'Catastrophic' World Cup and a Controversial Goal
An all women referee team, a first for FIFA
A "catastrophic" FIFA World Cup and a controversial goal knocked 2014 champions Germany out of the World Cup on the penultimate day that the round of 16 teams were decided. On a day when history was made with an all women referee team on the pitch, and at a time when USA is making history on and off the field, the VAR and Japan's stunning goal verdict dominated the conversation about the odd teams that made the round of 16.
The FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar kept its reputation alive for controversies and upset results right through the very end of the group stages. Amongst the high profile exits were Germany, Uruguay and Belgium, believed to be by many as a "golden generation". The golden generation bit the dust as did the 2014 champions who for a second time in their history have exited the World Cup in the group stage itself after returning home similarly in 2018 from Russia in back-to-back humiliation.
Thomas Mueller, one of the two of the champion team remaining besides captain Manuel Neuer, dubbed the result as "absolute catastrophe". What bled Germany dry was the fact that while they did score 4-2 over Costa Rica, they felt undone not only by the fact that they let a disarrayed Japan score two goals in the second half of their first match but that once again Japan was at the front and centre of seeing off Germany from their Group E stage.
Japan came back to score two goals after being one down against Spain. However, it was their second goal that has fans and even the German team aghast. VAR technology came into focus in a way not seen thus far in the World Cup. Many felt the goal should have been disallowed as the replay seemed to show that the ball was not in play, having crossed the touchline before being passed over by Kaoru Mitoma to Ao Tanaka.
While the replay from the top angel showed the curvature of the ball as tangent to the touchline which is permissible under the game's rules, the side replay showed clearly that the ball had crossed the touchline, leaving not just German fans but football fans in general up in arms over such an error even with the technology at hand.
Spain's manager Luis Enrique was unimpressed by the decision. "I have seen a photo that must have been tampered with," he told sections of the media. "It cannot be that this photo is real. It has to be manipulated. I felt that something fishy was going on when the VAR took as much time as it did to decide."
"I have nothing to say," he added, having already said so much as did the rest of the football fans who were not shy to express their opinion of what they had to say. The VAR technology has already been in the news only because of the generous time that has been added as part of over time because of its employment in addition to player injuries.
Unfortunately it was just another incident that has overshadowed other core landmark issues that have marked this World Cup including that all women referee team was officiating in the Germany-Costa Rica match as also the fact that USA not only made the round of 16 but also, that in a first of its kind, the men's team have agreed to share their winnings with the women's team in a bid to equalize pay standards between genders.
Although Germany failed to live up to expectations, what made this goal particularly controversial was the fact that had the goal been disallowed, Japan would have been on four points, and with Germany having made it to four points after the win against Costa Rica, Germany would have gone through on goal difference, given their goals against Costa Rica.
While Germany reminisced on their generation of the past that included the likes Mats Hummel and Mesut Ozil, one man defiant was their coach Hansi Flick whose contract is under 2024. Unless forced, Flick intends to stay in his role while he calls for changes to Germany's football youth development programme while taking their cue from other countries and clubs.
Spain lost to Japan as France embarrassingly to Tunisia by 1-0. Fortunately neither team faced the embarrassment of Germany and survived to finish comfortably to go through to the round of 16. Spain's goal scorer, Alvaro Morata, said it all, "We are through, that's the important thing. Another slip up and we are going home."
Joining Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Argentina and France were some surprise teams such as Australia, USA, Japan, Croatia, Poland, Senegal, South Korea and Morocco who beat Belgium in the death knell for the European team.
Uruguay set up a testy final group match with Ghana. Luis Suarez who has history with the Ghana team from 2010 came back to wreak havoc on the African nation, assisting in two goals after a nervous Ghana squandered a penalty. Ghana were suffering heartburn from 2010 as Suarez refused to apologise for a handball though he was sent off in the last minute of that match up in 2010. Suarez turned the heat back on Ghana and stated that it was the Ghana player, Asamoah Gyan, who failed to score the penalty. Ghana might have had some of those memories as once again, Ghana's miss became the motivation Uruguay needed to score two quick goals.
While Ghana did not qualify, there might be another angle to the story that could be scripted about extracting vengeance as Uruguay's desperation to score additional goals in the final moments of the match failed to materialize.
Uruguay's quick response on the pitch in the first half turned into tears, Luis Suarez included, in the dug out by the 85th minute of the match as Uruguay were made aware that South Korea had booked their date with the round of 16 by beating Portugal 2-1. South Korea moved past Uruguay based on their goal difference to Uruguay by 4-2, making it the first time in two decades since 2002 when Uruguay failed to make it to the knockouts.
In a testy match that looked at times like the match would result in fisticuffs, the Uruguay players were more than up in arms with the German referee as a controversial penalty was either granted or not granted, in a decision that was not always in agreement with viewers. Whether Uruguay feels hard done by this remains to be seen when the heat dies down. What cannot be disputed is that once Ghana missed the penalty, they were not the same team and Uruguay would feel they had a goal or two for the taking, if they could capitalize on their chances.
Watching the number of stumbles from the so called giants of football, the likes of Spain, Portugal and defending champions France will hope their hiccups and relay of upsets is over as the knockouts get underway in this tournament of thrills and upsets and endless controversies.
Germany spoke of the pain and anguish of knowing their fate well before their match was over with Japan's score revealed before the 90th minute of their own match. Kai Havertz revealed it when he said watching the Japan-Spain score line on the big stadium screen before their own match was over was like "watching a horror movie."