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!