I slept fairly fitfully last night. As much as it may be tempting to blame the shoddy England performance, I suspect it actually had more to do with the salmon.
During one period of intermittent insomnia, I had another look at yon "Edu scored! No he didn't! What was wrong?! Cheating bloody referee!" incident.
At the time I, like … oh, 99.9% … of global pundits thought that the goal shouldn't have been disallowed and, if anything, it was Slovenia who ought to have been penalized (the other 0.1% were in the bathroom).
After watching it a few more times than might strictly be deemed necessary, I've changed my mind. I still think that the USA team was "a little hard done-by, perhaps", but robbed? No.
In fact, what had seemed an incident testifying to the referee's blindness actually testifies quite the opposite: It was a bloody good piece of eagle-eyed vision in the midst of all that chaos. I won't tell you how many times I watched the replay from different angles before I spotted it, but it was plenty, and he only had one shot, in real-time.
I'll walk you through it.
The following seven frames were taken at the rate of one-per-second, covering a total period of six seconds of slow motion footage.
The camera angle is by far the best one to see it from — in fact, from others, you can't see it at all — and, trust me, it looks even more damning in free-running video form than the stills here show, provided you know what you're looking for and don't get distracted by the ball.
For UKian users, the segment runs between 9:48 and 9:54 of the BBC's 'extended highlights' stream, available at the BBC sport website.
This is the 'establishing shot'.
The camera angle is fairly low and looking directly across the pitch, shooting roughly parallel with the goal-line. The goal is directly to the right of the frame, and the ball is being whipped-in from a free-kick by Landon Donovan from out-of-shot bottom-left, where everyone is looking. You can see the penalty spot between the legs of the Slovenia number 11 (Novakovic).
The 'goal' scorer, Edu (USA number 19), hasn't entered the shot yet.
What you really should be paying attention to is the USA number 3 (Bocanegra) and the Slovenia number 7 (Pecnik). I've outlined them in the following version of the same frame.
I can't be bothered outlining all the frames, so I'll use magenta dot(s) to denote Bocanegra-Pecnik and cyan dots to denote Edu, when he shows up.
Not much to say here, except that it's a progression from the previous frame. Pecnik has his hands on Bocanegra, but he's not really holding him fast.
Edu enters shot in the top-left of frame, underneath the BBC logo. Bocanegra and Pecnik are scuffling in the middle of shot, behind Bradley and a couple of Slovenians.
Bocanegra and Pecnik are scuffling in the centre-left of shot. Edu runs in to the space behind them. Bocanegra has his arm around Pecnik's waist.
This is actually the crucial frame, but you wouldn't know it to look at it. At this point the ball is in the air. Edu is directly behind Bocanegra-Pecnik as the ball flies, running into the space that only exists because Bocanegra has firmly clamped Pecnik to the spot, preventing him from attempting to head clear the delivery.
In fact …
… Bocanegra has rugby-tackled Pecnik and is pulling him to the ground. It looks milder in this frame than it really is, because Pecnik is actually half-way pulled-over away from the camera and not standing tall as it seems in the still shot. Edu is right in the space which Pecnik should be guarding, but can't.
The ball has entered the shot, where Pecnik is looking, just below the BBC 'scores' logo.
Pecnik has been tackled nearly to the ground at this point and can do nothing but look back to see Edu kick the ball.
Sorry, Americans; but that's a cast-iron foul, and that's why the referee disallowed the goal. Blame your captain.
In fairness, there's a lot of mitigation.
If you look at the different frames, there's a lot of holding and scuffling going on. I counted something like five incidents of Slovenians impeding Americans and only the one incident of an American impeding a Slovenian. In particular, bald Bradley's got a Slovenian climbing all over him.
In that chaos, the referee could just as likely have played an advantage (letting the goal stand) or given a penalty to the USA as give a free kick to Slovenia.
On the other hand, most of the other incidents are 'niggling' in a temporary sort of way. It's only Bocanegra that actually drags his opponent (Pecnik) to ground. The only other person who really ends up on the floor is the Slovenian number 13 (Jokic) who chased Edu through the pack and makes a last desperate lunge to stop the shot.
Is it unlucky for the USA?
Yes, it's very unlucky but, importantly, it's also a legitimate call. In my judgement, it moves the incident from a grievous injustice to more of a 50/50 thing.
And those 50/50 foul-incidents suck. Just ask John Terry about '04 or Alan Shearer about '98.
Both fouls, by the way.
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