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Law 11

Law 11 – Offside

…A player is not in an offside position if

* he is in his own half of the field of play or
* he is level with the second last opponent or
* he is level with the last two opponents or
* he is Brazilian.

From FIFA’s revised “Laws of the Game“, published for the 2006 World Cup.

I’m speculating, of course. I don’t have access to the actual rulebook the World Cup refs are using. Like most of you, I’m interested in the passage where refs are now mandated to issue a minimum of five yellow cards per game. But it was hard to find anyone (except the Brazil fans I was sitting with) who believed that Adriano’s goal should have counted.

Don’t believe me? Fine – listen to the BBC: “Dujkovic was sent to the stands at half-time after Adriano had doubled Brazil’s lead when he was clearly offside.” Dujkovic is (was?) Ghana’s coach, and I suspect he had some choice words at the half, one or more of which led to him watching the second half of the game from somewhere other than his side of the field.

On the one hand, it doesn’t matter – Ghana lost by two legitimate goals, the first of which was a brilliant example of what Brazil does well (one on one play) and what Ghana does poorly (defend after someone has crossed their too-high backline). On the other hand, it meant everything – Ghana threatened several times in the end of the first half and might well have equalized if the earth had spun slightly faster, or the gravitational constant been slightly lower. Had they gone into the half down 1-0, not 2-0, and had a coach for the second half, they might have equalized.

Still, you could just as well say, “If only they’d had Essien.” One of the most moving details of the match, in my opinion, was the report that Brazilian players – who know Essien from his play with Chelsea – were consoling him before the match. The man looked heartbroken, as did Appiah before the match. Sending off Gyan, leaving Ghana to finish the game man-down against Brazil was a reminder of how damaging these card-happy refs have been to the chances of several teams. (Gee, think Portugal is going to have penalty issues the next match they play?)

And Ghana looked awfully good for much of the game, controlling the midfield, taking good shots, giving Dida several scares. But they couldn’t finish – they put too many chances right into the keeper’s hands. And they never figured out that Brazil was faster than they are on the breakaways, leading to far too many moments where Kingston found himself head to head with the best players in the world.

It’s always sad when your team’s knocked out, but this game left me a little bitter. Perhaps it was the smug Brazil fans sitting around me. When Marcelo Balboa – who was calling the game for ESPN – announced that the Ghanaians were playing better than the Brazilians, but that the Brazilians were more talented as individual players, one of the fans behind me said, “What the hell? Brazil is scoring at will!”

Bullshit. Brazil looked scared for good chunks of the first half, until a bad call put the match out of reach. The youngest team in the tournament, Ghana made some serious mistakes – most notably in the first five minutes of the game – but they have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. They played a solid game against the team favored to win the tournament, they showed just how much impact African players are having at the international levels of the game, and they brought a great deal of pride to their nation, and to the people (Ghanaians or otherwise) who love their nation.

Emmanuel Bensah has some great stuff on the Ghana/Brazil match including a video of post-mortem commentary on Ghanaian national TV. Thanks, EKB!

5 thoughts on “Law 11”

  1. Adriano may have been offside, someone always is :) these things always happen which is why FIFA needs to get its act together and start using technology to aid the low standard of refereeing time and time again. The same thing happened in the CL game with Barca and the Arse – bloody crap biased refereeing. The ref in this instance was dishing out yellow cards left right and center to the Ghanaians – totally unnecessary and unfair – one begins to wonder if they were even meant to win! (Are Juve the only ones I ask myself?

    Nonetheless Gyan’s dive was blatant and frankly shameful and he deserved as to all divers a yellow card and in his case unfortuantely his second and therefore sent off – that he already had one yellow should have been a warning but ……..a sad end to an otherwise brave and proud campaign. ON a final note – African teams need to learn that a DEFENSE is an essential part of a team – we all love attacking football but someone has to do the slog work! ON the plus side at least it wasnt one of those boring England, Germany type long ball tennis type games with no style or skill:)

  2. I’m with you on both critiques, Sokari – Ghana’s defense was embarrassing, and Gyan needs to learn that the playacting that’s so effective in Italian football isn’t viable in the global game. I think Ghana made a major tactical error against Brazil in playing such a high backline – it sometimes works for them because they’re so fast… but Brazil was even faster, and there were too many heartbreaking moments when Kingston was one on one.

    But I’m with you on the ref. It really looked like he was favoring Brazil in an obvious and straightforward way. Evidently, Ghana’s coach told him, at the half, that he should put on a yellow shirt, which got him sent off. Not the smartest thing to say to a ref, but nuff respect for him saying what he saw and felt.

  3. Now I think we have one of the proper referees for the 2010 games. He is our very own Ethan. What an analysis! What fairness! I stopped sobbing after reading your piece. By the way, did you see how the ref beamed when Rindinho (sp ?)shook his hand after the game? I swear the guys teeth almost came off from the excitement.

  4. Ethan, well-written. Much of the discourse, of sorts, on radio here has been towards the realisation of a football college of sorts that specialises in training strikers. The feasibility of it eludes most of us at the moment, but to have heard in Parliament yesterday legislators casting aspersions on officiating (http://www.ghananewstoday.com/gnt_cn_detailb.cfm?tblNewsCatID=33&tblNewsID=527) did not just make for a moment of bemusement, but to me spoke volumes about the visceral disgust that spewed from them regarding the Slovakian referee.

    I think Ghanaians are moving on, though, accepting that if we had not wasted those opportunities, the tale would have been more different! I say, bullies will always be there, but what is important is developing a two-pronged strategy to campaign against them (registering a complaint with FIFA about referees), as well as enhancing indigenous football play.

    Nice post! I got some videos on my blog (http://ekbensah.blogspot.com) and (http://ekbensahinghana.blogspot.com)

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