think the ref will ref anymore this Cup.

A tip for newbies: do not put much stock in what the ABC/ESPN broadcast crews say. The coverage as a whole for the Cup, while it has improved a bit since the first match, has been atrocious. What's passing off as commentary has typically been inaccurate, inappropriately nationalistic (Go USA!), or just plane bizarre.

Some of the voices are better than others, but things are so bad that a great many of the hardcore soccer fans in this country have switched to Univision, the Spanish language station that's also carrying the Cup. And the vast majority of these people do not speak Spanish...

For a catalog of some of the more blatant gaffes, browse here. (BS is a great resource for soccer news and discussion, generally)

Posted by: Bill on June 18, 2006 at 4:50 AM | PERMALINK

dbm --
Not to drag it out (so I am), but I think the tipping point is the cold deliberation and the cleats up, for which all referees have clear instructions and the players are aware of this.

It was a stupid foul. Years ago it might not have even been a yellow, but it is now a red and they all know it.

Posted by: notthere on June 18, 2006 at 4:51 AM | PERMALINK

Still wrong, sheesh. 3, 2, 2, 1. Fucking math.

Posted by: kostya on June 18, 2006 at 4:56 AM | PERMALINK

notthere --

Just so we can make sure that this horse is totally dead...

I absolutely agree it was a stupid foul. It was in the Italian's half, the guy was going away from the U.S. goal, and there was about a minute left in the half ... can't get much dumber than that. But I disagree with the "cold deliberation" analysis. Not only was it in the run of play, trying to injure someone in that spot, at that time just doesn't make sense. I would chalk it up to stupid, not vicious, and that's where I draw the line between yellow and straight red.

Is the horse sufficiently dead, now? If so, I have a theory on Beasley -- I think he has mono. Nothing else could explain his lack of enthusiasm and energy in the past couple of games. After the Czech game I defended him, arguing that he was totally thrown off by being played out of position. He's a small, quick player who earns his keep by running at people. I thought being moved out of position took him out of his comfort zone, and it effected him more than it would a pass-and-move type player like Reyna. After today, though, I have to reconsider. He should have been markedly quicker than everyone else on the field; instead he was slower, particularly on the attack, and even more particularly off the ball -- I don't think I saw one good diagonal run from him the entire time he was in there. So, I remember him as a good player, so my only answer is ... mono. Any theories?

Posted by: dbm on June 18, 2006 at 5:05 AM | PERMALINK

dbm --
Well, if not cold, deliberate. They are footballers. They know exactly what they are doing with their feet, and when and how they strike something. No attempt to avoid. Under current instructions, the referee doesn't have a lot of choice. Stupid.

Interesting idea on Beasley. Something is up but I have no idea what.

G'night all!

Posted by: notthere on June 18, 2006 at 5:41 AM | PERMALINK

kostya,

you had it right the first time, 4, 3. 3. 1. Three points for a win. One each for a draw.

Argentina is magnificent. Against Serbia, it was like they were putting on a clinic (and Serbia had not let in more than one goal in ten World Cup qualifiying matches). To be this dominating in the Group of Death; I don't see any part of their game that is weak, I guess the match against Holland will tell but I'm calling the World Cup for Messi and company. If Argentina plays anything like they did in the last match Brazil will not repeat.

Dark New World horse: Ecuador.
Dark Old World horse: Portugal

Italy, the US. No.

Posted by: snicker-snack on June 18, 2006 at 5:52 AM | PERMALINK

Argh! How can this be confusing? It's too simple.

Posted by: kostya on June 18, 2006 at 5:59 AM | PERMALINK

Good article, Kevin! Yes, putting the blame on the refugee doesn't fly. It was obvious from all of the games so far that FIFA encouraged a heavy handed approach towards foul play, in many cases more heavy handed than what the players are accustomed to at their national leagues. At this time in the champoinship, this really shouldn't be a surprise for anyone anymore. There has been ample evidence in the form of aggressive players who were rewarded with the carton and had to go douching. I simply can't understand why there still seem to be some coaches and/or players who didn't get that message.

Imho this is actually a good decision by FIFA, an organisation that isn't exactly famous for logical consequences. Violence has no place in the match, but will ruin the fun of the gameplay. The US team should get over it, they may have won against the italians with a bit more luck or the referee looking away at the right moment, but who knows? This difficult situation they are in right now is their own fault by losing against the czechs big time. But they still have the chance to come out on second place, so they should look forward and concentrate on that decisive match against Ghana, not indulge in blaming the official, Ecuador, FIFA, Canada or whoever.
Good luck USA!

Posted by: Gray on June 18, 2006 at 6:18 AM | PERMALINK

Group play is rarely ever a prediction for World Cup success. Italy 1982: 0-0 vs. Poland, 1-1 vs. Peru, 1-1 vs. Cameroon. Advanced in goals-for rule because Cameroon drew three times, 0-0, 0-0 and 1-1, and end up in the group of death against Brazil and Argentina. The rest, as they say, is history.

Posted by: ogmb on June 18, 2006 at 6:42 AM | PERMALINK

ogmb, you are of course right and I remember the streets of Toronto (home to something like 600,000 Italian-Canadians) errupting in 1982.

Still...

Posted by: snicker-snack on June 18, 2006 at 7:04 AM | PERMALINK

De Rossi's red card for Italy was deserved. Hardly any controversy there. The larger question is whether FIFA will crack down on him with an extended suspension.

Mauro Tassotti got eight games for doing basically the same thing in 1994.

Posted by: Thlayli on June 18, 2006 at 7:29 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Bill above.

The unforgivable part of the refereeing job was the 2nd yellow on Pope. Watching the referee's body language at the time, I think he had completely forgotten that Pope already had a yellow card. Had he remembered, I don't think he would have given Pope that card.

A better referee would have been on top of that and would not have thrown Pope out for that particular foul. It may have been worthy of a first yellow card (along the lines of persistent infringement if nothing else) but it was definitely not deserving of a second.

As to the other "controversal" calls:

- It is debatable if Mastroeni deserved a straight red or a yellow. I think a yellow, but I can see the merits of the straight red arguments given the recent instructions from FIFA.

- No controversy on di Rossi's straight red. That's a textbook example of when to give one. The replay from every angle showed it to be deliberate. Also, considering the context within the game, it appeared a frustration foul (furthering the likelihood of intent to harm).

- No controvery on the McBride offsides call either. By obstructing the goal keeper's view he was definitely involved in the play. The passive offside rule (exemption) did not apply.

Posted by: SLJ on June 18, 2006 at 7:38 AM | PERMALINK

Not going to argue the last red card against Pope or the goal-killing offsides. Both seem valid. The red against Mastroeni was crap. Yellow seems justified, but that's it. Sure you could juggle the image of the play in your head and say his cleats were up ....give red, but that's stupid and inconsistant. There was no intent to do harm, it appeared that he began sliding before the Italian player touched the ball, and clearly kept his feet down while hitting the ball first. It's not brain surgery to see when a player is intending to do harm...a large part of what defines a red card. Plus, most injured parties are wont to flail on the ground as if they had their leg amputated. A quick spray of pixie-dust on the sideline and they come trotting back on the field.. Another reason Americans hate futbol. It's full of floppers.

Futbol referee as a whole suck compared to other professional sport refs (and I have had this confirmed by futbol fans from other countries who have lived in the US). They are very inconsistant.

Posted by: TANSTAAFL on June 18, 2006 at 7:53 AM | PERMALINK

"The unforgivable part of the refereeing job was the 2nd yellow on Pope."

SLJ, so that's only one questioanble decision? Hmm, I seem to remember that the last Superbowl was more controversial. However, while I think it would be good to introduce video evidence for football referees, this isn't the law right now. The referees have the last word and every team may be victim of a bad decision.

Complaining doesn't help at all, and in this particular case the US wasn't the much better team, so the result isn't really unfair. At least they were much better than against the czechs, and this should give you much hope for that important match against Ghana. Chin up!

Posted by: Gray on June 18, 2006 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

"Another reason Americans hate futbol. It's full of floppers."

If a referee witnesses a deliberate 'Flop', he will punish it. There have been several examples for this during this championship. Now, if only they would use video evidence, there wouldn't be any Flops anymore...

Posted by: Gray on June 18, 2006 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

The truth is somewhere in the middle. Our team came out fouling heavily. Refs have to keep control of the matches. More cautions were in order, however.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on June 18, 2006 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

From the opening whistle the ref was much too aggressive, interrupting the flow of the game with foul calls needlessly.

My memory is that Mastroeni played the ball--touched the ball--before making contact with the opposing player. So the red card was totally absurd.

And, you can't dissect one play and evaluate the refs performance on that basis. You have to ask if the ref was consistent.

He wasn't. He sucked.

Posted by: obscure on June 18, 2006 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

I have a slightly different take. I did see the game on TV and know a little about it. The first red card was justified. De Rossi threw his elbow and drew blood. The second red card was not. Foul yes, yellow probably, red no way. That is the card for which he should be critized. The third red card should be charged to Bruce Arena's failure to pull Pope after the first red card. It was obvious that Pope was having a bad game. He just didn't match up to the Italian attackers. Frankly those who follow soccer realized that Arena had Jimmy Conrad on the bench. Conrad was brought on after Pope's departure (at the loss of an attacking midfielder) and had a stellar game. He is a big reason the Italians didn't score. In fairness this was Conrad's first world cup game and he is from the MLS. I guess Arena doesn't quite trust him. Pope, who has also plaied in the MLS, has a lot of international experience. I am not faulting Arena for starting Pope, I am faulting him for leaving him on the pitch after the De Rossi red card, and certainly after the Mastroeni red card. It should have been clear to everybody that Pope was the Italian target after his yellow card and the ref was giving out a lot of cards. What Arena needs to do is have a little more confidence in his team. It is pretty well put together. In fact it is the deepest team the US has ever had.

The sad thing is that there are three and possibly four teams in this group who deserve to go throught to the round of 16. Somebody is going to be disappointed. Wonder how such a group was assembled?

The great thing is that for the first time in the history of US soccer we aren't talking about how the plucky Americans have played better than they are. We have a team that should go through if it just plays to its ability. Too bad the team came out flat against the Chech Republic. Again I fault Arena. If a coach can't get a team ready for a world cup game he has no business being a coach.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 18, 2006 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

apologies for not reading the previous posts, so this migh tbe a duplication...

the red cards the ref awarded in the game - the two straight red anyway - and the offside decision to disallow the US goal were all correct. the problem with the ref was the way he was giving out yellow cards like birthday presents: once you set the bar on what is a yellow, you have to keep to it to be consistent. neither of the two yellows the second US defender received were necessary, nor were most of the yellows the Italian team received.

the ref completely lost the plot - and by the end, he had simply stopped blowing his whistle (the foul on Perrotta by Bocanegra that injured Perrotta, the continual fouling of Pirlo) because if he *had* blown, he would have had to give yellow cards to the US players, and hte game would have been abandoned due to one team having too few players on the pitch. it wasn't an especially dirt match: it deserved two red cards, for shocking tackles/ violence, and the odd yellow; the fact that it ended with the US having only 9 players on the pitch - and the Italian team kicked five ways to sunday - is solely the fault of the referee. ie, he had a shocker.

Posted by: sean on June 18, 2006 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

I have to say, this might be the most uniformed discussion about the laws of the game ever. Congratulations.

Posted by: dugmartsch on June 18, 2006 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

Errata.

plaied = played, Chech = Czech. Damn I wish I had a spell check.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 18, 2006 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

It was the second red card against the US.

This card was given for a slightly late tackle. the tackle was not deliberate. It was just late.

Posted by: dataguy on June 18, 2006 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

What's up is that to the extremely casual US fan, the contrast between the red card given out for the elbow that resulted in a very bloody American facial injury and the pretty inconsequential two footed tackle made the second call look like a make-up call. It seemed to me, the announcers and the other people who were watching the match that the ref did not want the match to be played with the Italians short-handed for 60 minutes.

As I am one of those extremely casual football fans, I couldn't tell you whether that assessment is accurate. There was also much commentary, during the broadcast, of FIFA wanting to see fouls enforced more strictly, and that this was influencing the event.

Posted by: JayAckroyd on June 18, 2006 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

fyi, the Austrian TV commentators praised the referee.

Posted by: otmar on June 18, 2006 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

The elbow to McBride deserved the red.

Both cards against Mastroeni and Pope were overly harsh. I've seen dozens of challenges like Mastroeni's that earned yellow cards at worst.

As another commenter noted on Pope's 2nd yellow, any decent ref would have also exercised some judgement.

If there's any doubt about the ref being able to exercise judgement, watch the rest of the 2nd half. Lots of tough tackles and fouls, that the ref decided to let go. If anyone wants to understand this situation, watch a replay of the 2nd half, and consider the "un-carded" fouls that occurred then.

Posted by: The Commissar on June 18, 2006 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

McBride was offside, obstructing the goalie's view (thereby was 'involved in the play'), on Beasley's called-back goal.

Good call.

Posted by: The Commissar on June 18, 2006 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Great, I never thought I would be able to comment on "football" on this blog. I saw the highlights and to give my two cents worth...

The first red card against the US was too extreme, and one I feel is a makeup call for the Italians red card. Sure, two footed tackles are illegal but that particular tackle is nothing like the dirty cheap shots that are meant to injure. Yes, it was a foul, and a better call would have been a free kick, or a yellow as a stretch, but definitely not red.

But the second yellow against the American player was definitely the correct call. Any tackle from behind is a yellow card, and this tackle was definitely from behind.

I totally disagree with others posted here that the referee should have known that this player had a previous yellow in the game, and not call the subsequent yellow. That is plain wrong. That would allow a player the impunity to commit harder tackles on anyone after getting the first yellow.

The offside call disallowing the US goal was correct. The offside US player definitely influenced the goal, despite not touching the ball. Clearly against the rules.

Posted by: terry k on June 18, 2006 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin,

Your question is based upon the premise that sports fans think rationally of their team.

Posted by: Chris Brown on June 18, 2006 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Was watching the German commentary on Setanta. The German commentator attributed the first American red to naivety(i.e. you have to be a bit more careful whenever your opponents have just had a man sent off-referees at any level,and not just in football, will give make-up calls), and attributed the second to stupidity.

Pope was clearly going to be walking at some stage. If you read most minute-by-minute coverage, most will mention their bemusement that Pope wasn't replaced at half-time.

Do remember he could have given Beazley a yellow for a deliberate handball, and an Italian penalty for shirt-tugging in the box.

Oh, and Marcelo Balboa is a complete arse.

Posted by: AlanM on June 18, 2006 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

The Australian announcers also judged it tough, but fair. They regretted that referee was so involved, but did not disagree with any of the big calls. Basically what Kevin said.

Posted by: yankinoz on June 18, 2006 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

I'd put it this way--if Mastroeni's foul and Eddie Pope's second foul deserved expulsion, and if the ref had been consistent, there would have been a nice 4-on-4 at the end of the match. Both sides were playing chippy aggressive soccer.

And the Italians, for goodness sake, have they perfected the art of the dive?

The Americans showed a lot of guts. For the life of me, I don't know why they didn't put in their last sub at the end and just try to outrun the Italians that had used all of their subs.

Posted by: Some Dude on June 18, 2006 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

The referee was correct. ABC sports people were incendiary jackasses.

But the bottom line is that we're talking Americans here, and Americans never lose. If it looks like a loss, if it looks like an American did something wrong, just blame somebody or something else.

This is a critical and tragic flax in the American character, with disastrous consequences for America and the entire world. Iraq was (and is) a terrible mistake -- but how long will it take for George Bush and the Republicans (and some Democrats, alas) to admit that? (Hell, lots of Americans still think America did the right thing in Vietnam.)

So there you have it: The USA, bullies and bad boys ofthe world -- either let us have our way, or damn you for getting in our way.

Posted by: K on June 18, 2006 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

So why don't the refs hold up a white card for a penalty, consult their little chart, and thenhold up the appropriate color card for the offense? Are they in that big a hurry? Is shooting from the hip really necessary? Seems like an easy way to avoid stupid referee tricks...

Posted by: Doozer on June 18, 2006 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

The first US match was bad, they weren't aggressive, too many fouls and rough ball control. In yesterday's match they again started out with lots of fouls but once the Italians got the red card I hoped the US would step back and take advantage for the rest of the match, but no, they continued with too much fouling. And then the refs got delusional. Fortunately, even though their ball control was still rough the US was much more agressive. It was an extraordinary match all in all. I'm still really impressed with Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Posted by: jerry on June 18, 2006 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

It's the World Cup... emotions run high. People get shot in other countries arguing over whether it should have been a yellow card or a red card.

Having said that, I don't see how anyone (regardless of nationality and regardless of their degree of anti-US sentiment) could believe the referee crew did a good job. The off-side calls were terrible. The controversial off-side call against US was a good call IMHO, but the calls against Italy were horrific. The red cards against the US were simply bad calls, particularly the straight red card for a foul where the player got the ball first.

So the only relief I can imagine is that we attack Uraguay... they are after all, part of the axis of nations ending in "guay"... Uraguay, Paraguay, and Chadguay

Posted by: ussoccerfan on June 18, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

I did watch the game and both of the red cards on Team USA were for hard tackles that we the norm in this game. Foul - maybe. Yellow card? NO WAY! Red card? Pathetic. Even the Italian that did post game comments for ESPN agreed that these red cards were not appropriate.

Posted by: pgl on June 18, 2006 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

It's gonna be pretty hard to make a case that the ref was anti-us, I saw at least two Italian off-sides calls that were dead-wrong, and would have resulted in a breakaway and 90% sure goal.

I'm European, I watch soccer on a regular basis, and I don't think you can get around that Pope is to blame for his red card - the second yellow card was just a stupid gamble by a guy who already had one yellow in the bank! It was a pretty clear tackle from behind - you can argue that he was just "a little late" but even if there is no malicious intent, he's still tackling a guy from behind, and there were previous world cups where that kind of offense meant a straight red.

You can't - in any way - argue with the annulled US offsides goal. Guy is behind the last defender, in the line of the ball, shielding the keeper. German TV did a 3d-workup of it later that night, and it was a great call by the ref.

It was a great game, you should be proud of the spirit the guy's showed - and moderate that spirit a little in the next game, so you don't wind up with 9 guys again. Keeping your head in a soccer game and scoring on your chances is what it's all about.

Posted by: LarzJG on June 18, 2006 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I think you'll see that most of the media accounts will make some comment about the dodgy refereeing because taken as a whole and in the context of the World Cup it was. But they can't outright say any of the big calls were wrong because there was enough there for plausible deniability for the ref. That doesn't make them the right calls.

Remind you of anything that's happened before?

Posted by: Randall Flagg on June 18, 2006 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I understand the Bush administration is about to announce that the US won't abide by FIFA rules anymore, and that he's gotten a legal memo by Alberto Gonzalez justifying this. From now on American players will be permitted to engage in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment against opposing foreign players on the pitch....after all, we're Americans, and the rules the rest of the world have to follow don't apply to us.

Posted by: Stefan on June 18, 2006 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

ABC is working for ratings, thus the outlandish claims that U.S.A. tied despite the whole world (and the referees) being against them. One things to keep in mind is that the U.S.A. is not the only country that has complained in this World Cup or previous World Cups that the deck got stacked against them by referees. It's a rather common theme in soccer.

Posted by: KStan on June 18, 2006 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

I watched the game. ANd the replays.

The "AP Reporter" who fed so many of your press acounts, apparently, did not.

Cleats were down, not up. And the cleats never hit Pirlo (or anyone)--Pirlo wasn't "cleated."

The Pope yellows were both wrong (although he could have been yellowed for other things).

And the sports-writing press routinely shys away from calling out bad calls--in any sport. The general rule is: if the ref called the foul, then it was a foul. Commenting on a bad call is considered Op-Ed: reserved for the Kornheisers, Wilbons of the world.

Posted by: curious on June 18, 2006 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Elbow in the face...definitely a red card.

Jump two footed on someone's ankle after the ball is gone; judgement call, definitely at least a yellow, red was not inappropriate.

Have one player out already and an aggressive player who's been called for a number of fouls including one yellow...USE YOUR SUBS!!!! That second red card is as much Arena's fault as anyone's. Pope should have known better than to take a chance like that; Arena should have been smart enough to know it could happen and sat Pope down for the second half.

It's easy to blame the referee, but that's the new Republican/ American way these days; blame someone else for your mistakes. Heckuva job Bruc...

Posted by: A Hermit on June 18, 2006 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, I almst forgot...


GO ORANJ!

Posted by: A Hermit on June 18, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

One of the reasons Americans don't get excited about World Cup soccer is that that the judging is simply atrocious. NFL referees, for all their flaws, appear to be honest. International soccer refereeing is full of incredible corruption and mediocrity. Refs are picked to do countries favors rather than by any standard of merit. I've seen far too many World Cup games over the years decided by the refs rather than the players (anyone remember S Korea - Italy last tournament?). Between the awful refs and the games decided on penalty kicks it's hard to take World Cup soccer more seriously than, say, figure skating.

Posted by: Vanya on June 18, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Bill,

"Oh, and lastly, soccer journalism is notoriously shoddy and unreliable. Just because you see a variety of 'press accounts' saying one thing doesn't make the issue cut and dry"

I would amend to to add "Merican" before "soccer Journalism". I watched the games Saturday in an Irish bar in BCN and was amazed at the ignorance displayed by American announcers as well as American viewers.

To pontificate with no idea about which one speaks. Guess they are taking the lead from Faux News.


FWIW, the refs are not "compelled" to issue a red flag on the second "yellow infraction". It is a judgement call, people. Read the rules first, then comment.

Posted by: Sky-Ho on June 18, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah I have to say the ABC commentators probably incited the ire of the American media and public more than anything. They seemed to justify it by saying that Franz Beckenbauer has been displeased with the number of yellow cards being issued per game. I didn't see the game, but saw the highlights and the referee seemed justified to issue those cards especially since FIFA is cracking down more on these types of fouls.

Posted by: DKS on June 18, 2006 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

I watched the match and thought Larrionda officiated almost perfectly (which is very very hard they don't have enough referees on the field in soccer).

The 3 red cards were clearly justified Pablo Mastroeni could easily have broken the legs he spiked. Also the ball was no longer there so he could have spread his legs without affecting the game.

Pope's first yellow could have been read. Italy was trying a fast break and Pope was all alone and beaten by his guy with nothing between them and the goal line but the goalee Keller. He tackled the Italian. In basketball talk, this is a flagrant foul of someone with a clear path to the basket/goal. In this case it was not stupid, because one more Italian goal would have eliminated the USA. I don't really know the rules for red vs yellow, but I thought Larrionda was distinctly merciful.

Then Pope made a totally stupid foul at a not totally critical point (near the Italian goal though and thus withing the penalty zone). Playing with a yellow card is like playing with 5 fouls, and, I think, the guy should practice doing so.

I didn't understand the off sides call. I am not experct enough to comment here. My understanding (explained by Italian commentators) is that a goal is called back only if the offsides player has a role in making the goal. Normally this would be by kicking the ball, but blocking the goalees vision counts too. Notice McBride (who seems to be a truly classy human being) said after the game that he agreed with Larrionda, accepting the blame for the not at all disappointing tie.

And McBride also seems to be the only human being willing to defend Daniele De Rossi the guy who elbowed him in the face. At http://tinyurl.com/n4cqw "The midfielder apologized to McBride after the game and the American called him 'classy' for the postmatch gesture." McBride is a McMensch and I'm going to wear my US flag tie to work (in Italy) tomorrow.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on June 18, 2006 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

The Italian players made Vlade Divac look like a stoic by comparison.

Look, I'm no expert on soccer, but there was something off about that game. And it didn't just go against the Americans, either; there was an offsides call against the Italians in the second half that was clearly wrong. And while the offsides against McBride was obviously correct, the two American red cards looked pretty ticky-tacky compared to the rest of the play on the field; if those were worthly or red or yellow cards, then a card could have been pulled out on every tackle, it seems to me.

Posted by: Meph on June 18, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

The ugliest example I have ever seen of the beautiful game.

The American side came out from the first playing choppy hacking football. They know, as does everyone else in the world, that Italy is way out of their league. Their strategy, and it might have been a very effective one, was to anger and frustrate the Italian side into taking stupid penalties, and making costly mistakes. The only problem is Italy better in every aspect of the game, including goonery and diving.

The USA has no cause to complain. They set the tone of the game, they were greivously outplayed, and they escaped with a draw due to a lucky own-goal. In fact, it's quite possible that the own-goal resulted from the previously mentioned strategy: to put the Italians of their game, so they should be quite happy: They drew a team they are not fit to clean boots for.

Every card flashed in that game was fully justified. In fact the game could quite easily have ended with two keepers punting the ball at each other for the final half, only the patience and forebearance of the referee prevented it.

To me the real disappointment is that Italy allowed themselves to be taken by the American strategy. Had they refused to lower themselves into what amounted to hands-free rugby, they likely would have beaten the Americans by 3 or 4 goals, which would have been a much more appropriate result.

So why the outrage? Jingoism, pure and simple.

Posted by: charles parr on June 18, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

I've now read some of the other comments. I note again that no Italian seems willing to defend De Rossi. The general line is that he brought discredit on Italy and had better shape up Pronto.

Also the fact that De Rossi's foul was much worse than Mastroeni's does not mean that Mastroeni deserved a yellow not a red. De Rossi's foul was way way over the red line. It is likely that he will face additional punishment (and the Italian team says that is fine by them).

I don't watch much soccer and don't know what I'm talking about, but I thought Mastroeni's foul was extreme. Watching it I wondered of 0,1 or 2 legs were broken (fortunately 0 it seems). I stand corrected, Pope's second yellow was for a late tackle outside of the penalty zone. Pope is clearly not infallible and needs to learn how to play with a yellow card.

The one bad call I noticed was an offsides call against Italy. The Italian player broke past the American who was guarding him, but across the field there was another American who wasn't staying at exactly the same distance from the goal as defenders should (the way they manage to be in an exact line is very impressive). Thus the Italian could break past his defender without going offsides. Unfortunately for him, the linesman didn't notice this and called him offsides. Not good to notice something that the linesman doesn't notice.

I think the offsides rule is dumb.
It is not present in all sports, since there is no such rule in basketball. In ice hockey offsides is called icing. It seems to me that there is too much scoring in basketball and too little in soccer and How about if they introduce an offsides rule in basketball (that is ban the fast break) and eliminate it in soccer ?

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on June 18, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, we're Americans, we whine; that's what we do.

No, we don't have a monopoly on it, but we sure are good at it.

Posted by: Mr. Q on June 18, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Robert--If you don't even know offsides in hockey, maybe you should not comment.

Posted by: Rob on June 18, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

The only clear calls were the red against De Rossi and the nullification of Beasley's goal. The others were judgments. My main objection was that the ref seemed way too card-happy. Warnings and fouls would have been sufficient in many instances when he booked players, at least early on. He made himself too much of a presence in the match. Once Pope was tossed, he stopped carding players, and the game started to flow.

Posted by: MadLad on June 18, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if eliminating offsides in soccer wouldn't reduce scoring as defenders are forced to lag behind and not help press an attack.

Posted by: Boronx on June 18, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Robert--If you don't even know offsides in hockey, maybe you should not comment.
Posted by: Rob on June 18, 2006 at 1:20 PM

Why not? After all, we are talking about a game. A bit of entertainment. Everybody has an opinion. Good for everybody.

As I said above, what is so good about this tournament is that the US is just another team. If it plays well, it will do well. If it plays badly, it will do badly.

A few tournaments ago, the US team didn't have a chance even if it played to its ability. For a while it was acknowledged that the team had 6 or 7 reasonably good players and a good keeper (America always seems to produce a good keeper.) We could win the occasional game, but nothing much was expected. Now we have a team of good players and some good subs. Not enough to win, but better than most of the teams in the world. I suspect that in a few years America will start fielding stars amoung its good players. Then it will have a chance to win.

People, remember this, soccer is the most popular youth sport in America. Millions of kids play soccer. Football and basketball are games for giant physical freaks. Baseball is no longer an American game. Soccer is growing. America has the largest youth soccer pool in the world. That pool will produce talent. Expectations will grow. They will be rewarded.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 18, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a retired USSF State referee, and IMHO, all three players got what they deserved. FIFA has been trying to cut out the horrible stuff since at least 1990. The players are briefed on the refereeing philosophy and rule changes before the Cup starts - if they don't pay attention, it's not the referees' fault.

Mastroeni went in with 2 feet at the shin. That's how legs get broken. Goodbye. The way Pope has been playing, the referee did the US a favor by sending him off. He was getting beat all day, and fouling to make up for it. Wynalda, Lalas and Balboa are as out of it when commentating as they were when playing.

Posted by: frank on June 18, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

"they were greivously outplayed"

The stupidest thing written so far.

The refs were atrocious. They bought into every Italian dive. They blew several offside calls. But...

The cards were all very justifiable. And Pope and Mastro should've known better considering the way the game was being called. Especially Pope. He was carrying a yellow and still was taking stupid chances. And all that early fouling by the U.S. was totally unnecessary. We didn't need to so that to control their attackers; we were doing a great job.

Do I really need to comment on the offside goal? That was so clearly the correct call that I don't get the complaints.

I am very proud of our guys. Great job after that horrendous game against the Czechs!

Posted by: Paul on June 18, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Frank, I take it you are still fuming about the silly "there are two kinds of refs, bad refs and worse refs" comment.

I really agree with you on the Pope comment. Arena should have pulled him. It was obvious that the Italians were beating Pope like a drum. Once he got the first yellow, he was a marked man.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 18, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

FWIW, the refs are not "compelled" to issue a red flag on the second "yellow infraction". It is a judgement call, people. Read the rules first, then comment.
Posted by: Sky-Ho on June 18, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

If a player has been booked once and later is booked for the second time, then the second yellow MUST be followed by a red card and he's a goner.

That's not something for the referee to judge: Two bookings = red card. No discussion. At all.

Which of course means that most referees will tend to cut a player with one booking allready a little slack before the second yellow is drawn - which basically is wrong, but ... we're only human.

I'm a referee myself - and I didn't see the match so no commentary.

Anyway, get over it.

Whatever happened happened and the result is final. I know (some of) you yanks have a problem with soccer because there's no video-referee, no replay in slo-mo to reaaaaally decide what's "right", there's only the referee and his decisions which must be made in a split second: It's not fair, you argue. (The same reason some americans despise European golf courses, they're not perfectly groomed, they're bumpy, they're NOT FAIR!.)

Get over it ... :-)

Regards.

Posted by: Ole on June 18, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

OD, to quote The Princess Bride, "you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

A sanction (noun) is a penalty.

To sanction (verb) is to give approval.

Let's try not to debase the language any more than it is already.

I don't mind people accusing me of debasing the languange. As a born and bred Hoosier, I'm probably guilty.

And maybe, I thought, I do use the verb sanction wrong. So I looked it up.

At dictionary.com, the third definition of the verb sanction:

To penalize, especially for violating a moral principle or international law.

Wow, don't you look like a fucking idiot. Whoops, was that debasing the language too?

Posted by: Oneiros Dreaming on June 18, 2006 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Jump two footed on someone's ankle after the ball is gone; judgement call, definitely at least a yellow, red was not inappropriate.

Pablo Mastroeni could easily have broken the legs he spiked.

[note--these are from two different posters]

Guys, you might want to actually watch what happened on Mastroeni's challenge before saying things like this. He didn't "jump on the guy's ankles," nor did he "spike the legs." He made a slightly late challenge with his legs both clearly on the ground, and made contact only with his opponents feet.

The FIFA directives on reckless tackling are specifically directed at tackles where the tackler 1) comes in with an elevated leg, and 2) hits the opponent's calf or knee with his cleats. There is a slideshow on the FIFA website which includes several slides depicting the sort of tackle which is supposed to receive an automatic sending off.

If you compare the FIFA slideshow with Mastroeni's challenge (you can see it at Yahoo's World Cup site), you can see at once that Mastroeni should not have been sent off. It isn't even close. Possibly, in a contest with very tight but very even-handed officiating, it could warrant a yellow. Possibly. The better call is just a simple foul.

Larrionda should never officiate a major international competition again in his life.

Posted by: Mark on June 18, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

The Italian red was completely justified. No question. Ditto the offside call on McBride. No-brainers, both.

As for Matroeni's red...it was a less egregious violation than Di Rossi's, but still, on balance, I think worthy of a red. True, he didn't lift his legs when he slid -- so in that sense it's not a textbook sending-off offense -- but he did slide studs-first and caught the opponent hard on the foot while missing the ball. I watch a lot of top level soccer and I'd say that play earns a red somewhat less often than it earns a yellow, but a red is certainly not an unusual or shocking result. Given the real danger of injury I think it should be a red more often than it is.

Only in the case of Pope do I incline toward the wounded American view. I thought the foul that earned him his first yellow didn't deserve it -- that most refs in that situation (early in the game on a foul that was not especially violent or cynical) would and should just issue a warning . That would have made Pope's second (deserved) yellow only his first, and as a result he wouldn't have been sent off. Not then, anyway.

Hey, enough beefing. The U.S. played a terrific game under the circumstances and even managed to get this Canadian rooting for them.

Posted by: Ryan on June 18, 2006 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Can we just all be proud of our team for a gutty performance, curse the ref for screwing us (whatever the replay shows or doesn't show), and just be happy to root for the American soccer team WITHOUT ANY GUILT??

Posted by: Artie on June 18, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Artie on this one. Go USA! Beat Ghana!

And the ref was garbage -- as have been many in this World Cup. Even Franz Beckenbuer (sp?), Germany's WC organizing lead official, has voiced displeasure at the number of yellow cards given per match.

Not to mention that this ref was involved in a previous scandal for poor reffing...

Posted by: Birkel on June 18, 2006 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

I've seen far too many World Cup games over the years decided by the refs rather than the players (anyone remember S Korea - Italy last tournament?).

Yes, I remember that game, and the Italians have no business complaining about it. If Bobo Vieri had been able to hit the side of a barn, it wouldn't have mattered what the ref did.

Posted by: Thlayli on June 18, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

The problem with the red cars against the Americans was the inconsistency: questionable tackles happen in every game, and are usually just fouls. Yellow cards for them? A red card? Ridiculous, because no other ref calls the game that way. That's why everyone was mad.

Posted by: Michael on June 18, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Go USA! Beat Ghana!

Looking forward to a great game. The USA have improved greatly since the last time. Again, all three red cards, after close inspection seem justified, especially considering that all players have been warned in advance about the stricter refereeing.

Posted by: Dan Ridley on June 18, 2006 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

"Even Franz Beckenbuer (sp?), Germany's WC organizing lead official, has voiced displeasure at the number of yellow cards given per match."

Yeah, well, after the 1974 final won by Germany, Beckenbauer should know. He basically cut off Cruyff at the knees, hacking all the way, and the English referee let him get away with it. Similarly, Van Basten (now the Dutch coach) was one of the 2-3 best in the world in the late 80's-early 90's. He had to retire early after too many surgeries on his feet and ankles, which got kicked more often than the ball.

All these so-called experts played in a different era and they can't understand why it's different now. It's just like the talking heads at the NBA finals - they just can't understand why Stackhouse was suspended for hammering Shaq.

Here's why: People get seriously hurt that way. The punters spend money to watch the skillful players. If someone hammers the stars into oblivion, the fans aren't so eager to buy tickets. The "new" FIFA refereeing philosophy is directed at the domestic leagues, just as much as at the Cup.

Posted by: frank on June 18, 2006 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Can we just all be proud of our team for a gutty performance, curse the ref for screwing us (whatever the replay shows or doesn't show), and just be happy to root for the American soccer team WITHOUT ANY GUILT??

My main problem with the game wasn't any kind of referee bias against the US, it's that both teams got screwed. IMO neither of the American reds were deserved -- Mastroeni's for the reasons that Mark elucidated above, and Pope's shot to me looked like a foul but not a yellow -- and the refs bought the Italian diving far too easily (look out! a stiff breeze! an Italian's down!) but, OTOH, the Italians got shafted on those offside calls. Based on the replays we were getting I'd say at least five of the ten or so offsides against Italy were incorrectly called, at least two or three of which could well have resulted in Italian goals (as well as the one botched offside trap which did legitimately result in a goal). The upshot is that I'm unhappy not because the Americans wuz robbed or anything, but that both teams were robbed of what could, and should, have been a truly legendary match.

That said, I was deeply impressed by the gritty American performance, especially when down 10-9 in manpower, and I'm still hoping against hope that they'll make it through group play.

To be stomped by Brazil.

*sigh*

It's one of those Cups.

Posted by: Anarch on June 18, 2006 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

The U.S. got what is deserved re the red and yellow cards. Eddie Johnson told the world before the game that the Americans would cheat to win (did any of you read his comments? Apart from the stupid 'war' quote, he also said that the Americans would do whatever it takes, including taking advantage of the ref when he wasn't looking. What an arsehole).

Marcelo Balboa and his fellow ex-US team-mates have been going on and on about 'good fouls', 'professional fouls', and how defenders 'had to' bring their man down (e.g. "he had no choice but to foul in that situation"). What a complete load of bollocks. Every player has a choice. He can choose to foul, or he can choose not to foul. These ex-players betray the American attitude that sports is all about 'wining at any cost'.

So the U.S. went out and carried out their game plan - to cheat, kick, grab and push - and then these same former U.S. national players, all of whom advocate 'professional fouls' and picking up yellow cards 'for the team', have hissy fits because two of their players get sent off. (FYI for Americans - a so-called 'professional foul' is nothing of the sort. It is a deliberate foul which is intended to prevent the other team from scoring. In other words, cheating).

The Americans were, as the saying goes, hoist by their own petard. How I laughed. Just a shame that Italy were too shite to beat them into a pulp. Or at all.

As for mhr - why are Republicans such ignorant dicks?

Oh, and football boots don't have 'cleats'. They have studs. And it you go into a tackle with your studs up (cf Mastroeni), you get sent off. Always have, always will.

- Steve

Posted by: Steve on June 18, 2006 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

I can't believe there is any debate about this. Let's do this fact-by-fact.

1. The set piece the Italians scored from was the result of a dive by an Italian. There was no foul.

2. De Rossi is the only player this Cup to intentionally strike another player in the face with his elbow. No one watching the world cup could find a similar foul this year. You can see him cock his elbow back and unload. This is significantly different than the normal elbow flailing that goes on when international soccer players jump.

3. Mastroeni is one of probably 4 dozen players to have committed a similar slide tackle this cup. Some of those got yellow cards, some got a foul, he is the only one to get straight red.

4. It is well recognized that a referee, when he has ejected a player on questionable grounds, will often find a "make-up call" wherein he ejects another player from the other team on questionable grounds to even the playing field and remove the ref's decision from scrutiny. It is not the case that a make-up call is expected after an intentional, brutal foul.

Kevin - to put it in college football terms: De Rossi's foul was like a defensive end diving at the knees of the quarterback as he's walking off the field at halftime. Mastroeni's foul was like an end hitting the quarterback a second after he had clearly thrown the ball.

The great shame is that, without a doubt, the USA was the better team on the field.

Posted by: Luke Jones on June 18, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

It's called gaming the ref. Don't you do it when you talk about super-boring college football? Or basketball?

Posted by: MNPundit on June 18, 2006 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

OK, I know I'm totally late to this discussion, but I just want to emphasize the total wrong-ness of one thing I keep seeing people say:

The call agains Mastroeni cannot be justified as a makeup call.

As a person who has played, reffereed and watched soccer for years, I can say without a doubt that the makeup call does not come into play when the first red is a certain good call. Teams get punished for fouls, that's the way it works. Referees don't try to undo the punishment when they are sure of their call, and you could be sure of De rossi's foul. Makeup calls come when a referee thinks he might have made a mistake, that he might have inadvertently decided the match.

A makeup call after the pope yellow/red would be justified. A makeup call is the ref saying "look, the other team had some bad luck from the red card, now you get some bad luck so we even it out."

I am a fan of the United States. That said, I love soccer enough to be objective, and I can say without a doubt, this was the worst reffed game of the cup so far - and I've seen all the games. After the US game, I re-watched the Ghana-Czech republic game. Later that night, I watched a history of the world cup in the 1960's and 70's. What I am saying is, I know soccer, and I know that the US had the game taken from them by the referee like no other team has this tournament.

Posted by: Luke on June 18, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

OK, I know I'm totally late to this discussion, but I just want to emphasize the total wrong-ness of one thing I keep seeing people say:

The call agains Mastroeni cannot be justified as a makeup call.

As a person who has played, reffereed and watched soccer for years, I can say without a doubt that the makeup call does not come into play when the first red is a certain good call. Teams get punished for fouls, that's the way it works. Referees don't try to undo the punishment when they are sure of their call, and you could be sure of De rossi's foul. Makeup calls come when a referee thinks he might have made a mistake, that he might have inadvertently decided the match.

A makeup call after the pope yellow/red would be justified. A makeup call is the ref saying "look, the other team had some bad luck from the red card, now you get some bad luck so we even it out."

I am a fan of the United States. That said, I love soccer enough to be objective, and I can say without a doubt, this was the worst reffed game of the cup so far - and I've seen all the games. After the US game, I re-watched the Ghana-Czech republic game. Later that night, I watched a history of the world cup in the 1960's and 70's. What I am saying is, I know soccer, and I know that the US had the game taken from them by the referee like no other team has this tournament.

As a side note (this is really pissing me off because the US team played like heroes yesterday and will never be credited for it): This is typical blog bullshit. Let's requote Kevin's post in one sentence: "I don't know anything about this sport and I didn't personally experience this particular event, but the random selection of media accounts which I read give me a basis for stating my totally uninformed and ridiculous opinion."

Posted by: Luke on June 18, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Luke

Earlier today I watched the French/Korea game. The French should have won 2/1. No ifs, no ands and no buts. Their second goal was deep in the goal box before it was pushed out by the goalie. At least that's what the slo-mo showed. But you know, bad calls tend to even themselves out. There is no instant replay in soccer. I have no idea what the linesman and referee saw on that shot.

The US team didn't embarrass itself. It played as well as the Italians. That is saying something. The team should be proud. Now they have to beat a team they should beat. That will be the big test. Can they beat a team that is inferior, at least on paper. If they can do that, this will have been a good world cup for the Americans. If they can do it by 3 goals it will be amazing. Just hope Italy beats the Czech Republic.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 18, 2006 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody know who we get to play if the stars aline themselves Thursday.

Brazil.

They seem to be playing into shape.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 18, 2006 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

Someone calls our anger jingoism? Good lord that just pisses me off more. I know the game and played for more than 15 years, both times our guys got sent off we touched the ball first with intent to get the ball. While dangerous and worthy of a yellow, red cards are for intent to injure or complete recklessness. Dangerous yes, either of those things certainly not.

And to even suggest it is our supremacy in politics on one hand and our pure inferiority in soccer on the other is just an absolute farce. Don't give me that.

The amount of fouls called (I believe it was 25 to 8 against the U.S.) does not show that the Referee was "corrupt" or "anti-American" it shows that he was completely and utterly fooled by every dive the Italians took. That's the joke that his refereeing was, not the fun he had with the cards.

Seriously, don't start tossing around insults when there is a legitimate argument to be made.

Posted by: Steve L on June 18, 2006 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, for future reference, the U.S. team played like warrior poets after Pope was sent off. The first half against Portugal in 2002 and the 2nd half of this game are on par even though the scoring wasn't there. It was an impressive performance.

There is no way in hell that Italy deserved to win like someone said 5-1 earlier in this discussion. We outplayed them tremendously and utterly. Onyewu and Donovan were stellar. Reyna and McBride were consistent. Keller was his usual world-class self (more than half of his international appearances are shutouts). Arena came out with the correct lineup and in the first 15 minutes the game looked so one-sided as if Italy was moving in slow motion and we were at full speed. I kept questioning whether the television feed was updating properly because we were running circles around them.

Posted by: Steve L on June 18, 2006 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

Thayli's right, and Vanya's wrong -- it wasn't the Italians who had a legitimate complaint after losing to the Koreans in the '02 World Cup, it was the Spanish!

I've seen far too many World Cup games over the years decided by the refs rather than the players (anyone remember S Korea - Italy last tournament?).
Yes, I remember that game, and the Italians have no business complaining about it. If Bobo Vieri had been able to hit the side of a barn, it wouldn't have mattered what the ref did.
Posted by: Thlayli on June 18, 2006 at 5:37 PM |

Luke Jones: What about yesterday's game leads you to conclude that the U.S. was the better team? The Italians had more scoring chances, more corner kicks . . . and certainly more build-ups ruined by sketchy offside calls. The U.S. played well, carried the midfield play for long stretches, pinned the Italians deep in their end at times, and matched the Italians for physicality (if not for subtlety) as few teams can. They paid for their aggressiveness, and were at least somewhat lucky to escape with a draw.

And speaking of the offside calls, what's up with comments about the referee and those calls? The referee doesn't make those calls; that's the linesman's job.

P.S. to Steve: it's true that football kits include boots that have studs . . . in England. However, since England doesn't get to define the terminology for everyone else -- not for Italians and Brazilians, and not for the Australians and Americans -- it's also true that soccer uniforms include shoes (or cleats!) with studs (or cleats!)

Posted by: keith on June 18, 2006 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

"Guys, you might want to actually watch what happened on Mastroeni's challenge before saying things like this. He didn't "jump on the guy's ankles," nor did he "spike the legs." He made a slightly late challenge with his legs both clearly on the ground, and made contact only with his opponents feet."

To Mark and everyone else who didn't see Mastroeni's tackle:

http://img235.imageshack.us/img235/8057/usa32bf.jpg

guy on the right in red is the ref. Its absolutely a red card, and a good call.

Posted by: Supernaut on June 18, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

I think a fair amount of the outrage that people who watched the game felt at the time had a fair bit to do with the ref's inability to spot the Italian diving, which really was egregious - by far the worst of any team in any game I've seen.

I was a neutral observer at the start of the game, but by the second half I was pissed off at the referee and rooting for the USA simply because of the number of times that Italian players either outright dived or made no attempt to stay on their feet after innocuous contact and the ref's inability to spot it or unwillingness to call it.

So, by the time the Mastroeni red card came, I had zero confidence in the referee and was willing to presume error.

That said, my cold-blooded analysis is that Mastroeni's tackle did fall within the FIFA guidelines for a red card, although more by their letter than their spirit: he was genuinely playing at the ball, his feet were low, he came in somewhat from the side rather than front on which is the really dangerous tackle, and his slide started from so far out that his momentum had largely dissipated by the time he made contact.

Pope's tackle, too, was one that sometimes gets a yellow and sometimes not, so it's hard to complain too much beyond the thought that most referees would avoid giving a second yellow for it.

To put it another way, if none of the red cards had been given, I think there would have been an outcry over DeRossi's elbow, but people would not have even remembered the Mastroeni or Pope incidents.

But it does need to be repeated in adding up the ledger that the Italians probably lost 3 or 4 clear chances on goal when they'd sprung the offside trap and it was incorrectly called back.

Posted by: Mork on June 18, 2006 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

Steve L:
Since the U.S. didn't score in the opening 15 minutes, it's immaterial that the game "looked so one-sided as if Italy was moving in slow motion and we were at full speed." Absorbing pressure before seizing a chance to launch a counterattack is part of the whole "catenaccio" strategy. For that matter, so is the type of cynical foul we saw by Totti on Dempsey at the beginning of the game -- a foul that was the equal of Mastroeni's, and worse than either of Pope's carded fouls.

Now, what was interesting to me was that the Italians did not simply absorb the U.S. pressure. Cannavaro unable to compose the defense, and the American pressure was constant enough that it forced the Italian defense out of shape. That's something you don't often see!

Yet, for all that, the U.S. couldn't score, and except for a period of rough balance after Pope was sent off, the Italians carried most of the game after the opening 15-20 minutes.

P.S. on the Mastroeni red card. Watch the replay, this was a slide tackle, not a lunge like the one that broke Djibril Cisse's leg in the France v China friendly.

Yes, the slide tackle is inherently dangerous, and this one deserved a card. Yes, it was foolish, given the timing of the play. Yes, it was even a little bit reckless, but it wasn't an attempt to injure, and a dozen or so other slide tackles drew only a penalty, or not even that!

As for Pope, I'll have to echo the other posters who have pointed out that he should have been substituted at the half, given that he was being beaten like a drum and was also carrying a card. But most coaches like to wait until the 60th minute before making their substitutions. I don't know if Bruce Arena was planning to substitute for Pope, and just sticking with convention, but we've probably seen the last of Pope. Just like Jeff Agoos in 2002, he's been exposed as a player who can no longer hold his own in the international game, once you move out of CONCACAF.

Posted by: keith on June 18, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

It would seem the press knows as much about soccer (including the BBC) as they do about the Swift Boat Veterans. The card against Pope was absurd. Kevin, all of a sudden you trust the press?

Posted by: matt on June 18, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Keith, good arguments. I accept it. I think Mork's comments carry weight as well, though.

The primary issue I think is that good refereeing means that people do not even mention the refereeing at the end of the game. All of a sudden this Larriondo is the center of attention. That is what is so unfortunate. Sure they were fouls, but not worthy of game-altering refereeing.

Posted by: Steve L on June 18, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

...The great shame is that, without a doubt, the USA was the better team on the field.

Posted by: Luke Jones on June 18, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

...and I know that the US had the game taken from them by the referee like no other team has this tournament.

Posted by: Luke on June 18, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Are these 2 the same?

Boy, I'm really amazed that this generated such a response. I have had a theory since the 1980 olympics that the potential viewing for soccer is always greater than the media believes. Interesting to see the US viewing figures at the end.

For the spectator, sport is about entertainment. However inexperienced, and especially with a game as subjective as soccer, one opinion is pretty much as good as another.

Association Football is not like American Football. It's not measured in yards, inches, video replay and a tome of rules. Soccer is the antithesis. I already read here of wanting to introduce more referees, video replay, change the offside rules. Typical US response. No room for variability, uncertainty. More scoring. Maybe an electronic goalline? Sidelines?

Get the spirit of the game!

It's like boxers in the ring. Working for the opening, looking for the weakness. The tension is immense. A draw is OK between equal opponents. The magic about soccer is (among others) the goal scored. Their scarcity IS the magic!

Monday morning quarter-backing is a term that doesn't really apply to other sports the same way but every fan understands the concept. Myself, I've watched Association Football for 45-odd years and played about 20 and have a very different view from Luke.

A different ref might not have allowed so much physicality from the US and changed the game. Man-for-man, the Italians outmatch the US. As most underdogs do, the US played like terriers and free-kicks and cards were always going to be given out to their detriment. At 9:10, they played heroically but without (as throughout the game) the subtelty and constructive control to create the scoring chances, and squandered the few they had. The refs always vary. Teams scout refs and play them, adjust their game to the ref'ing. There was no obvious bias.

So "better team" or "stolen game", I don't think so. Great effort, with reservations, Yes!

Neophytes probably don't know what the rules of soccer are concerning physical contact. Suffice to say that there is great subjectivity in its interpretation in every game, and varies by referee.

Myself, I'm Rugby Football. Same roots. US just overorganized their game and took it away from the players; put it in the hands of the coaches.

It's all about control!

Posted by: notthere on June 18, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

"Yes, the slide tackle is inherently dangerous, and this one deserved a card. Yes, it was foolish, given the timing of the play. Yes, it was even a little bit reckless, but it wasn't an attempt to injure, and a dozen or so other slide tackles drew only a penalty, or not even that!"

More than a "little bit" reckless, I thought; but like I said, it was a judgement call, and a red card was not innapropriate; and I didn't see any other "slide tackles" that ended in that kind of contact during the match.

I'm not sure where you get the idea that coaches at this level of play wait until the 60th minute to substitute; lots of managers at this tournament have been starting the second half with one or even two fresh players.

I'll wait and see if the US team even raises a serious protest; I doubt they will. I should give some credit to Arena for his comments after the game; he said he was waiting to see the replays.

Posted by: A Hermit on June 18, 2006 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

"The magic about soccer is (among others) the goal scored. Their scarcity IS the magic!"

Excellent comment! I've long maintained that the two purest sports on earth are Boxing and Soccer, because they are the two that put the least amount of mediating factors (rules, clock games, equipment, etc) between the opponents. Simpler is so much better...

Posted by: A Hermit on June 18, 2006 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

Ron - Brazil 'is playing itself into shape'?

Pshah. Australia was all over them for the first half. They were lucky to win that game as their defense was not exactlt impressive.

I don't see Brazil making it into the semis, let alone the finals. A team like Holland or Argentina will take their defense apart.

Posted by: floopmeister on June 18, 2006 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

You Americans always do this.

Posted by: Zola Budd on June 18, 2006 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

Color analyst Marcelo Balboa, former US player, was the one going on about the harshness of the call. It was actually pretty mild compared to what goes on in other countries. Four years ago, Italy missed out on the second round in large part due to a botched offside call, and the Italian TV network threatened to sue FIFA over the lost revenue from Italy not advancing. Of course, that went nowhere.

While we're on the subject of the World Cup, has anyone else noticed that ABC has put a seven-second delay on all its "live" telecasts? It's easy to spot; just use the Last Channel button on your remote to switch between ABC and Univision. Wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that Univision and ESPN don't fall under the jurisdiction of the religious fanatics now running the FCC, would it? When I realized that, I switched to Univision for any game on ABC, despite the fact that I can barely string together five words of Spanish. Games on ESPN and ESPN2 are unaffected.

Thanks to the Bush FCC, Americans no longer get to see events truly live. So when the final comes around and someone scores a spectacular goal or makes a sterling defensive play, most Americans will be the last to know about it. All because Justin Timberlake's ad lib went awry.

Posted by: M Laviolette on June 18, 2006 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

FWIW, IMO: DeRossi's red was deserved but I concur with the above statement that there have literally been dozens of challenges similar to Mastroeni's sans red. Pope was an idiot and overmatched. Perhaps he was victimized a smidgen by the ref forgetting the first yellow, but it probably only cost Pope a few minutes more on the pitch given the run of play. He was a second yellow about to happen.

Bruce Arena has lost his magic. He should have had Pope off the field. Beasely was useless. Zero energy. I cannot see him worthy of playing against Ghana. And this has barely been discussed: why oh why did Arena not use the last sub? Eddie Johnson for McBride with 15 minutes left might have bought some breathing room for a weary defense. The message he sent to those on the bench was they weren't worth sending on the field to replace guys who were totally spent.

And I am totally perplexed by the joy the press seems to have with the Ghana upset of the Czechs. Now Ghana has a shot at taking the group with a win in the last match vs. the US (should Italy and Czechs tie.) With a win they are through to the next round no matter what happens in the other match. Instead of pulling for the Czechs in the other game (and playing a team that cannot advance) we now have to pull for the Italians and play a team that is in the hunt.

Posted by: Nat on June 18, 2006 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

You Americans always do this.

Posted by: Zola Budd on June 18, 2006 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

What do we do?

Hey! Are you Zola Budd? Using that name, if not your own, is a little sick given what she went through. Fantastic teenage and 20's runner who was basically forced out of athletics (mentally). Both apartheid politics and the Mary Decker "incident".

floopmeister --

Hey -- beat the English so well. Congrats. Hope someone can challenge NZ in next year's world cup.

US readers: there are a few sports out there that are "world series" that really are. Thanks for your interested parochialiasm.

However, cannot agree the game ever looked like going Austarlia's way. It comes down to the creation of chances; Oz: not many. I was just waiting for the Brazil goal(s); actually looking for three but they laid back, passed around. Not that Oz didn't create the tension and make a good game but, like the Italy v USA, outskilled and, ultimately, outplayed; viz. the first goal: man unmarked, in space, with an angle. Brilliant.

Posted by: notthere on June 18, 2006 at 11:53 PM | PERMALINK

notthere: funny - were we watching the same game?

;)

I thought our defense managed to hold them off pretty well for the first half, actually. Second half they definitely started playing better, but there were plenty of Australian chances. Thing is, of course, that we didn't convert them...

I still think the Brazilians will get knocked out before the final.

Posted by: floopmeister on June 19, 2006 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

Marcelo Balboa and his fellow ex-US team-mates have been going on and on about 'good fouls', 'professional fouls', and how defenders 'had to' bring their man down (e.g. "he had no choice but to foul in that situation"). What a complete load of bollocks. Every player has a choice. He can choose to foul, or he can choose not to foul. These ex-players betray the American attitude that sports is all about 'wining at any cost'.

It's pretty naive to think that the U.S. is the only team that commits "professional fouls".

Posted by: Paul on June 19, 2006 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a little something to make US fans feel better - a snicker at the Italians' expense:


Posted by: floopmeister on June 19, 2006 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

I have enjoyed these comments. I never thought I'd go to Kevin's place and find soccer commentary worthy of the time it takes to read, but (most of) this was good stuff.

I love the game, I love the flow, I love when the tension builds as two teams work towards a goal, I love especially when I can lose myself watching the plays build. That happened in the second half of the Italy-US game, and in the Argentina-Cote d'Ivoire match.

My opinion, for what it's worth, about the cards: Mastroeni's was NOT a good call. No matter, you have to live with what you get, on the field of play and in life. You suck it up and you play through and you improvise. And that's why I love the game.

Posted by: Jame on June 19, 2006 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

I'm late to this topic too (damn!) But for what it's worth, I don't think the cards were as god-awful as my fellow US partisans seem to think they were. I think the problem is that they all came in the same game. The fact is taken in isolation, I think one could argue that the card was appropriate in each case. Sure, Mastroeni's probably should have been a yellow, but it's not completely unreasonable for it to be a straight red either. Nor was it unreasonable to give Pope a yellow in each instance. The fact is that both challenges were bad challenges, late and dangerous, and I think the fact that the calls had such drastic results in this game is what really galls people. I personally would be a little angrier about making those stupid fouls right then. Anyway my own personal opinion is the send-offs actually motivated the US to preserve the tie, but maybe they could've won if it was 11 on 11.

Posted by: Alexander Wolfe on June 19, 2006 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

Never mind the World Cup, I'm still muttering about the horrendous refereeing at the Super Bowl!

Posted by: doug r on June 19, 2006 at 1:43 AM | PERMALINK

"While we're on the subject of the World Cup, has anyone else noticed that ABC has put a seven-second delay on all its "live" telecasts? It's easy to spot; just use the Last Channel button on your remote to switch between ABC and Univision. Wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that Univision and ESPN don't fall under the jurisdiction of the religious fanatics now running the FCC, would it?"

No, it wouldn't. It would have quite a bit to do with the fact that the games are broadcast on ESPN in High Definition, however.

Posted by: Tom in Texas on June 19, 2006 at 5:42 AM | PERMALINK

Never mind the World Cup, I'm still muttering about the horrendous refereeing at the Super Bowl!

Hey, I'll probably call the Alamo Bowl the "Asterisk Bowl" for the rest of my life... ;)

Posted by: Anarch on June 19, 2006 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK
I didn't get to see the game, but I've now read half a dozen stories about it.

Er, so? I mean really, you've read a few "stories" about it, and heard other commentary, didn't actually see the game, and feel you can dismiss the commentary on the basis of the stories. Right, whatever.

I don't know the first thing about soccer, but the press reports all seem to indicate he called the match fairly.

Clearly, not all the reports do; if they did, there wouldn't be any controversy for you to comment on. But if you don't know the first thing about soccer and you didn't see the game, wouldn't it be better to comment on something that you have a little bit more basis to talk about?

Posted by: cmdicely on June 19, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Coincidentally, in the Brazil-Australia game, there were at least three challenges that were exactly like Mastroeni's. None got a card of any color. Not even the one that left four bright red cleat mark streaks down the side of Ronaldo's calf.

Also, if Mastroeni's challenge was so dangerous, why was the Italian player not hurt at all?

Posted by: Luke on June 19, 2006 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that Univision and ESPN don't fall under the jurisdiction of the religious fanatics now running the FCC, would it?"

No, Univision is a US broadcast network and is as much subject to FCC broadcast regulations as ABC.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 19, 2006 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

As a former referee myself, but nowhere near this level, I had some problems with some of the calls and non-calls by this referee. Italian players were going down every time they felt a fingertip on them...they should have received at least 1 card for a dive, including the foul that lead to the free kick that gave Italy it's first goal. And if you watch the replay of that goal, one of the Italian players was holding the back of Onyewu with BOTH hands and was tugging so hard that Onyewu's shirt was almost half way up his back. Should have been a foul right there on Italy and no goal.

The Italian red was of course a correct call, but the one on Mastroeni was weak. I've seen worse tackles in the World Cup that have not even resulted in to talking to. And if you are going to argue that the referees are told to punish studs up tackles, well they are also supposed to give an automatic red for tackles from behind. When Convey had his legs chopped out near the box, it was from behind...and the ref gave a yellow card. Early in the game, I think it was Totti, he lost the ball, went down and as the US player blew past, he raised his leg to trip him. That also was technically from behind.

The Pope second yellow was iffy...replays looked like he just nicked the ball...but if you're the ref and you have already ejected a player from each team, in the middle of a world cup match, do you really give a second yellow there or call a foul and just give a talking to and warn that the next one will be it. The referee was the story of the game and that should never happen.

If this ref was suspended in 2002 for inconsistent reffing, then how the hell does he get picked for the Cup this year? How does a Uruguay FIFA referee even get a Cup Match when no US FIFA ones did?

Posted by: Joe D on June 19, 2006 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK
The great shame is that, without a doubt, the USA was the better team on the field.

I dunno; the USA clearly played better once after getting two red cards, but I wouldn't say that earlier.

Its impossible to know what would have happened if things were different, but if I were to pop into a parallel universe identical to our but where neither of the USA red cards happened, and the USA lost that match, then the outcome of the game wouldn't be surprising.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 19, 2006 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

"the one on Mastroeni was weak"

NO it wasn't. The Law reads:
Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.

The tackle was a stupid, late, two-footed, cleats-up sliding tackle = excessive force = Red Card.

"The Pope second yellow was iffy...replays looked like he just nicked the ball"

He deserved the card - nicking the ball has nothing to do with it. The law says nothing about the ball.

The referee did a better job than the ABC talking heads.
However, Bruce Arena did a Emmy award winning performance as the Ugly American.

Posted by: Pierre Asciutto on June 19, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

I watched the whole game and the DeRossi play was bad, clearly a red card. Pope was headed for the bench right from the get go because his play was way to physical. The third one we got was somewhat questionable but the ref was trying to keep the game under control. As for the off sides it was clearly a offside with McBride behind the D and in front of the goalie. I thought the ref did passable, not good but not horrible.

Posted by: Joseph on June 19, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting discussion.

A few thoughts:

* I'm not sure why some are so negative on the Americans. Obviously, our current foreign policy may have something to do with it, but being upset about disputable calls going against ones team isn't something the USA has a monopoly on. Far from it - had those calls been on Brazil, France, Japan, or anywhere else, I guarantee similar discussions would have been taking place, only louder. Those who thought they were good calls and explain why, I appreciate - I'm just learning the game, and informed opinion helps - but this nasty name calling is rarely accompanied by any form of logical argument, and just makes the name caller look bad.

* The two red cards against the Americans did seem inconsistently harsh, at least compared to other such incidents in this world cup.

* Regardless of the good call/bad call issue, Pope should have been pulled. Once it became apparent that the refs were being harsh, you've got to be careful with your playstyle and which players you have out there. I have both competeted and judged martial arts, and one of the most important keys to success is watching the refs - what do they like and not like. Same here - the ref was tossing for weak contact. Be aware, and adjust. Perhaps the 'make up' call idea made Arena complacent in this regard.

* Other substitutions might have helped later. You've got a bench - use it. 9 vs. 10, the 9 get tired. Bringing in one fresh set of legs might have made a difference - the Italians had no more subs left, and there were several opportunities that might have gone better with one more player at 100%.

Posted by: Fides on June 19, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Pierre,

Read the laws again, especially the part you quoted, which says:
"Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play."

Mastroeni clearly slid in where he had no business doing so, but he just as clearly did not lunge, and given that his slide had nearly ended by the time he made contact, you would have a hard time showing that he used excessive force.

Compare that to a couple of tackles in today's games: a scissoring tackle from the rear by Ukraine's Shelayev in the 72th(?) minute that drew a free kick but no card, and a cleats-up tackle from the rear by Tunisia's Zaid Jaziri in the 85th minute that earned a yellow card.

Mastroeni's tackle was arguably less forceful than either of these, and certainly less dangerous than the latter. It probably deserved a yellow card. But then, the Brazilian referee had control of the Spain-Tunisia game, and even though he handed out eight yellow cards, three of those were in the last five minutes when the game got chippy.

As for Arena, his reactions were exaggerated because he's, you know, the coach of a team that went from up a man advantage to a man disadvantage within the space of about 20 minutes. You'll note that Luis Aragones had some animated reactions while Spain was struggling to overcome a one-goal deficit for most of its game vs Tunisia. Aragones may be an "ugly Spaniard", but neither he nor Arena did anything to earn condemnation.

Posted by: keith on June 19, 2006 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

OK, I should've left Arena alone.
It was an emotional situation...

But, I do feel that red-carding that tackle was not excessive.
Yes, sometimes a tackle like that won't be called.
[I haven't seen today's games so I can't compare.]

I wonder, though, how those who complained about the call on this thread would feel if an Italian had made that tackle on an American?
Would they believe the red card was justified?

Cheers

Posted by: Pierre Asciutto on June 19, 2006 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder, though, how those who complained about the call on this thread would feel if an Italian had made that tackle on an American?
Would they believe the red card was justified?

For the most part yes and just as passionately. We all see what we want to see. And we all seem to think we are somehow more impartial than we are.

Posted by: snicker-snack on June 19, 2006 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder, though, how those who complained about the call on this thread would feel if an Italian had made that tackle on an American?
Would they believe the red card was justified?

No. Instead, we'd feel like we'd gotten a huge break. Like we did when the offsides was incorrectly called against the Italians.

You see, even though we root for a team, that doesn't mean we're stupid or blind.

And by the way, this DRIVEL about Mastroeni's tackle being something that FIFA is trying to legislate against and therefore justified as a red card is just boneheaded. Sure, if you want to call every two footed tackle a red, then by all means do it. But that's not what the ref did. Instead, he let a DOZEN two footed tackles go by without punishment, and then singled out Mastroeni with a completely out-of-the-blue ejection. Ditto the Pope yellows.

You know, I can't even complain about inconsistency ... that's part of the game, too ... missed offsides, didn't notice the shirt tug, getting suckered in by a dive or three ... hey it's a fast game. But ejections? Two of them?

This ref lost it, big time.

Posted by: curious on June 20, 2006 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

Funny how the US commentator kept blaming the referee but the international press has really supported his decisions.

As for a Uruguayn referee, I guess the fact that the guy comes from the first country to host the world cup and who has two world cups should tell us something...

Posted by: Soccer mama on June 20, 2006 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

I love how people try to give excuses saying that the ref should have not pulled out the red cards. That game in my opinion, was the best game refeered (don't know if it's a word) by a ref. All 3 of the reds easily deserved the red cards and there is no way you can possibly say they don't. Just because you like the US team, doesen't mean that they didn't deserve them.

Posted by: julian on June 21, 2006 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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