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World Cup final ref gets big call wrong, punishes the victim, neglects concussion dangers
by Paul Gardner, July 17th, 2014 3:08PM

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TAGS:  argentina, germany, referees, world cup 2014

MOST COMMENTED

By Paul Gardner

Of course there were concussion-incidents during the World Cup. Given that there are head-clashes in virtually every game of soccer that is ever played, that was to be expected.

Something else that might have been expected during FIFA’s showcase game was that these incidents would have been treated with elaborate care. We surely, by now, know enough about the serious dangers that such injuries can present, to be super-cautious about their handling.

Unfortunately -- scandalously, really -- FIFA fell considerably short of the treatment standards that are now considered necessary. The prime example came in the Uruguay-England game, when Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira was knocked out cold by a solid whack from Raheem Sterling’s knee (this was clearly “incidental contact,” Sterling was not to blame).

Pereira was treated on the field, the doctor signaled for a substitution to be made, but Pereira, now very conscious of his surroundings argued violently with the medic. And got his own way. He went back into the game.

Which is not the way that current medical thinking wants it to be. The doctor should make the decision. Here, a player who had been out cold moments earlier was allowed to overrule the doctor.

Similarly, in the semifinal, Argentina’s Javier Mascherano re-entered the game after he had collapsed to the ground after a head-clash with the Netherlands’ Georginio Wijnaldum (again, there was no vicious play involved).

And so to the final. After only 16 minutes, Germany’s Christoph Kramer took a heavy knock to the head from Ezequiel Garay (another incidental injury) and, after treatment, returned to the game. This really was a surprise, for some very good TV close-ups showed him looking decidedly dazed. He lasted another 15 minutes.

On to the 56th minute of the second half, and the worst, the least excusable, of these incidents. Argentine forward Gonzalo Higuain chased a long ball and caught up with it just inside the German penalty area. He had outpaced the defenders -- except, of course, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who came racing out of his goal. Higuain, with his back to Neuer, was waiting for the ball -- which had bounced high -- to drop so that he could control it. Neuer evidently saw a chance to punch the ball away before it dropped. He launched himself toward the ball, jumping heavily into Higuain who, obviously, was in the way. The collision was spectacular ... and frightening. Neuer made contact with the ball a fraction of a second before he crashed into Higuain. What made the collision so dangerous, was that the leaping Neuer smashed his knee -- his raised knee -- into Higuain’s head.

We can pause here, to take a look at FIFA’s rulebook. Under “Serious Foul Play” there is this: “A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play.”

Four paragraphs later, we get: “A player who is guilty of serious foul play should be sent off.”

Neuer’s challenge on Higuain more than meets the requirements of serious foul play. Meaning that he should have been red-carded, and that Argentina should have had a penalty kick.

To get a side-issue out of the way: we don’t know what effect those actions would have had on the game. Logically, Argentina should score from the penalty and Germany should be playing with 10 men, which sounds pretty good for Argentina. But we don’t know how things would have worked out.

Anyway, I am not here concerned with who wins the game. I am primarily interested in the way that serious, or what appear to be serious, head injuries are handled by teams and their medical staff.

And the referees. The World Cup final referee was the Italian Nicola Rizzoli. What he did in the Neuer incident was so utterly deplorable and inept that it should be more than enough to get him benched for any future top assignments.

Rizzoli, some 20 yards from the play but with a clear view of the action, blew his whistle and awarded a free kick to Germany. Which defies explanation.

Because referees are not required to signal or identify what foul they are calling, there is no way of knowing what Rizzoli was up to. There was certainly no offside on the play, so we have to assume that Rizzoli had called a foul of some sort on Higuain. Given that Higuain had his back to Neuer and was fully engaged in trying to corral the ball, it’s clear that there was no foul by Higuain.

What Rizzoli had accomplished with this egregious call was to avoid having to give the penalty and to eject Neuer.

Neuer, the goalkeeper. And there, no doubt you have the explanation of Rizzoli’s shockingly bad call. Any field player who made a challenge like this -- with his leg raised high enough for his knee to contact an opponent’s face -- would almost certainly be red-carded. But goalkeepers are consistently allowed to get away with this type of foul -- just as they are allowed to jump into a crowd of players wildly trying to punch the ball through a crowd of heads.

I’ve made my position very clear on this before. Goalkeepers stretching upward to take a cross or a high ball are vulnerable. They must be allowed to raise a leg to protect themselves. But that is something very different from a full-speed jump into an opponent, using the raised knee as a battering ram.

The wild punching and the battering-ram assaults must be punished. Severely -- because they are serious offenses that can cause serious injuries. That they are rarely punished is bad enough. But that a World Cup referee should so contort matters as to give a free kick in favor of the goalkeeper and against a player who has just been the victim of a tremendous foul is appalling.

And it sure as hell does not conform to the idea of “protecting players” -- which we were told was to be one of the points of emphasis for referees in this World Cup.



60 comments
  1. Richard Broad
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 3:31 p.m.
    Neuer didn't "assault" anyone. He was making a play on the ball. It is a contact sport and Neuer is an incredibly athletic goalkeeper. End of discussion.

  1. Joseph Pratt
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 3:33 p.m.
    Doesn't change the fact that Neuer raised his knee in the challenge and clocked Higuain with it. Clearly a foul. Gardner is right, keepers are over-protected - I know, I was one!

  1. Christopher Rexroat
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 3:33 p.m.
    I suppose one can argue whether or not Neuer's clearance "more than meets the requirements of serious foul play" but it is indisputably false to say "Higuain, with his back to Neuer, was waiting for the ball." (http://youtu.be/1TCWo2x5UJw) Both players were charging for a 50/50 ball in the box, where keepers generally have priority, particularly if they get to the ball first. Your position becomes questionable when you feel it necessary to misstate the factual premise. Not a penalty imo, but probably should have been an Argentina throw-in, rather than a free kick to Germany.

  1. Kevin Kelly
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 3:38 p.m.
    Wow, stating Higuain was "waiting" for the ball is simply not accurate. http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=11211025 If he hadn't raised his knee--head to the ribs. Both players clearly have their eyes on the ball and are both making fair challenges. It was the wrong call to award a free kick against Higuain. It was a throw in.

  1. James Hardern
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 3:43 p.m.
    My interpretation of the incident was that the keeper did use excessive force and should have been carded, at least with a yellow, but would have agreed with a red. It was a highly reckless play that endangered another player. Neuer and Germany were incredibly lucky that the referee was poor on that call. But this speaks to a larger issue - how can FIFA get referees to correctly interpret the laws of the game and not be afraid to make the right call, especially where keepers are concerned? Yes, there exists contact in soccer, but not all contact is legal.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 3:47 p.m.
    First, surprise, surprise, surprise! I agree with PG that the referee made a monumental mistake, and should've awarded a DFK to Argentina. Second, yet again, I ask if PG ever played the game or even officiated any game at any level or is he just adept at writing commentary???

  1. charles davenport
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 3:47 p.m.
    "...I’ve made my position very clear on this before. Goalkeepers stretching upward to take a cross or a high ball are vulnerable. They must be allowed to raise a leg to protect themselves..." I saw it as a fair play, but there is divided opinion.

  1. Richard Czechowski
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 3:51 p.m.
    IMO, the "right" call here was a non-call and throw in to Argentina. Had Rizzoli sent off Neuer for SFP, we would be reading an even larger number of articles condemning that decision. As a referee myself (USSF, Grade 5), there are times where the phrase "don't just do something, stand there" is appropriate. Nevertheless, I do agree with Paul's tone regarding the issue of head injuries. Perhaps this is an area where IFAB could amend the LOTG to permit substitutions where a "neutral" medical professional evaluates that the player has likely suffered a concussion. Kramer should have NEVER gone back out there. Were he to have even suffered a slight knock, he could have experienced "Second impact syndrome" and died on the pitch...even from trying to head a ball. The more that is known about concussions, most sports leagues are making a greater effort to minimize the risk to the players. All one has to do is look at the problems and the lawsuits experienced by the NFL to understand the wisdom of this.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 3:53 p.m.
    Christopher and Kevin are both right. Yes, Gardner is right that referees give wide latitude (too wide, in my opinion) to keepers, but this was not one of those cases. Both players going for a 50/50 ball, not the keeper assaulting Higuain's head with his knee. My only question was whether or not the contact on the ball was outside the box (it was quite close, but no TV shots showed the right angle to tell). If the ref had ejected Neuer and awarded a PK, he probably would not have escaped alive (given that most Brazilians were rooting against Argentina). Red cards are to dissuade unacceptable behavior. So the philosophical question that underlies the rule requires that we ask "would the game have been better off if Neuer had not challenged for the ball in the manner he did?" I think not. Had Higuain sustained a concussion, it would have been like the other cases; incidental contact between two players challenging for the ball. If Higauin gets the ball first, THEN it would be a red card and a pk. Of course, in no possible scenario did Higuain commit a foul, so the ref got that obviously wrong (though in a close collision when one player does not get the ball, the other often does end up committing a foul, but not in this case).

  1. Dean Costalas
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 3:58 p.m.
    This is a ridiculous article. I've been a goalkeeper for a long time at many levels. The Neuer-Higuain play was 2 players going for a 50/50 ball towards the edge of the box. A GK is taught to bring his leg and knee up on the side of the field player's challenge for three reasons: (1) so the GK doesn't get undercut and leave a straightened leg or unprotected ribs exposed; (2) so the GK can protect the ball once it is in his possession; (3) swinging a leg up gives the GK more momentum towards the ball when he jumps. The play was an unfortunate incident, but a clean play all the way. This article, on the other hand, is extremely irresponsible and has an agenda. It should have been a no call, and a throw-in for Argentina. Period, end of story.

  1. Braden Angel
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 3:59 p.m.
    Pratt - As a former goal keeper you should know that we have been trained to raise the knee when we leave the ground to protect ourselves from those crashing the goal. Is that only within the goal box now? A goalkeeper raising a knee does not meet the definition of "serious foul play" and a red card for that play would have been absolutely asinine. I agree with both Rexroat and Kelly that it should have been a throw. The only argument that I can see to support Rizzoli is that Higuain by "waiting for the ball" as Gardner put it, could have arguable been obstructing Neuer because Higuain necessarily would not have been "within playing distance of the ball." Despite plenty of obstruction in the last minutes of many WC matches, obstruction is almost never, ever called in professional play (much like the high kick/dangerous play-which I saw once) but possible obstruction of a goalkeeper is a different matter than anyone else on the pitch. I didn't see Rizzoli's arm up for an indirect, but the argument could be made. I freely admit that it is *almost* as much of a leap as Gardner made in his description of the event, but surely not a PK for Argentina. I watched the game (now multiple times) with multiple former goalkeepers and former and current referees-one of them was named the FIFA Youth Referee of the Year back in the late nineties, not a single person in my company saw that as a foul against Neuer.

  1. ROBERT BOND
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 4:11 p.m.
    Neuer in the box moving to the ball-

  1. Gary Wien
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 4:14 p.m.
    "This article, on the other hand, is extremely irresponsible and has an agenda. It should have been a no call, and a throw-in for Argentina. Period, end of story. " I totally agree.

  1. Charles Stamos
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 4:18 p.m.
    The most you could call against Neuer would be dangerous play for raising his knee as he did make contact with the ball first and both players were moving at the time of contact. You can card Neuer for that, but watching the game live, you can foresee the contact coming and you can wince at the upcoming collision, but Neuer has the right to punch the ball and maybe he is guilty of dnagerous play, but not serious foul play. I think I would have made a no call and given the throw-in.

  1. Chris Hasbrouck
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 4:27 p.m.
    I love reading Paul Gardner's articles. I almost always disagree with him. It is the controversial contrarian articles he writes that sells papers (blogs) these days. I'm always glad that the comments section brings some clarity and rationality to the argument. As others stated the only issue I have with the call is the ref calling a penalty. Should have been a throw-in. Was definitely a standard 50-50 ball with the keeper using proper form.

  1. Tyler Dennis
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.
    So, all of you "no" calls. If this happened between two field players, is it a no call? What's the difference between two players going for a header and one elbowing the other in the air.... after all they were both "looking" at the ball. As if that matters. Or, if one player that can jump high, jumps up to head the ball and knees the other player, who is positioned ball-side in the side of the head. Again, "no call". You guys make me laugh. See Law 12 ("A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following seven offences in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force: jumps at an opponent; charges an opponent.

  1. James Hardern
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 4:31 p.m.
    Per the laws of the game, "A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following seven offences in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force: • kicks or attempts to kick an opponent • trips or attempts to trip an opponent • jumps at an opponent • charges an opponent • strikes or attempts to strike an opponent • pushes an opponent • tackles an opponent Neuer clearly left his feet and jumped at an opponent. Yes, he was going for a ball, but he jumped straight into Higuain to do so - and that is a foul. Higain did not jump into Neuer. Now, here is FIFA's interpretation of force: “Careless” means that the player has shown a lack of attention or consideration when making a challenge or that he acted without precaution. • No further disciplinary sanction is needed if a foul is judged to be careless “Reckless” means that the player has acted with complete disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent. • A player who plays in a reckless manner must be cautioned “Using excessive force” means that the player has far exceeded the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring his opponent. • A player who uses excessive force must be sent off My viewing of the play has Neuer acting carelessly and possibly recklessly - I think a knee from a player jumping into another player who is not jumping or committing any foul on the keeper qualifies as a direct fee kick foul, with a possible yellow card caution to the keeper. That is how I saw it.

  1. James Hardern
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 4:35 p.m.
    You know, Soccer America could really do with upgraded comment section - this thing sucks!

  1. John Munnell
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 5:12 p.m.
    To me, the knee is not the issue. Neuer jumps into Higuain, not just up, and reaches over him to punch the ball. There are fair challenges and unfair challenges. This was an unfair challenge, similar in many ways to the challenge that injured Neymar. I do believe that ball and Hiquain were outside the box, so no PK. But if Neuer had been sent off, I would have only been surprised that the referee had the nerve to do so.

  1. Kevin Kelly
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 5:18 p.m.
    "Yes, he was going for a ball, but he jumped straight into Higuain to do so - and that is a foul. Higain did not jump into Neuer." James, did you watch the video? If that is true why isn't it true Higuain jumped into him? He should have known he was late but as he was watching the ball, like Neuer, he didn't. P.S. Higuain has no vertical at all. ;-)

  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 5:28 p.m.
    Right on, Paul Gardner. Only questions are whether it was a red or a yellow card. As reckless a dangerous play as I have ever seen, but the refs had clearly been told not to show cards (don't want to hurt the TV audience by removing stars from games) so it is once again FIFA's total unfitness to oversee the game that is on display.

  1. Brian Something
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 5:35 p.m.
    I couldn't helping recalling the Schumacher-Battison incident. I'm a GK myself but sorry, "just making a play on the ball" doesn't give you impunity to be dangerously reckless... whether you're a GK or field player.

  1. Brian Something
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 5:36 p.m.
    Even if the ref was giving Neuer a free pass, it's mind boggling how that could've been a foul on Higuain. At WORST, it should've been a throw in for Argentina.

  1. Millwall America
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 5:45 p.m.
    I'm in a strange place here because I really wanted Germany to lose, but regrettably I have to agree with the other commenters. This was a 50/50 ball and both players are entitled to go for it. One could even make the argument that Higuain should get the card because based on my view of the replay he played a big part in creating the dangerous situation. The laws of the game do not require that a player (Neuer in this case) back off just because another player has put himself in a dangerous position -- one player's stupidity is not his opponent's problem. On a related note, PG's problem in this case is that he's the boy who cried wolf -- he's whined about goalkeepers, fouls, laws favoring the defender, etc. SO often, based on frequently very insignificant issues, that no one will listen to him in the cases when he may actually have a point. Moderation and a balanced approach are useful, Paul, even when you have an agenda -- it makes people think you're trying to be fair, even if you're actually not. You may want to think about that.

  1. Jim Romanski
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 5:57 p.m.
    This was definitely a foul. You can’t go over the top of the player to play the ball like that and follow through with your knee at head height. This type of play does take place a lot and does not get called on keepers though it should. If you watch the ESPN video discussion about this only Kasey Keller (and ex-Keeper) thinks it’s a clean play: http://www.espnfc.com/video/latest-videos/600/video/1949026 If you watch another ESPN discussion on it they ask three Brits and surprise surprise they all think it’s a normal play.: http://www.espnfc.com/video/latest-videos/600/video/1951429 The referee said he made didn’t call a foul because the keeper got to the ball first. But he did admit that he should not have given the German team a free kick: http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/164627/rizzoli-‘it-was-not-a-penalty’ But getting to the ball first does not justify that kind of reaching over and follow through. In fact, Higuaín gets to the space first. Should have been a foul and at the very least a yellow card.

  1. stewart hayes
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 6:33 p.m.
    It was a shockingly reckless play on Neuers part. That was my first gut reaction and recalling it vividly today, thanks to Paul, my opinion has not changed. It deserved a minimum yellow card no questions asked. Neuer was committed and charged through Higuain to reach the ball.

  1. Carl Walther
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 6:38 p.m.
    Such a big tournament (World Cup), so many bad refs, so many bad calls. Once again FIFA shows what a inept organization it is.

  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 7:43 p.m.
    Brian, the difference between this incidence and the Schumacher-Battiston incident is the fact that Schumacher didn't get the ball. he only got Battiston's head with his fist. That was clearly a foul worthy of a red card. I think in this incidence the right call would be a no call.

  1. David V
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 8:27 p.m.
    that's for the video links... all of them clearly show a foul... Jim Romanski, very good comments... Love the part about the Brits-they as a whole are always too timid to make the right calls (allowing fouls in a game left and right as if it were allowable play)... it's clearly a red card and Neuer should have been thrown out... and Yes, Argentina would have won... this ref severly impacted the game... This also did happen (a clear red card not given) in the final of 2010... Kung Fu kicking De Jong on Xabi Alonso up high into his chest (Dutch guilty of 3 clear red cards but not called in the first 1/3 of that game)... incidently, it was a Brit, HORRIBLE HOWARD WEBB, who let those go unpunished... To Be Continued

  1. David V
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 8:37 p.m.
    Contined... This Italian Ref altered the course of this world cup... another case in point was Spain/Holland 2014... the game was 2-1 in Holland's favor... and at that moment in the game, in the tournament, the Ref's no call probably changed the course of the entire tournament... his lack of a call changed the entire game... Spain may have tied or come back and won ... but the non-call by this ref allowed a shell-shocking of the Spaniards (who then crumbled at that point)... what was the non-call? Robin V. Persie clearly fouled Casillas in the box by forearming him to first the shoulder, and it less than a split second, the arm went into GK Casillas' neck... V.P. was not playing the ball... go watch the video... you hear the idiotic Brittish announcers denouncing Casillas for not being strong enough in the box (dumb old Casillas, can't he do some more neck strengthening exercises to win the battle with v.p.'s forearm???)... These referees must call the game correctly (Mr. Ref, it is not your fault if you call a foul a foul, it's the offender's fault, not yours)... if the team loses 2 playes, let it happen... either the players will change behavior, or they will suffer consequences and the victimized team will benefit and get to play with more men on the field

  1. David V
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 8:37 p.m.
    thanks for the video links, they all clearly show Neuer's foul, a RED CARD

  1. Al Gebra
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 9:18 p.m.
    Comments made by some of the readers tend to astound me. Broad: "it's a contact sport". But good reply by Hardern “not all contact is legal”. Anyway, sex is also a contact sport, some of it borderline legal. And then there’s the former Barca player Fonseca: “I ask if PG ever played the game or even officiated any game at any level or is he just adept at writing commentary.” Week after week Fonseca keeps reading PG’s column and keeps making the same comments. Isn’t that a corollary to the definition of insanity. Lastly, there’s Costalas, the longtime backup keeper for Man U between 1949 and 2012: “This article is extremely irresponsible and has an agenda.” Did Costalas ever read Mein Kampf? Now there’s an agenda, and an irresponsible one at that. [New paragraph] It took the NFL years to address the concussion issue because the game played today is nothing like that played just 10 or 15 years ago. The same thing with soccer. The inevitable is more concussions because of the direction the game is going in. For years, I’ve said that eliminating headers altogether would open up the game, allow for more scoring and put more emphasis on foot-skills in defending and attacking. I mean, it’s called football for a reason. The concept could be tested out in a league somewhere in the world, just like the shaving cream sprayed on “boots”. Speaking of boots, the Brits won’t like the concept of header-less soccer on their pitches, but then again, who cares what they think. BTW, in Brit vernacular, is it by-line, byline, or buy-line (as in a conversation with Sepp Blatter re Qatar)?

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 9:42 p.m.
    Chris H; I'm not so sure that u comprehend a simple rule; soccer is a contact sport, but launching oneself in a violent manner with no intent to injure an opponent is a foul and in Neuer's case a red card. Similar case happened in the 2010 WC final when de Jong stuck his boot into an opponents chest; red card without question and the ref was derelict in enforcing the laws of the game..

  1. soccer talk
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 10:36 p.m.
    PG is only right on the need for concussion protocol for reentry into the game or # of games after treatment. All players should have a pre and post reaction test before allowing them to play again if head trama occurs. This ref was by far one of the best WC officials. As the many different pro/con opinions have been expressed here in; it would have utterly been ridiculous to conclude a red card / PK which would have changed the outcome of a good final. I agree with the 50/50 ball and the goal keeper protecting themselves... Should have been a Argentine throw in if there was any adjustments in hine sight. Goal keepers do get the benefit of the calls as do the defenders in the box during corners. Does PG really think that the ref was going to make precedent or statement w/ a rebel call during the final of the WC? Please!

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 11:37 p.m.
    There seems to be quite a bit concern about how referee calls can alter the game, as if players and keepers are helpless when throwing themselves into tackles. That kind of thinking led to the kind of officiating we've seen in the MLS through 2013. Keep your cards in your pocket, Don't eject stars, Allow dangerous play because TV ratings are the most important thing. All that really did lead to was hacking and persistent infringement, not skillful play. Few here are truly concerned about the health and safety of the player. Human nature being what it is, only if Higuain was knocked out cold, fractured his skull and sued FIFA and the referee for $5B in a class action lawsuit would anyone take notice. Sadly, it seems that's what it will take.

  1. Leia Ambra
    commented on: July 17, 2014 at 11:39 p.m.
    I remember absolutely whining when Neuer threw himself into Higuain's space. Higuain was waiting for the ball to come down and not aware at all of Neuer charging into him and over him. Absolutely a yellow card, and I have reffed hundreds of games myself. Ni impunity for Neuer. Also baffles me how he got the Golden Glove when Ochoa, eg, did a far, far superior GK job. Neuer already got the first place medal.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 12:21 a.m.
    Some people arguing for a red card/pk have made two factually false assertions; that Neuer went through Higuain to get the ball and that Higuain was waiting for the ball when Neuer clattered into him. Neuer clearly went over Higuain to get the ball, and Higuain was running at almost full speed (which is one of the reasons the collision is so violent). Additionally, Neuer was not even using his knee in a particularly aggressive way; he used it to gain elevation (as one would with a basketball lay-up). The only reason we're discussing this is Neuer's knee hit Higuain's head, and the only reason that happened was because Higuain did not jump to play the ball with his head (I would guess he was letting it go over his shoulder so he could play it with his foot). The two players were on a collision course set in motion by both their actions; Neuer got to the ball first. Had Higuain jumped to head it, perhaps he would have gotten the ball first, or he might have forced Neuer to go through him to get the ball, in which case the Red Card/pk scenario would apply. But to make such a call, the referee had better be absolutely sure. In this case, no call would have been the right call.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 12:28 a.m.
    Here is a link with a good video of the collision (from multiple angles). http://gfycat.com/InfantileWigglyAmazondolphin

  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 8:23 a.m.
    After seeing the video again, I know now why the referee gave free kick against Higuain. It's because Higuain was so stupid to assume that he can go into the PK area without expecting the goalkeeper's challenge. He should've looked to see where the goalkeeper is. This was a free kick against stupidity.

  1. ROBERT BOND
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 8:34 a.m.
    played a lot of sports, tried to avoid disputes with folks bigger than me, Higuain was moving to the spot he got hit, not just standing there trying to control a ball directed at him.......pg & the other whiners need to switch to golf...

  1. ROBERT BOND
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 9:02 a.m.
    & if i had been the trainer, Kramer would have come out immediately........

  1. James Hardern
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 11:09 a.m.
    Sorry folks, but Higuain is not required to jump. His action in the play was in no way threatening to Neuer nor in any violation of the laws of the game. Neuer was the one who had to make up the space to challenge and he had full sight of Higuain and the ball. Neuer was the one who left both his feet to jump for the ball. And according to the laws of the game, it is Neuer's responsiblity to ensure he does so in a manner that does not threaten injury to another player. It is Neuer who committed one of the seven offences, and he did so carelessly and possibly recklessly. I know we want to think Neuer has a "right" to punch the ball and "right" to challenge, but he has no more right to the ball than Higuain, and in fact there is no mention of these so called "rights" in the laws. What both players have is right to play the game in a manner that does not violate the laws. And the knee is important to this discussion because it was Neuer leaving his feet to jump towards Higuain, and the raising of the knee which directly threatened injury to another player. If Neuer had merely arrived to a position beside Higuain, and leapt up (keeping knees down) to reach over Higuain's head and punch the ball, thereby avoiding the dangerous contact (and abiding by the laws) then we would have a no call scenario. But if you watch the videos you clearly see Higuain tracking the ball moving at a half pace in the direction of the endline at the edge of the penalty box, and you see Neuer racing towards the ball (and Higuain), with both clearly in his view, leaving both of his feet to jump/leap directly into Higuain to reach the ball. Goalkeeper training is completely irrelevant here. What seems to be getting lost here is that it is a player's responsibility (according to the laws) to play in a manner that does not threaten injury to another player. It was Neuer's actions that violated the law, not Higuian's. This is exactly why you see some apparently successful slide tackles called as fouls and/or cautioned; it does not matter that the tackling player "got" to the ball first. It only matters that the tackler's actions did not threaten to injure the other player in a careless, reckless or excessive manner.

  1. Bernhard Purk
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 11:12 a.m.
    What Neuer did with his 'raised knee' is what every goalie is trained to do. Not to use it 'as a battering ram', but simply to protect himself, because as a goalie, he is the most vulnerable player on the field. Yes, the collision was 'spectacular' and 'frightening', and yes, the call was wrong. It should have been a throw-in for Argentina, but nothing more.

  1. Charles Stamos
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 1:15 p.m.
    Ric, James, and Kent - you post here often in an intelligent and thought provoking way. What a great topic for debate. This is a charge/block or off vs def pass interference call. There is room in the Laws for the referee to make decisions that are in the best interest of the game. This is one of them - field player safety vs goalkeeper safety. You make the call!

  1. Charles Stamos
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 1:18 p.m.
    I only hope that FIFA does not go overboard and make a rash rule change or board decision. The same goes for the concussion issue. I don't want to see helmets, LOL.

  1. Charles Stamos
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 1:26 p.m.
    The solution in my opinion is to strengthen and enforce the dangerous play infraction rules. This would lead to more indirect free kicks, not the dreaded borderline PK and more yellow cards, not the dreaded red card & lose a star player for 1+ games. Referees would also still red card and award the direct free kick for the dangerous play that is serious foul play.

  1. James Hardern
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 3:01 p.m.
    Bernhard, as I stated, goalkeeper training is irrelevant as to what keepers are trained to do when jumping. I have been trained to kick the ball with my feet, but my feet may also be used threaten injury to another player in a careless, reckless or excessive manner. If I miss the ball and kick an opponent, that is a foul. It does not matter the part of the body that commits the offense or how the player has been trained. All that matters is if he violated a law - which Neuer did when jumped into Higuain.

  1. Kevin Leahy
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 3:16 p.m.
    As a referee, I have no doubt that Neuer committed a cardable foul. Even though, I would have made it a yellow. The German's were the better TEAM but, Howedis (not sure on the spelling) should have been red carded for his studs up tackle to the Argentine player early in the game. He knew he was lucky! Having to play for a long period of time down a player would have been tough for any team @ that level. I am also amazed @ how most of the opinions are so different.

  1. Annie Collins
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 4:37 p.m.
    Would it have made a difference to anyone if the goalie had struck a player with his knee/leg, outside of the box towards the sideline, while the other player was already in motion (sliding and almost on the ground)to kick the ball (player won the ball), striking the player in the face (resulting in a broken jaw)? Or would/could that be considered a 50/50 ball because he is a goalie and ran towards the ball when he saw another player run for it?

  1. Annie Collins
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 4:51 p.m.
    Actually, let me provide a link for the above scenario. You can decide. What should've happened in this case? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWPhSjovSpE

  1. Rich Blast
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 8:17 p.m.
    I agree with Bernhard Purk totally regarding the one play we are all discussing. However complaining and arguing over this one call diminishes what shoulod have been the point of the article, concussion protocols. FIFA needs doctors to determine if a player is allowed to reenter not a coach or player.

  1. soccer talk
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 10:03 p.m.
    Concussion Protocal strengthened by FIFA--YES Player pre reaction test. Head injury - player Does not return until post reaction test aligns With pre test to make sure. Blame the ref after hslow mo analizing from your Cushy couch, absolutely Not. This ref was one Of the best all tournament and if anyone has ever Reffed before would know as such. 50/50 ball In the box and keeper punched ball first with No malice. AR would have waived the flag if there were probable cause or foul. I officiate Basketball as well as soccer and the comment Earlier about a block charge sums it best. It's A judgement call at best and he got it right without Screwing up the game b/c of the sensationalism Of the collision. Should have been Argentine Throw in and definitely no card of any color. Goalies are protected and he made the correct Call as many refs prior. It's called precedent.

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: July 19, 2014 at 11:41 a.m.
    Kent J., sorry, could have, should have, are baseless arguments; Neuer went through the opponent whether with intention or not, it was dangerous and merited a caution under the laws of the game.

  1. Andy Maier
    commented on: July 20, 2014 at 9:35 a.m.
    Nowozeniuk, you said exactly what I was going to say. Higunin had position, was playing the ball, and Neuer went through him. Those are the simple facts. Given the recklessness, it was probably a red. Howedes studs up tackle was also a clear red and not so early in the game to be overlooked. Were Germany the best side if the tourney. Yup. Deserve to win the final? Neither by play nor given these egregious fouls. Football is a serious contact sport but not like these with intent to harm. Players have a right to a CAREER without injury from purposeful, mean-spirited attacks with intent ti injure. Reference Stuart Holden as well. Nicola Rizzoli should never be allowed to officiate an international match again. FIFA must institute liberal concussion policies immediately - provisional substitution while doctors evaluate and even a free substitution when a foul is intentional.

  1. Andy Maier
    commented on: July 20, 2014 at 9:38 a.m.
    James Harden, also very, very we'll assessed!

  1. Rick Estupinan
    commented on: July 20, 2014 at 4:05 p.m.
    I watch the game,and I saw two German players clearly injured,the first one hit by an intentional elbow to The head. The player was obviously dazed,and had to be replaced ten minutes later.The second one Aguero, very violently hit an opponent with a punch to the face,causing a cut under the right eye.You could see blood coming down his eye.That incident was so clear and deliberate,but the 'blind' referee did not see this.Paul doesn't say anything about it.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: July 20, 2014 at 5:57 p.m.
    Neuer does NOT go through Higuain to get the ball (he punches the ball before any contact is made). He goes over Higuain to punch the ball, then Higuain runs into Neuer's knee (which is at head level). If Neuer never leaves his feet and heads the ball instead of punches it (which he might have had time to do, but punching was more efficient, and punching allowed Neuer to avoid most of the collision), and then Higuain's head hits Neuer's shoulder, would we still be having this discussion? If Higuain is a split second slower, his head hits Neuer's thigh (not his knee), which would be a bit better, but not much (the path of Neuer's knee is across Higuain's, not into Higuain's head from the side). Bottom line: Neuer is going hard to the ball, gets there first. Higuain is also going hard to the ball, unaware of Neuer's challenge, so he is unprepared for the collision with Neuer. Neuer did not hit Higuain's head with his knee, Higuain hit Neuer's knee with his head (obviously not on purpose). This was not (as is often the case) where the offensive player is going straight up to the ball, and the keeper launches himself through the offensive player to get to it (which is the sort of leeway often given keepers, which I agree is wrong). In this case, both players were moving horizontally very quickly, and their paths crossed. That is not inherently dangerous on Neuer's part any more than it is on Higuain's; the players are equally at fault for the collision. In other words, this was incidental contact. Here's a good clip that shows what you need to see. http://gfycat.com/InfantileWigglyAmazondolphin (don't know why it has a strange html).

  1. Ginger Peeler
    commented on: July 20, 2014 at 10:13 p.m.
    Rick, you need to watch the footage of that first incident again. Christoph Kramer unfortunately ran full tilt into the shoulder of the Argentinian. There was NO "intentional elbow". Yes, he was groggy and he obviously could no longer focus when helped off the field by two medics (?). He has no recollection of his time on the field. A travesty that he was allowed to continue to play after going down initially.

  1. Rick Estupinan
    commented on: July 21, 2014 at 5:50 p.m.
    Well,thanks for the correction,unfortunately,because of technical problems I was not able to record the games.But I have a problem with PG,for trying to accused the German players of rudeness ,when in certain occasions was the opposite.

  1. Kevin Kelly
    commented on: July 22, 2014 at 7:16 p.m.
    Well as with most things in life, it is a matter of interpretation and despite lots of video angles smart people on here still disagree. The one thing most agree on is no foul on Higuain. I think the referee could not see that he was only looking at the ball. From behind him it may have looked like he meant to disrupt Neuer (although the assistant had a good view). I think the nastiness of the collision was just chance. A few inches this way or that way and it could have been innocuous. Farther up the thread someone compared this to De Jong's challenge on Alonso in the 2010 final. That's just ludicrous. www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZmHrWUEx2U P.S. If it was a Latin keeper running into any European player PG would be railing against the field player. Yeah, Paul, that predictable.


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