Friday, July 2, 2010

When a sporting event takes the notice of the entire world it is inevitable that at some point in its duration it will throw up some point of contention – the FIFA World Cup is no different. Already we have had disallowed goals and missed offsides resulting in the elimination of teams from the tournament. Okay, you may argue that Germany were good for their 4-1 win and that Argentina outplayed Chile so the ends justify the means; but what of poor old Ghana?

The last African team left in the tournament they pushed South America's Uruguay all the way in today's quarter finals only to be undone 4-2 in a dreadful penalty shootout. The big point of contention in the match came, however, in the 120th minute when Uruguay's Suarez handled the ball on the goal line leading to his sending off and the awarding of a penalty to Ghana which they missed.

Now, this all happened in the very last minute of the match. No real disadvantage was forced on Uruguay as they would not be forced to play any more actual football with a depleted squad while Ghana were given a less than 100% chance of capitalising from the decision. Ultimately Uruguay gained more of an advantage from the handball than Ghana did. Instead of what would have been a 100% allowed goal, knocking the South American's out of the tournament they were given a 25% chance of remaining (research has estimated that the probability of a player scoring a penalty is about 75%.) See this .pdf for more information

One might argue, however, that, had the events taken place in the first minute and not the last that Uruguay would have been justly penalised for Suarez's transgressions but we must ask ourselves would he have felt the need to handle the ball to prevent the goal (after all Uruguay did come from behind to force extra-time in the first place.) At what point does handball stop being an infringement and become a blatant act of cheating that affords the guilty player's team a distinct advantage?

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