Ukraine robbed as FIFA fumbles replay issue

Ukrainian forward Marko Devic gestures after a goal was refused against England. (AFP)

Ukrainian forward Marko Devic gestures after a goal was refused against England. (AFP)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:49 PM ET

DONETSK, UKRAINE - How many times will this be allowed to happen?

How many times are potential tournament-altering plays going to be left for debate because the power brokers who run soccer at the world level are dinosaurs who won't get their heads out of the sand (among other places) when it comes to instituting instant replay?

Yes, we know FIFA is "looking into it." How about less examination and more action?

This issue should have been settled two years ago after the World Cup in South Africa when England's Frank Lampard ripped a shot past German goalie Manuel Neuer off the bottom off the crossbar. The ball clearly deflected down three feet over the goal line before spinning back out into the field of play.

Had Lampard been awarded the goal, which an entire stadium and hundreds of millions of television viewers clearly saw crossed the line, the score between the two long-time rivals would have been knotted at 2-2.

Would England have gone on to win and advance to the quarterfinals against Argentina? According to most members of the English press that would have been unlikely, given the way the Germans dominated the play that day en route to a 4-1 win.

But the fact is, we'll never know.

At that point, a movement to bring in instant replay should have been put into high gear.

It wasn't.

And now, its absence is at the centre of controversy again, leaving the entire soccer-mad country of Ukraine wondering what might have been.

In the end, England will advance to the final eight of Euro 2012 thanks to a 1-0 victory Tuesday over Ukraine at the Donbass Arena. Wayne Rooney's two-inch putt in the 48th minute put England through, a euphoric moment for the enigmatic striker who missed the first two games of this tournament because of a suspension.

But it was a play that happened at the other end in the 62nd minute that had tongues wagging around the world.

After powering his way into the box, Marko Devic looped a ball over English goalie Joe Hart's head and it appeared to be crossing the line for the tying goal when English defender John Terry valiantly made a lunging kick to clear the ball.

Or did he?

On one television angle that was even with the goal line, the ball appeared to be deep enough for a goal, one that would have tied the game 1-1.

"I don't agree with the referee's decision (to let the play continue)," Ukraine manager Oleg Blohhin said.

Had it counted, Ukraine, which needed to win to reach the quarterfinal, would have been one kick away from sending this entire stadium, this entire city, this entire country bonkers.

But once again, we'll never know.

"The refs had a decision to make," Hart said. "In the end, 1-0."

England manager Roy Hodgson made reference to similar situations such as the Lampard no-goal which went against his country in the past.

"Give John Terry credit for clearing the ball over the line," Hodgson said. "We don't have goal-line technology in the sport but if it was in, well, England has been unlucky in those situations before.

"I'm proud of the team."

He should be.

Given little chance by critics in England to make a ripple in the tournament, the team won Group D with seven points, thanks to two wins and a draw. That means the English will clash with Italy in a quarterfinal Sunday in Kiev, avoiding defending world champion Spain in the process.

The French, meanwhile, are saddled with a Saturday date in Donetsk against Iker Casillas and the Spanish after a disappointing 2-0 loss Tuesday to Sweden in Kiev.

Meanwhile the goal-line technology debate rages on.

Baseball has replay. Hockey has replay. Football has replay. Basketball has replay.

Soccer, the world's most popular sport, does not.

It makes no sense.

Just ask the Ukrainian team and it's loyal supporters, who now will be watching the quarterfinals on television.

Whether they deserve to be or not.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


Videos

Photos