Spanish jinx is over

[SPAIN-PARAGUAY] Spain reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first time, but it wasn't easy. It needed a goal from David Villa -- his tournament-high fifth -- in the 83rd minute to beat upstart Paraguay, 1-0.

What we liked ...

-- Villa scored in his fourth straight game -- all wins -- completing a play that began with some beautiful combination play in midfield: Andres Iniesta to Cesc Fabregas to Xavi with a back heel to Iniesta, who broke through the heart of the staunch Paraguayan defense and fed Pedro, who struck the ball off goalie Justo Villar's right post. Villa picked up the rebound and his shot hit Villar's left post and then off the right before rolling into the goal.

--  Goalie Iker Casillas saved the day for Spain. He not only stopped Oscar Cardozo's penalty kick to keep the score 0-0 but he made a double save late in the game, stopping a shot by Lucas Barrios before punching away Roque Santa Cruz’s shot from the rebound.

(Casillas said backup goalie Pepe Reina tipped him off that Cardozo would shot to his left. Cardozo twice beat Reina to Reina's left during Benfica's 2-1 win over Liverpool last season.)

What we didn't like ...

-- Guatemalan referee Carlos Batres -- familiar to American fans for his work in Concacaf -- and his crew had their hands full in an incident-filled match. Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino complained Nelson Valdez's first-half goal was unfairly called off for offside. On the second penalty, the Spaniards complained that Antolin Alcaraz should have been given a red card instead of yellow for hauling down Villa.

On Xabi Alonso's first attempt, Batres called off the goal for encroachment -- in what appeared to be a makeup call. Several Spaniards moved into the area early, but at least two Spaniards, Sergio Ramos and Fabregas, had also been in the area early on Cardozo's attempt. After Villar stopped Xabi Alonso's second attempt, he appeared to take down Fabregas for a penalty before Sergio Ramos' shot was cleared off the line.

-- Martino, who claimed he was expecting an apology from FIFA for the decisions that went against the Albirroja in the game, had only his team's anemic attack to blame for its ouster.  Paraguay didn't score in its last three games and finished with only three goals in five games.

19 comments about "Spanish jinx is over".
  1. Alan Crosson, July 3, 2010 at 8:56 p.m.

    It looks like ESPN/ABC are at it again with their offside calls. First the debacle with Ekuku and the first game of the tournament, now it's Valdez' goal/no goal. ESPN tried their best to say that Cardozo's attempt to head the ball meant he WAS interfering with play, unfortunately guys he had to touch it to do that (see FIFA Guidance for Referees supplement). The AR should have delayed his flag to see whether Cardozo played the ball, then made his decision. Poor Paraguay, poor US public - misinformed by ignorant telecasts again. When will they learn.

  2. Mark Daniels, July 4, 2010 at 2:31 a.m.

    Alan, you're incorrect in your assessment. The FIFA rules (even in the Guidance for Referees) state that the player does NOT have to touch the ball to be guilty of an offside infraction. There are 3 elements, according the rules, in which an official can judge "active involvement" of a player in an offside position. One of the three is "interfering with an opponent," and this is exactly what Cardozo did, intentionally or not. According to the laws of the game, a player who is in an offside position when the ball is played toward him by a teammate and who, in the opinion of the referee, attracts the attention of the opponent, drawing the opponent into pursuit, is guilty of interfering with an opponent. Because the Spanish defender had to account for Cardozo's attempt to head the ball, he was correctly identified as committing a violation by both the officials AND the commentators.

  3. Alan Crosson, July 4, 2010 at 7:17 a.m.

    Mark, please don't get confused by USSOCCER's interpretation of the Laws and what FIFA actually teaches. You've quoted text from USSF's book written as guidance to USA referees which has no jurisdiction in FIFA events like the WC. This text does not appear in FIFA's Guidance to Referee publication, in fact FIFA makes it quite clear. And the offense is OFFSIDE not offsides.

  4. Aldo Baietti, July 4, 2010 at 7:54 a.m.

    you mean.. it reached the "semifinal"?

  5. Gus Keri, July 4, 2010 at 9:07 a.m.

    Alan..The laws of the game from FIFA says: "A player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball
    touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee,
    involved in active play by:
    • interfering with play or
    • interfering with an opponent or
    • gaining an advantage by being in that position"...Cardozo's attempt to head the ball is intefering with the play.

  6. Gus Keri, July 4, 2010 at 9:09 a.m.

    you can find it here:

  7. Gus Keri, July 4, 2010 at 9:11 a.m.

    I can't believe how it came out. Can't socceramerica make their blogs work better?

  8. Mark Daniels, July 4, 2010 at 9:19 a.m.

    Alan, let me see if I have this straight. In your first comment, you wrote in parentheses, "see FIFA Guidance for Referees supplement." I looked it up in that supplement. That is exactly where I got my information. The fact is that the AR correctly interpreted Cardozo as interfering with the opponent. You can spin it any way you want, but the rules are pretty clear that the player does not need to touch the ball to be whistled. Finally, I reread my comment and don't see where I wrote offsides. If I did, please understand that I wrote that comment at 2:30 in the morning and was a little tired at the time. Sorry if I mistyped.

  9. Kerry Ogden, July 4, 2010 at 9:30 a.m.

    Paraguay looked to be the better team in this match-up. It would have been nice to see them go through. I hope alot of the problems with refing that have plagued this World Cup Tournament somehow get resolved now and not the day before the next world cup, if we have one.
    Spain is one of those's teams that really didn't impress me during all stages of this World Cup, Luck was on their side lastnight.

  10. I w Nowozeniuk, July 4, 2010 at 1:39 p.m.

    Villar 'appeared to take down Fabergas' is is not an illusion, but fact. How ref, Batres, got selected for the WC is a mystery. We, in the USA know him well...INCOMPETENT.

  11. Fernando Paz, July 4, 2010 at 2:01 p.m.

    In reality the score Paraguay 2-1 Spain
    everyone thinks spains win was legit cause they are all on the Spanish bandwagon. Spain=POOP

  12. Tom Jedrzejewicz, July 5, 2010 at 11:58 a.m.

    Regarding the disallowed Valdez goal .. the offside call was correct. When Cardozo attempted to play the ball he became active. The determining factor is that the defense was guarding him. If Cardozo was not being guarded, would Valdez have had the space to control the ball and score? No. So there was advantage from Cardozo being in offside position, and the goal was correctly waved off.

  13. Tom Jedrzejewicz, July 5, 2010 at 12:02 p.m.

    Regarding the encroachment .. Batres got it right on the Spain penalty, but should have called it on the Paraguay penalty as well. There was blatant Spanish encroachment, and it was missed!

  14. Tom Jedrzejewicz, July 5, 2010 at 12:10 p.m.

    Regarding the non-call when Villar took down Fabregas .. I think it worked out properly. Certainly, Villar took Fabregas down. But the ball bounced to Sergio Ramos in point blank position, and Ramos bricked it. Whether intentionally or not, advantage was played, and didn't work out for Spain. That's our game. It looks to me that Batres and the assistant were screened by the 15 or so players in the box.

  15. Corey Zimmerman, July 5, 2010 at 2:52 p.m.

    Tom J., please dont think for a minute that advantage even entered the referee's mind when Villar took down Fabregas. No, this ref was to busy getting hung up on the technicality of encroachment to bother w/being in a position to call a penalty on Villar. WHat a shme b/c I thought he showed tremendous courage and vision in catching Pique's takedown of the Paraguayan for the 1st pk. He then discredited himself by focusing on "encraochment" instead of carefully watching Villar blow out Fabregas' leg. If the ref got screened off the call then so be it. But dont claim its all fair b/c Ramos got a chance to put in a rebound and therefore advantage was correctly played. Ramos didnt brick it, the shot was on goal and was excellently cleared off the line by a defender. Maybe you were screened off the play as well.

  16. Alan Crosson, July 6, 2010 at 9:45 a.m.

    Hey guys, thanks for the comments. I think ESPN's article at explains it far better than I can with a few lines here. Cheers.

  17. Alan Crosson, July 6, 2010 at 9:48 a.m.

    The crux of the matter is at what level of the game your refereeing training comes from. Like Roberts (ESPN guy) I've too undergone FIFA level training, it's true, at lower levels you are taught a wider 'active area', but at Pro/international level that area is shrunk dramatically, to the point of touching the ball or not. I questioned a US based national assessor immediately after the game, he concurred that the goal was valid 'at that level'. An interesting rider to add..

  18. Mark Daniels, July 7, 2010 at 2:47 a.m.

    Alan, after reading the article you cited, I went back and watch the play over and over and over again. Here are two final observations I will make on the subject. First, I am not 100% convinced that Valdez was not in an offside position when the ball was played. I was pretty sure that he wasn't before I went back to look, but having stopped the footage and watched in frame by frame, there are a couple of angles where I can see an official placing him in an offside position. Again, I am not basing my argument that the call was correct on Valdez being offside, but I wouldn't be so sure that he wasn't. That said, I want to address the article that you cite. Mr. Roberts offers a clear and well researched explanation of the offside rule and the play in contention. However, his description of the play leaves out a factor that renders the rest of his discussion moot. He describes in some detail why Cardozo could not and did not distract Sergio Busquets, the Spanish defender. While I am not convinced that such an argument is valid, it is immaterial if you consider that Busquets was not the original Spanish defender responsible for Cardozo. That defender was Gerard Piqué, who stepped toward Cardozo before realizing that the ball could reach Valdez. Because he was forced (by Cardozo's attempt on the ball) to account for two offensive players, Piqué could easily be said to be distracted by the player who was in an offside position. Therefore, again, I concur with the AR who made the call that the goal should not have been allowed.

    All of this said, I think we must take into account that we have the benefit of replays from a plethora of angles, slow motion, stop frame technology, etc., that the AR did not have. He made a judgment based on what he saw on the field at that split second. I do not mean to justify some of the egregious mistakes that the officials have made in this World Cup (See England and Mexico!), but this situation is not as clear cut as those. Here, the official actually made the split second judgment and got it correct.

  19. Mark Daniels, July 7, 2010 at 2:58 a.m.

    One other point...

    Touching the ball or not touching the ball is not the be all or end all of the offside rule...even at the level you describe. There are simply too many factors that can contribute to an official making an offside judgment to render the entire decision moot depending on whether or not a player has actually made contact with the ball. That oversimplifies it beyond any rational reasoning. I, too, have taken the FIFA training for officials, and I have also played at that level. I can tell you from both of those perspectives (as well as the third aspect I have under my belt: coaching) that the offside rule is vague and ambiguous at best, and it is often left to the official to decide what constitutes an active player from a passive player in different situations. FIFA, with all of their training and classroom scenarios, cannot escape that real life, game speed decision making calls for human interpretation. Mr. Roberts, and many others like him, are very skilled in quoting and interpreting the Laws of the Game (and even their history), but he ignores the human side of the equation.

    I apologize for belaboring the point, and I wish you the best in your continued enjoyment of the Cup games. I hope that you are as enthralled by the drama as I am as we approach the final.

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