by Stuart Moriarty-Patten
Niklas Bendtner’s £80,000 fine and suspension for displaying his underwear bearing the name of a book maker certainly raised an eyebrow or two, especially in comparison to the relatively light fines handed out by UEFA for racist related offences. In 2008, Croatia received a fine of around £10,000 after their fans were found guilty of racist chanting. A similar charge saw Sporting Lisbon fined around £16,000 earlier this year. Bur Bendtner is not the first to fall foul of the football authorities strict protection of the interests of their main sponsors, and he may consider he got off fairly lightly. In 2006, over 1,000 Dutch fans were made to watch a game in their underpants after being forced to remove their orange lederhosen that bore a brewers name that was a rival to one of the official sponsors of the World Cup; and in the 2010 tournament, wearing dresses made by the same brewery, saw 36 female Dutch fans being ejected from a South African stadium. Two of the women were arrested and held for 33 hours before being charged with contravening laws that had been specially drawn up for the World Cup.
England shutting up the whiners
England in their role of plucky underdogs have pretty much defied everyone’s expectations, including Hodgson’s, by not only qualifying for the next round, but also finishing top of the group, three points ahead of France. However, if you tune in to the phone in shows and chatrooms, that’s not enough for most. Merely winning is not good enough, but seemingly the team has to do it in style. Moan after moan about England not playing stylish football clogs up the airwaves (especially from professional whiner Alan Green) and the internet.
I’m totally baffled by this. Sure it would be nice if England could play like Spain, or Brazil 1970, but we don’t have the players, and Hodgson didn’t have the time for preparation. Instead he’s doing a decent job with a team that was widely written off before the tournament, and for that, after the debacle of the 2010 World Cup, I for one am grateful.
Is goal line technology a necessity?
Another game with a ‘ghost goal’ and the incessant cry for goal line technology raises its head again. FIFA’s Blatter has come out and said it is now a necessity but UEFA’s Platini has been more reserved. His argument is not with goal line technology, but the introduction of technology, and the fact that once it is here it will creep into all the areas of the game where contentious decisions are made. Penalty? Off-side? Throw in? Its Platini’s concern that they will all become open to review by camera, and the game will become so stop-start that it won’t be the game we love now. Also imagine the pressure the referees would be under to have every decision reviewed. They are already surrounded by a baying mob every time they make a difficult decision. Picture the scenes if the players felt they could get a decision changed.
Ukraine’s non-goal is a perfect example of what Platini is concerned about. If technology was in place and the goal was allowed, then England would have been justified in complaining about the Ukraine player who was offside in the build-up to the goal. A few similar scenarios and the cry for offsides to be reviewed would have to be listened to, and gradually Platini’s concerns could well come to fruition.
Anyway, don’t we watch football to be entertained and get our passions stirred, and let’s be honest, a bad refereeing decision is one of the things in football that stirs people up.
Are Spain in danger of losing their way?
Despite being unbeaten and finishing top of their group, and winning 16 of their last 17 tournament games, questions are being raised whether Spain seem to be in danger of passing themselves into a dead end. Spain have made way more passes than anyone else in the tournament so far, and against Ireland they set a European Championship record when they completed 890 passes in the game. Yet their failings could be seen against Croatia when they enjoyed two-thirds of the possession and yet could easily have lost against a well organised Croatia, who had two strong penalty shouts turned down and a good chance spurned by Rapatic. Time and time again a long series of intricate passes by the Spanish ended in nothing as the final ball was intercepted by the Croatians.
Sometimes it appears that Spain need to ask themselves if their passing is serving a purpose in terms of creating chances, or are they getting carried away in attempting to perfect their elaborate and intricate tika taka style of football.
The return of the header
While Spain are busy tika takaing their way into the penalty box, the other teams seemed to have rediscovered the headed goal from a cross, with a remarkable 17 goals having flown in off a header, some 28 per cent of goals scored. By way of comparison, just 18 per cent of goals at World Cup 2010 were headed, and 19 per cent in the last Euro Championships. The total is already the joint highest total in a European Championship, level with the 17 headers scored in the whole of the 2004 tournament.
Why is this? Possibly one reason is the much derided extra officials who parade the touch lines behind the goal. With the centre halves aware of these extra eyes on their every move, maybe they are now more reluctant to pull shirts, hold arms, etc, to prevent the forward reaching a ball. True or not, I like to think that these constantly abused officials do actually have a bearing on the running of a game.