JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 18: Michael Bradley of the United States shouts at referee Koman Coulibaly as Benny Feilhaber (L) looks on during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group C match between Slovenia and USA at Ellis Park Stadium on June 18, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Yes, the call sucked. No, it isn't the only reason the United States of America
lost got the tie. But it can, will and has been the focus of that match. Rather than talk about Little Bradley coming through for Dad heading into Father's Day, or Landon Donovan finding a window for a shot that was about the size of the ball, all of the sports world is talking about the blown call.
FIFA is exploring pulling Koman Coulibaly from any more matches. But that doesn't fix today. That doesn't make up for his poor call in the USA's favor concerning Dempsey. It doesn't make up for his awful call against Findley. It doesn't make up for the wrong interpretation of last man when Altidore drew the Yellow. And it certainly doesn't make up for the call against who knows when Maurice Edu made a perfect run and drove the ball home.
The worst thing is that the most commonly explored fixes that have been explored are Goal Line Referees and Goal Line Technology. NEITHER of these would have fixed a bad blown whistle by the Center Referee. Goal Line Tech will only help a goal/no-goal situation.
Goal Line Referees would not be able to overrule a call by the Center Referee and so this call will always be possible until something much more significant changes in FIFA and IFAB. The scrums inside the penalty area will continue until there is a rules change, or after several years of GLRs in place at the highest leagues and international competitions.
Simon Haydon, a referee with 10 years of experience, notes that unlike the Offsides Rule where the default is now in favor of the offense, most referees will call issues in the Penalty Area in favor of the defense.
Most referees are unwilling to penalize the defending team, preferring to reject goals rather than give them. This is what Coulibaly did Friday and it cost the United States a victory that would have brought the team close to qualifying for the next round.
Instead, the team is struggling to qualify and must beat Algeria in Pretoria on Wednesday to have any chance of qualifying.
The referee's job is impossible in these situations.
In any game - from the lowest league to the World Cup - if eight players are fouling each other in the penalty area, the referee can only see a small number of the penalties that are occurring. Cynical professional players tumble and dive in the penalty area, trying to trick the ref into giving a penalty and only television replays reveal the full madness of their actions.
Emphasis there is mine. Haydon's writing deserves a full read, but this selection shows the issue. If FIFA truly wants to push for more offense (such as the recent offsides rules tweak, and having Goals Scored as the 2nd tie breaker) maybe the answer is to give the default inside the Area to the offense.
Because if 5 guys are clutching and grappling like a Greco-Roman match, with 4 of them for 1 team and 1 for the other, it would be ideal to call the team fouling more than the other. In this case that would have been Slovenia.
But a referee isn't going to be able to notice everything. They can't. So if scoring is to increase, and we get a game of more skill a default to the offense does both of these. Yes, it helps the USA in this one instance, but the problem is bigger, and the current "solutions" don't actually solve for the problem.