Bad refereeing decisions are often in the eye of the beholder.
Did Italy’s Daniele de Rossi dive to win a penalty in the opening round World Cup match against New Zealand or did he just draw attention to the fact that a defender illegally had a fistful of his shirt?
Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal for England Sunday against Germany, however, does not fit into this category. It was, put plainly, one of the most horrifically bad pieces of officiating in modern World Cup history.
And it tops our list of the most patently poor refereeing decisions of the 2010 World Cup.
1. 1966 reversed
By now, we all know about 1966 – the English goal in the World Cup finals that Gemans still say never crossed the line. Now, Germany has a bit of payback.
Lampard’s deft lob was inch-perfect, over German keeper Manuel Neuer and clipping the underside of the crossbar before landing at least a yard behind the goal line.
Goal line calls of this sort can be notoriously tricky. A ball that hits the underside of the crossbar has backspin, meaning it rebounds out of the net even if it crosses the line. But Lampard’s shot was so outrageously over the line that even the backspin failed to disguise the fact that it was a clear goal.
The call was so bad, in fact, that FIFA will almost certainly have to bow to critics who say some sort of goal-line technology must be used – instant replay, or a microchip in the ball, or at the very least an assigned goal line judge like in ice hockey.
Had England not been thoroughly outplayed for most of their 4-1 loss, the gaffe could have had far more traumatic consequences.
2. The phantom foul
And that is the farce of it.
Soccer has become a wrestling match in the moments before and during free kicks. So, as a rule, a referee can pretty much call a foul on whoever he likes during a free kick and find ample video evidence to support it.
In this case, however, it is virtually impossible to find any American foul, while by contrast, Michael Bradley was being hogtied by a Slovenian defender.
Admittedly, Bradley might have been a shade offside when the ball was struck, but that was not the call. What was the call? Only Koman Coulibaly knows.
And he’s not telling anyone.
3. Two hands are better than one
It is understood by the fairest of soccer fans that, amid the hustle and bustle of a soccer match, a stray handball here or there might be missed.
Two handballs by the same player within five seconds, though?
And on a play when that player scores what might have been the single most decisive goal of the Group of Death?
That’s asking a lot of even the most forbearing of fans.
After the match Brazil’s Luis Fabiano admitted that the ball touched his hands – twice – in the run-up to his second goal in Brazil’s 3-0 win over the Ivory Coast. But in true Brazilian style, it was no apology.
"It's true, the ball really touched my hand and then my shoulder. But it was involuntary. It was one of the greatest goals I've scored in my career."
It must be said in Fabiano’s defense that, as handballs go, both did appear inadvertent, and both were in the service of a wonderfully taken goal.
Yet in the matter of a crucial goal, neither intent not beauty should be considered – especially when it seems unlikely he would have scored the goal without use of his hands (inadvertent or otherwise).
4. The Tevez Trap
On any other day, Lampard’s “goal” would have been enough to occupy global attention. But Sunday, the Goal That Wasn’t was soon followed by the Goal That Never Should Have Been in the Argentina-Mexico game.
Yes, Argentina’s Carlos Tevez showed admirable industry (as he often does) to bustle onto a pass from Lionel Messi. Logically, when the keeper saved his initial shot, Tevez continued his run toward the goal. And crucially, Tevez then nodded in Messi’s chipped pass into the Mexico goal.
The problem? Tevez was about two yards offside.
After the goal, Mexico literally came apart at the seams. Five minutes later, defender Carlos Osorio passed the ball to … no one. Argentine forward Gonzalo Higuaín gladly picked up the ball and scrambled it into the Mexican net.
Argentina won the game 3-1.
[Editor's Note: We freely admit that this wasn't here originally. Then again, we weren't planning on another terrible call happening so soon after the England game, and we felt the list needed updating.]
5. That call was Kaka
As if the double handball was not enough, the Brazil-Ivory Coast game also included an apparently obligatory rite: the player-crumpling-to-the-field-as-though-he-had-been-shot-though-he-was-barely-touched moment.
At the end of the game, when Ivory Coast was bound for defeat, the Ivory Coast’s Abdelkader Keita apparently wished to exact some measure of revenge. This he did by approaching Brazilian superstar Kaka, then falling over in theatrical agony (clutching his face) when the Brazilian gave him a playful nudge (in the ribs).
Kaka’s reward: a second yellow card, which meant ejection.
But Kaka had his own revenge. His red card meant he was suspended for the final group game against Portugal. Ivory Coast, if it was to have any chance of advancing, needed Brazil to crush Portugal.
Instead, the Kaka-less Brazil-Portugal ended 0-0 and the Ivory Coast was eliminated, despite having dispatched with North Korea, 3-0.
World Cup 101: