World Cup Update and Poll

The dogphysics karma joke is pretty much dead, as countries with current or future editions of How to Teach Physics to Your Dog have gone a dismal 1-3-0 in the first round of elimination play. I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did, honestly.

The big story of the World Cup at the moment is the immense suckitude of the refereeing, which currently accounts for at least four screwed up goals (two not allowed for the US, one for England, and an improperly allowed goal for Argentina). It's gotten to the point where FIFA is being dragged toward the Century of the Fruitbat, and might start thinking about replay technology. (I suspect this is just a way to push off discussion until the tournament is over, and everybody forgets about FIFA for the next few years.).

This does seem like a good excuse for a poll, though, so:

At the moment, the most striking thing about the first round of elimination play has been just how uncompetitive the games have been. The first two games (Uruguay-South Korea and USA-Ghana) were pretty good, but most of the games since have been one-sided. England's disallowed goal might arguably have changed the balance enough that England wouldn't've given up two really stupid breakaway goals, but I'm pretty sure Germany was going to win that game no matter what. Argentina, Brazil, and the Netherlands all thoroughly dominated their games, though.

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I think you're spot-on about FIFA's true intent. The Powers That Be at FIFA are all against technical measures, even though most of the European media would probably like to see it.

I don't know -- maybe I'm just not clever enough to see how video replay review would work. If they could do it so that it doesn't interrupt the flow of the game, then I'm all for it. Barring that, I think the best case is to use goalline sensors for determining a goal, and use video review after matches to evaluate things like fouls, dives, and referee performance. But video review during a match is going to be trouble.

Take the Germany-England match. When is the ref supposed to review the call? As he didn't blow for the goal, play is going on. Are you going to interrupt open play just because you're not sure? (And remember, the refs will also be doing this in borderline cases where it's not really a goal.)

Cases like the US-Slovenia goal worry me in a different way. Sure, the play is dead, so the ref could examine the video. But that'll quickly turn into something like NFL video replay, where the ref has to consult multiple camera angles and slow down the video to figure out exactly what happened. That's a 2-5 min stoppage. Proponents who argue "it'll only take a few seconds" are, I think, seriously misguided.

More importantly, perhaps, I'm afraid that FIFA has to stop granting automatic ref places to countries that can't supply experienced refs. Maybe the solution there is to start an exchange program, where refs from Mali or wherever are sent to the major European leagues for a season, so they can get experience (and be evaluated) in high-pressure matches.

I like the results of the vote so far: 70% (including me) think it's funny that England loses a goal after ribbing us for being sore losers for same. I heard there was a big explanation up at Times Square of the weird call by Malian Referee Koman Coulibaly. I don't know if it legitimizes the call. (See discussion at Yahoo Sports.)
AFAICT, the Malian Referee might as well be a MWI supporter as far as his judgment goes ...

I don't know -- maybe I'm just not clever enough to see how video replay review would work. If they could do it so that it doesn't interrupt the flow of the game, then I'm all for it. Barring that, I think the best case is to use goalline sensors for determining a goal, and use video review after matches to evaluate things like fouls, dives, and referee performance. But video review during a match is going to be trouble.

I'd say they need some sort of goal-line judging (either sensors or just an extra referee designated to stand by the goal and make goal/no goal calls. I'd be okay with post-game review of fouls and dives, provided they have the ability to revoke unwarranted suspensions, and suspend players who should've been carded for something.

On-field video review is going to be problematic, because unlike football or baseball, soccer does not involve a lot of time spent standing around doing nothing. The thing they really need to do is get some better training for their officials. the exchange program idea is probably the way to go, but I wonder if FIFA really has any ability to dictate that sort of thing.

For the England goal, the question is about goal line technology, not replays. Basically a system like the tennis/cricket [url=]Hawk-Eye[/url] without the replays, or even just a chip in the ball that lets you know if/when it is over the goal line. The systems advertised suggest they can get a result to the ref within 0.5s (a beep in his ear when it's over the line), while the allowed time by FIFA is 5 seconds.

I'd say replays couldn't work in that sort of timeframe, and that sort of screws teams screwed by bad offside calls, but at least some bad calls are fixable through non-intrusive technology.

By Paul Schofield (not verified) on 29 Jun 2010 #permalink

The person that would check the video review would be the fourth official (first is referee, second and third the linesmen). They already have the opportunity to watch video reviews in their booth (wich they do). There's actually been a match where a goal was allowed after the fourth official indicated it was in, was a pretty important game too, can't remember wich though.

More officials, plus technology, would improve the fairness of the game, but it need not slow the tempo at all. If bad call is made, the game can go on while a panel of officials reviews the replay. When they have a consensus, they can announce their decision, which would take effect on the fly, without anybody having to go back for a do-over. The rules should be changed to accommodate corrections.

If somebody got cheated out of a goal, they would soon recover from their grief on hearing that they got the goal back.

Bad calls are cheating, whether intentional or not. Soccer without cheating is something that everyone should favor.

By Gilipollas Caraculo (not verified) on 29 Jun 2010 #permalink

Forget this business of "The beautiful game." Call it "The imperialist game." It was England, at the height of its Empire, that spread the game worldwide. To have unaccountable refs making unfair decisions fits perfectly.

I'm on board with the sensor technology, and that's even been tested. But it'll have very limited application (though it's obviously important when needed). There just aren't that many situations like Lampard's free kick.

I'd be very interested to see sensor technology used to aid with offside calls. It would (at a minimum) require sensors in the players' boots, but that should be feasible. (Hey, if Jermaine Pennant can do it...)

Gilipollas, I cannot see the video review working the way you describe. Can you imagine the US-Slovenia game going on for a minute or two -- almost into stoppage time -- and only then telling Slovenia that they're down a goal? It's never going to happen like that. You have to stop play until you have a decision. And I still don't believe a decision will only take seconds; the NFL tried to limit it to one minute and the refs still take more time than that. I'd love to be wrong, though...

As I am not an avid soccer fan, there might be rebuttals to what I have to say, but I think soccer will be easier (and because of this, faster) to make correct replay judgements. The players in soccer are generally more spread out than in football, which will make it easier in general to see what one is looking for. Also, it is much easier to spot an offside, or whether the ball made contact with an arm, then it is to determine if a football came loose before a knee it the ground, or if the player made a "football move" before he lost the ball.

But, no matter what anyone says, its better to stop the game for 2 minutes than have the wrong call that changes the outcome. Replay technology is pretty fantastic these days, and there is already a short stoppage after a goal is scored. In most cases a goal could be reviewed within this time if they had a designated replay official. In cases where the review took slightly longer the referee could keep the game from restarting. And a rule could just be changed that if a replay went over the normal time to restart play after a goal, the clock would be stopped temporarily.

As a sports fan, I want the athletic performances to determine the outcome. Not a mistake by an official. That is ultimately much more important than sticking to rules that were put in place when it was impossible not to correct a mistake by an official.

There didn't seem to be any problem delaying the game a minute or two after the Argentinian goal, for discussion amongst the refs, nor for celebrations after made goals, so I don't see how a minute or so of review time after a questionable goal is a huge deal. You have an off-the-field ref looking at a replay.

IMHO, HD television is going to force them to change what they do in what is alleged to be world class matches.

Goal line technology only addresses a minor issue. The major issue can be stated more simply: WHY did the referee miss that goal? Answer: He, and the assistant, were out of position. That is the same answer to many equally important bad calls, such as a red card when the victim was never touched (saw that again today) or a goal kick given instead of a corner.

I think they need to do what basketball did a long time ago: add at least one other on-field official with equal authority to call the game. Just as having an "off" official viewing a play from the back solved all sorts of problems in basketball under the hoop as well as putting someone ahead of the play on fast breaks, it would solve many of the problems we have seen this year.

If replays are needed, look to the Big Ten method adopted in NCAA football where a booth official is watching the game and relevant replays in HD. Soccer already has the concept of delayed calls, when one of the assistants signals the referee that there is an infraction requiring a whistle. What they don't want to do (probably because of the imperialism mentioned in the comments) is remove any control from the hands of that one man. The NFL thinks the same way, having us wait for the on-field official to look at a monitor under less than ideal conditions.

However, the question of WHAT to review is very important. A missed holding or interference call (offensive or defensive) is just as important as a missed boundary call in deciding football games, but are not reviewed. In soccer, those are even more important. I lean towards leaving those decisions on the field but evaluating the officiating -- preferably publicly. No one should referee any World Cup match if they have not had their officiating reviewed for years leading up to the tournament.

By CCPhysicist (not verified) on 29 Jun 2010 #permalink

FIFA has a point, though, that the more fancy technology we bring in, the more discrepancies will be between games played in poor countries and in major world soccer events.

It's the what to review question that matters. Why is it different when the referee misses the ball going (just) over the goal line than when the referee misses a foul occurring in the penalty box?