The Beautiful (and painful) Game!

England wakes up this morning with yesterday’s drubbing at the hands of Germany still fresh in the memory (if I’m a good representative of our nation – and I think I’m a fairly mild mannered one judging by the expletives coming out of the neighbour’s house yesterday post match).

There’s no escaping the fact the best team won: England’s defence looked shaky in the group stages (at least they sorted the goalkeeping issue out) and was embarrassingly (if you’re English and a defender when playing the game yourself, like I am) exposed by a good (but not that good) German side.

But if my Facebook wall is anything to go by, the discussion does still remain focussed on that goal (pictured).  And that’s not amongst English folk.  Italians, Americans that I know – even some Germans!

An Australian friend put it aptly: England were bad, but what might have happened had the goal rightly been noticed?  I will gloss over the really unbelievable fact that no official saw the ball bounce about half a meter over the line.  Had the goal gone in, an already rattled Germany side may have reacted quite differently.  England would have had the momentum and all Germany’s fine efforts to establish a two goal advantage would have been wiped out within a minute.

As it was, England were still faced with a deficit, and the need to push forward to get an equalising goal.  As the second half pressed on, that issue became more and more pressing, and England committed more men forward.  The defence was bad enough as it was, and soon enough Germany broke (from a very promising England free-kick situation) and scored.  Not long after, from an England attacking corner, the same devastating counter-attack play by Germany put the game out of England’s reach and gave the game a slightly surreal scoreline (ok, I am English so I’m allowed some bias).

More than anything though, once the pain subsides, it left yet another England-Germany game that will live in the memory for a long time.  It yet again established why football is so popular – the game was nailbiting, was so open, and decided by such fine lines and moments like the goal not seen.  What if one of England’s second half attempts on goal had sailed in, levelling the scores?  So many what-ifs.  It could also have been more painful a scoreline for England.

But this post cannot finish without noting the oft-touted, and now pretty much demanded, involvement of technology.  The more blinkered and paranoid England fans will suggest a conspiracy.  I think it was just human error and I’ll stick with that naive view for now.  So given it was human error, and these kinds of events happen with a remarkable regularity in games, the only real solution is to use technology.  Hawkeye has established itself as a very useful tool in cricket and tennis – but even that would not be necessary.  Simply a chip in the ball would be enough – that would be able to tell if the ball went over the line and would enable officials to make decisions that are too close to call in the heat of the moment from their viewing angle.

There’s plenty to be argued for such involvement of technology, and also to some extent against it – and currently the most important man, Sepp Blatter, is against it.  Had yesterday’s goal been correctly given with little fuss by technology though, would some of that fan interest be lost?  Isn’t some of the experience of football that element of human error, that element of “we wuz robbed”?  Would demand for football actually fall as a result of making the game less accessible, as some are arguing?  At what point would the technology be used?  National league top divisions?  Pub teams on a Sunday?  The debate rages…

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