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ESPN fumbles the tiebreaker facts
by Samuel Charles, June 14th, 2012 1:02AM

TAGS:  european championship, television


[TELEVISION WATCH] If you think the Euro 2012 tiebreaker formula is confusing, you're not alone. ESPN's pundits didn't have much of a handle on it during Germany's 2-1 win over the Netherlands.

With the Dutch looking headed toward a loss, ESPN’s men in the booth mentioned that they could still advance with a win in their last game and finishing atop a three-way tie with Denmark and Portugal -- yet they erred by saying -- “but if their goal difference takes a big mauling here as well, it will effectively end the argument.”


The only way the Dutch could go through while losing to Germany would be by winning the three-way tiebreaker with Denmark and Portugal -- in which the results with Germany are thrown out.

This misrepresentation was never corrected during the broadcast, at halftime or in the wrap-up show.

During their halftime interview with guest analyst Roberto Martinez -- coach of EPL club Wigan -- he says that goal differential is going to be vital, and they need to score goals -- meaning the Dutch.

This is again wrong, and he wasn't corrected during, or after the interview.

Studio host Bob Ley mentioned correctly during halftime that "no one can be eliminated" regardless of what happens, but he didn't clarify, nor did he mention that this game had no impact on goal differential as a tiebreaker.

Ian Darke made another error in the 88th minute: “Germany are very close to a place in the quarterfinals, and they’ll leave the others, if it stays like this, to scrap for that other place."

This is flat wrong. And leaves viewers walking away from the end of the game with the incorrect conclusion. Perhaps even setting off celebration by German fans. Losing to Denmark on Day 3 could easily eliminate Germany -- if Portugal beats the Netherlands.

Back in the studio, during the postgame show, Ley, at least, finally explained that Germany had not clinched passage into the second round.

(For more on Euro 2012's unique tiebreaking, read "Euro group tiebreakers differ from World Cup" HERE.)

  1. Magin Argueta
    commented on: June 14, 2012 at 8:31 a.m.
    Why are they wrong? Can you explain? Is is because a three-way time comes down to goal difference between the teams even in points?
  1. Phil Love
    commented on: June 14, 2012 at 8:47 a.m.
    Excellent work by UEFA to make the tiebreaker so confusing. I understand why they made the change. It throws out results where teams pound on the bottom-dweller or results where they get pounded by the group winner. Whatever fairness is increased by this method isn't worth the added confusion.
  1. Phil Love
    commented on: June 14, 2012 at 9:01 a.m.
    I guess the other thing this tiebreaking method does, is to make it damn near impossible to calculate how many goals you need before your final group game. Thus, there's less chance of having both teams stalling near the end of a game instead of playing, knowing they both have enough points and goals to go to the next round. I recall seeing this silliness in several World Cup final group games.
  1. Edward Smith
    commented on: June 14, 2012 at 9:35 a.m.
    Mr. Charles, thank you for explaining all the ways ESPN incorrectly described the tiebreaker without ever explaining the correct method. You never correctly explained the tiebreaker throughout your article, at halftime of your article, or when you wrapped up your article.
  1. Ramon Creager
    commented on: June 14, 2012 at 11:58 a.m.
    The tie-breaker rules may be found at (Chapter VI, Article 7.04). The thing to note with the first three tie-breakers (b, c, & d): they apply only to the teams in question. So if it's goal differential, it's only the goal differential amongst the teams in question. So if 3 teams are tied, it's only GD in games involving those 3. Games involving the 4th team are excluded. I don't think that's all that complicated. 5 minutes of research is all it took, and one would think that the highly paid folks at ESPN whose job it is to do these things would have done their homework.
  1. Ray Shines
    commented on: June 14, 2012 at 2:07 p.m.
    Wait, Ian Darke got something wrong? Not possible. I thought he was the Best Announcer Ever.
  1. David Warren
    commented on: June 14, 2012 at 8:54 p.m.
    I strongly disagree with Phil Love above. It is quite easy to figure out what you need in your final game. For example, I wrote immediately after Italy conceded today that should Spain & Croatia draw at 2-2 on Monday that even if Italy beat Ireland 14-nil, Italy will be eliminated. (That was dependent on Spain beating Ireland today by any score.) Also, the third Spain goal today was critical, because had they not scored that third goal (they did get a fourth) then Croatia could have advanced simply by drawing nil-nil on Monday, with Spain eliminated if Italy beat Ireland.

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