Wambach's 'arm' goal; Why no red for LePeilbet?

[REF WATCH] The USA's goal against Sweden came after Abby Wambach struck the ball into the net from her upper arm. Should it have counted? And why did Amy LePeilbet escape with only a yellow card?

We asked referee Randy Vogt, the author of "Preventive Officiating," for his take:

“The ball hit off Abby Wambach's upper arm,” Vogt says. “But I believe that it was a valid goal as any handling was not deliberate -- so good non-call by the ref Etsuko Fukano.”

Indeed, the rulebook states that, “Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm.” Which means a player can score with the hand or arm if it’s not on purpose.

The USA got a break when Fukano showed LePeilbet a yellow card instead of a red card for her foul on Lotta Schelin that gave Sweden the penalty kick for its first goal in its 2-1 win.

LePeilbet denied Schelin an "obvious goalscoring opportunity" because, says Vogt, the four D's were present:

* Number of Defenders: Only keeper Hope Solo was closer to the goal line.

* Distance to the ball: Schelin was playing the ball

* Distance to the goal: Near goal as it was inside the penalty area.

* Direction: Schelin was headed directly to the goal.

Vogt adds that, “A referee giving a penalty kick and a red card on the same play can obviously have a great impact on the game. The ref must first decide a penal foul was committed inside the penalty area, then that all four D's were present, in a little more than a nanosecond. That's part of what makes refereeing so challenging.

“I cannot think of any other sport in which a referee has so much power, and pressure, as the penalty kick and red card combination can have an enormous impact on who wins and loses.”

The USA fought for an equalizer until the very end but was lucky that what would have been the third Swedish goal -- early in stoppage time -- was judged to be offside. It was relatively close, notes Vogt, but the replay confirmed that Schelin, who scored it, was onside when the pass was made.

20 comments about "Wambach's 'arm' goal; Why no red for LePeilbet?".
  1. Eric Shinn, July 7, 2011 at 7:53 a.m.

    Frankly, I think it's utter nonsense that only women referees are being used for this tournament. Just because it is women playing, why do the refs also have to be? Shouldn't the important factor be competence, not gender? I'm a huge USA fan, but despite the fact that both of these major blunders went in the US's favor, they shouldn't have happened. On the field, it's right that the men and women have separate teams. But the referee should simply be the best available ref, REGARDLESS of gender.

  2. Heather Scott-molleda, July 7, 2011 at 8:28 a.m.

    Totally disagree. The ref made the right call because the defender in fact kicked the ball away before committing the foul, so there was no obvious goal scoring opportunity (the attacker did not have the ball). But it was a PK and a yellow. And I think FIFA is right on in using only women. How else will we be able to develop women refs? It's not like there haven't been gaffes in the men's games.

  3. Brent Crossland, July 7, 2011 at 8:37 a.m.

    The gender of the referee is irrelevant. Everyone can and will make errors.

    The next big hurdle for FIFA is to start using the best referees at the biggest competitions -- regardless of gender. The referee doing the final (regardless of gender) should have the best AR's (regardless of gender).

  4. John Toutkaldjian, July 7, 2011 at 9:06 a.m.

    When is FIFA going to wake up and allow a team to replace a player who has been sent off. Think of the pressure it would remove from referees. Since the consequences to a team would not be so severe, they might be more willing to "control" the game, as it were. The player sent off can be more harshly penalized for a direct red card infraction (not two yellows). For example, expulsion from the tournament; four game suspension in league competition; plus, fines.

  5. Scott Baxter, July 7, 2011 at 9:13 a.m.

    definately a foul in the box, but the ball had been played away by the attacker, so the ball was no longer within playing distance. ITOTR.

  6. Kent James, July 7, 2011 at 9:52 a.m.

    I agree with John; would the game have been better served if the US had played a man down? I think not. Allowing an ejected player to be replaced (if a team still has subs) would make referees less hesitant to punish disruptive players (protecting those who want to play skillfully) without punishing a team (and encouraging them to "bunker in"). Although Randy Vogt is right that the foul fit the requirements of a red card, I don't think a red card would be just (it was a clumsy challenge, not a cynical one). I thought the referee was very good, regardless of gender (and those offside calls were exceptionally close). The same AR made an exceptionally good call in the first half (that the commentators failed to note) on a US cross that went past a US player who was onside (and a few defenders) to a US player who had been just offside; she kept her flag down as the ball went by the first US player (who I think was the intended target) but as it got to the player who had been offside, put her flag up. It's easy to criticize referees when they get things wrong, but they should also be commended for getting things right.

  7. Brent Crossland, July 7, 2011 at 10:24 a.m.

    I disagree with the idea of always allowing teams to replace a player who has been sent off. In the case of DGSO this will simply lead to an increase in "take downs" in the PA. What does the team have to lose if I can simply trot another enforcer . . . errr, I mean defender in off the bench?

  8. Ian Plenderleith, July 7, 2011 at 10:54 a.m.

    The law may state that handball has to be "a deliberate act", but that's as hard for referees to interpret as it is for them to interpret fouls as careless, reckless or dangerous. For example, if Wambach had jumped for the ball with her arms stretched out in an attempt to gain height, and the ball had deflected in off her arm, you can guarantee the ref would have disallowed it, regardless of Wambach's intentions. The argument then is that, by 'making herself big', she deliberately handballed. But that's like saying - she possesses two arms, therefore she deliberately handballed it. Players can't play with their hands permanently tied behind their backs, and it makes a mockery of the 'ball to hand/hand to ball' guidelines. As usual, the official guidelines are hopeless, and all the advice you hear from the top end of the game either contradicts the laws or the experts contradict themselves. Oh, and I'm sure the ref allowed it because she didn't actually see it, like the rest of us (I thought it was an own goal until I saw the replay).

  9. Ramon Creager, July 7, 2011 at 11:07 a.m.

    I agree with Randy Vogt on his analysis. I am however willing to give the referee the benefit of the doubt on the possible red card on the DOGSO. The 4 "D"s were all there. But I like the fairness and justice that can result from the human element that the referee brings to the proceedings. I think her decision was fair and just. LePeilbet was trying to make a play; her actions were not cynical, just clumsy. Contrast this to the overly harsh and game-changing decision made by the Finnish referee in the Germany-France game.

    I am far less willing to be generous with the blown offsides call on Shelin that cost her a goal. It wasn't the only wrong offsides call by that AR, but it was easily the worst: Shelin was on by a good yard when the ball was passed to her. An excellent play was wiped out by an over-eager AR.

  10. Ramon Creager, July 7, 2011 at 11:16 a.m.

    Ian, the ball first was redirected by a Swedish player's head very close to Wambach. It was so close that the arm-ball clearly was inadvertent, as Wambach would not have had any time to react, and her arms were clearly not in an unnatural position. I've no doubt the referee saw it; she was well positioned. While I agree that the guidelines are difficult and ambiguous, this one was an easy call, I think.

  11. Ian Plenderleith, July 7, 2011 at 11:31 a.m.

    Indeed, I agree the goal probably should have stood: was just using it to bring attention to the inconsistencies surrounding the handball laws in general.

  12. Bill Richter, July 7, 2011 at 11:50 a.m.

    @ Ian: Don't confuse the words "deliberate" and "intentional".
    As referred to in LOTG, deliberate means that there was an action on the part of a player that was not accidental. To judge intent would require the referee to "read the mind" of the player to determine what they wanted to accomplish by the deliberate action they took. Example: Player A collides with player B, knocking player B to the ground. As player B falls to the ground, they extend their arm to cushion their fall, and the ball is played past them and hits their arm. No call for handling, as the extension of the arm to cushion the fall is an instinctual response, not a deliberate one. If Wambach had jumped in the air with arms outstretched, that would be a deliberate move. The referee would not have to judge whether her INTENT was to gain more height or to handle the ball, as the raising of the arms was a deliberate movement and the handling occurred only because she raised her arms.

  13. John Munnell, July 7, 2011 at 12:12 p.m.

    I've been considering the idea of allowing replacement for dismissed players. Sadly, I think Brent is correct --- we would develop a culture of "enforcers", like in hockey.

  14. P Van, July 7, 2011 at 12:31 p.m.

    What thing to be sure to be appreciated about the women's game and women refereeing--fair play, cleaner play, little to no arguing with the ref, sportsmanship--imagine smiling at your opponent and looking them in the eye as you shake each and every hand. Refreshing!

  15. Austin Gomez, July 7, 2011 at 2 p.m.

    In general, as in all Sports, Referees/Officials/Umpires make MISTAKES: that's the "Nature of the Sport." But remember that Players/Coaches make many more than the Officials.

    Hopefully, the Mistakes/Errors/Misjudgements, that are issued, are not CRUCIAL - CRITICAL - or CONTROVERSIAL for the sake of the concerned Officials: "The Ultimate

  16. Eric Shinn, July 7, 2011 at 2:01 p.m.

    Shoulda been more clear...The two errors I was referring to were the offsides call and the yellow-over-red call. The Abby goal was an inadvertent handball, and I think the right call was made on that one (not because the ref correctly judged it, but because she failed to see it at all, IMO). But as I said before, the referees should be the best available, REGARDLESS of gender.

  17. P Van, July 7, 2011 at 4:07 p.m.

    Eric: Actually, I disagree with "the best available referees" idea. I think it's entirely appropriate for women to referee the women's World Cup and for men to handle the men's tourney--the "best available"; how are you ever going to figure that out?! Either you're qualified or not with the proper licensing and you prove your competence over time with opportunities. Since there's respective men's and women's WCups at regular equal intervals it seems entirely "fair."

  18. Ramon Creager, July 7, 2011 at 5:14 p.m.

    With respect to replacing red-carded players: I think we could entirely sidestep this issue if we adopted the Rugby Union "sin bin" for yellow cards (you sit out 10 minutes, no replacement). Then yellow cards would have more bite, and refs wouldn't have to resort to red cards except for the violent stuff. And you could be rid of yellow-card accumulations. Why should the next opponent benefit? It is your current opponent that is aggrieved!

    @Ric: yes, I refereed, both center and AR. It is not easy. And while you don't have the benefit of replays you'd be surprised at how much you can see when you're close to the action and you know what to look for, especially if (like me) you've played all your life. That's why I'm convinced that the ref did see the Wambach "arm" goal, and did apply the Laws correctly, and not by chance. Give her credit. I think she had a great game.

  19. Ian Plenderleith, July 7, 2011 at 5:27 p.m.

    @ Bill Richter. Yes, I get the dubious semantic distinction between 'deliberate' and 'intentional' in soccer world (wonder how they translate that distinction into all the FIFA countries' languages), but it's playing fast with the language, and it's not something explained by the laws, only something that has to be interpreted by referees. To me, the 'making yourself big' explanation is unsatisfactory, and is used to get around the ambiguously expressed law rather than properly explain it. For example, at our last re-certification we were shown a USSF video of an MLS game where a ref didn't award a PK after the ball was blasted from close range at a defender's arm. For me, he had no way of escaping that shot, so not deliberate. USSF verdict: should have been a PK for 'making himself bigger', though none of the attacking team even appealed (first law of reffing, common sense, says that if even the players don't think it's a PK, it probably wasn't). So defenders, the entire time in the penalty area, should play with their hands behind their backs? Although you see them do it if facing an opponent one-on-one, it's nonsense to expect them to play in that stance the whole time just in case a point blank shot hits them on the arm. Possible solutions: 1. make all handballs an offense, like it or not; 2. be clearer on what 'deliberate' actually means in the LOTG, rather than twisting the English language (preferably losing the word 'deliberate'); 3. make only handball with intent an offense.

  20. Kent James, July 8, 2011 at 6:48 p.m.

    I've always thought that the "deliberate" vs "intentional" change was silly (and Ian's comment about translating that fine distinction into the many languages in FIFA is amusing to even think about!). The distinction between the hand playing the ball v the ball playing the hand is very helpful, but needs the qualifier that the arms must be in a natural position. Essentially it boils down to "is the player trying to cheat by using his/her arms?" If not, a player should not be penalized simply for having arms (even if the ball strikes them and that prevents or scores a goal). While the wording was changed so that referees are not required to judge intent, good referees certainly consider intent (as best they can see it) because the players certainly do. Players are less likely to retaliate against a player who inadvertently kicks an opponent than one who intentionally (or deliberately, if you prefer!) does so. Failure to deal with a player who is intentionally cheating (or trying to injure other players) will lead to a game that degenerates pretty quickly.
    As for allowing a sub for an ejected player leading to designated thugs, while that may happen, I think there would be ways to deal with that if it did (extensive bans, e.g.). But I think with limited subs (not the case in hockey), coaches would be reluctant to have "enforcers" who got ejected force them to burn the sub. If it really became an issue, maybe a penalty kick could be awarded to the opposing team for any ejection that denied a goal-scoring opportunity, even if the foul were not in the box (that would certainly reduce the likelihood that players would tolerate ejections for tactical reasons). While that may put a lot of discretion in the hands of the referee, they already have that in determining the color of the card, so it would not be too different. I just think ejections (even when they're the right call) ruin too many competitive games, and fear of ruining the game discourages refs from ejecting players (even when they deserve it).

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