Plain and simple -- England deserved its win over Denmark

In the American Twittersphere and punditocracy, all of the conversation regarding England’s 2-1 win over Denmark has revolved around one supposedly controversial play, the penalty call when Raheem Sterling  was fouled in the penalty area in  overtime.

Yes, by the letter of the Laws of the Game, he was fouled.

You can argue it was a “soft” foul if you like. More preposterous is the notion that the foul shouldn’t have been called because Sterling is apparently “looking” for the foul. If he was “looking” for the foul, Denmark’s defenders (both of them) should’ve been smart enough not to give it to him. Besides, if Sterling hadn’t stumbled, intentionally or not, this would’ve been an even clearer foul.

It’s not up to the referee to determine an attacker’s intent when contact is made. And it’s not up to VAR to second-guess a judgment call and say it was too “soft.”

You can argue that Denmark was unlucky in that situation. Perhaps. But their luck evened out. Denmark was lucky not to concede an earlier penalty when Harry Kane was tripped in the second half.

Also, Denmark was perhaps a little lucky that no whistle blew when their attackers moved toward the England wall on their free-kick goal, though (A) it’s unclear whether they got within a yard of England’s wall and (B) that infraction is called about as often as the goalkeeper holding the ball for six seconds, and no one wants a replay of the 2012 Olympic women’s semifinal. IFAB added that rule in 2019, and I can’t remember ever seeing it called.

Also, Denmark was perhaps a little lucky that no whistle blew when Kasper Schmeichel picked up a clear backpass in the third minute.

But most of all, Denmark was perhaps a little lucky to be in the game at all, having parked the bus for the last hour and ending up with a measly 0.20 xG to England’s 3.22.

So when pondering whether Denmark was robbed, consider this question: What did they do to deserve a victory? And if we want to see attacking soccer, shouldn’t we be glad that, given enough time, teams that do nothing but defend eventually see their luck run out?

Instead, people are so intent on taking the win away from England that even German referee expert Manuel Gräfe, cited in Ian Plenderleith’s semifinal recap, has neglected to consider the rules on outside interference when discussing the “two balls on the field” incident.

If anything, the stray ball affected the attacker. But if the attacker continues on with the ball, then it’s hard to argue the “interference” part of “outside interference,” and the rules are quite clear that the referee should allow play to continue.

You can also argue that some of England’s fans don’t deserve a winning team. Whoever pointed a laser at Schmeichel’s face should get a prison term and a lifetime ban from attending a soccer match. But even if England can find the fan in question, they still have to answer charges on fireworks. And isn’t it about time the English tradition of booing the opposing national anthem follows Mexican fans’ homophobic utterance into the ash heap of history?

But England’s players deserve the win. Only Schmeichel’s brilliance could keep them at bay, and you can’t count on your goalkeeper all day. See Tim Howard vs. Belgium.

In soccer, even more so than in other sports, the deserving team doesn’t always win. In this European semifinal, with all due respect to a Danish team that overcame the trauma of Christian Eriksen’s on-field brush with death to make a delightful run to the final week of play, it did.

15 comments about "Plain and simple -- England deserved its win over Denmark".
  1. Chris Wasdyke, July 10, 2021 at 2:52 p.m.

    It was not and should not have been a penalty.  England has played terrible and has made to to the final despite having Southgate as their coach.  The whole tournament has been set up for them.  No travel, weakest side of the bracket.  It's like UEFA was desperate for England to be in the final.

  2. R2 Dad replied, July 11, 2021 at 10:10 a.m.

    I believe a lot of western europe is still in lock-down, so the pandemic had something to do with the Wembley selection. The UK allowed these matches and half-full stadia (2 of the 7 locations in western europe), which is better for UEFA pocketbooks instead of no fans. It was there or far eastern europe locations (4 of 11 sites). Rome had a knockout match.

  3. Cool Dudes, July 10, 2021 at 5:14 p.m.

    I can not in any way shape or form, understand the drivel in this article.  Contact in itself is absolutely not a foul and is fact part of the game by the letter of the law.  Throwing yourself into contact and diving is unsporting behavior and by the letter of the law, is penalized with a yellow card.  To say "by the letter of the Law" its a penalty is straight up ignorance.  To say that England "deserved to win" on a 1:1 game where the only difference is a dive that fooled the referee is just about the dumbest thing I've ever read.

  4. R2 Dad replied, July 11, 2021 at 10:16 a.m.

    Because of the contact, the ref couldn't give a card for diving. Because it wasn't clear and obvious, VAR couldn't/didn't/wouldn't overturn. So while contact is legal, and the first bit of contact was minimal...and a hip-check is not a foul, all bets are off inside the 18. Yes it was weak. But officials do NOT want to give a crucial, game-changing penality (see kane non-pen earlier). These marginal calls infuriate fans, but FIFA has been unable to write LOTG that make these decisions more clear-cut, and I don't think it's possible.

  5. Wayne Norris, July 10, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.

    Okay, so let's consider all "contact" a PK from now on!! 

    This call was awful....bottom line. You know Sterling "looks for it" so make sure he is really hit before you call that.

    I can't believe a ref at that level fell for it....

    And now this writer......

  6. R2 Dad replied, July 11, 2021 at 10:17 a.m.

    Had you been the ref, with the whistle in your hand--you might have done the same thing. Very, very fine margins. Eveyone wishes that wasn't the case, but no one was hoodwinked.

  7. Goal Goal, July 10, 2021 at 8:05 p.m.

    Call it what you want.  I wasn't there to see it up close but it certainly wasn't obvious.  From my view it was not.

    Did England deserve to win in semifinal of one of the biggest tourneys in the soccer.  You be the judge.  They played a team that wasn't supposed to make it through and the results of England's efforts was an own goal and a questionable penalty.  Doesn't sound like much to me.  What is England going to do with Italy?  I pick Italy.

    They played the majority of the tourney in their own back yard.

  8. R2 Dad replied, July 11, 2021 at 10:23 a.m.

    Southgate has followed a familiar path, after studying previous winners Greece & Portugal: good defense wins the Euros. So he's gone with a sturdy defense with defensive double pivots, so catching the opponent asleep with a ball over the top is still the preferred MO for Southgate. He's put one of his best pure dribblers on the bench all tourney, so parking in the attacking 3rd with Sancho/Sterling/Foden overlapping in the 18 commits too many players forward re: counterattack. I'm not forcasting a scintillating final.

  9. Kent James, July 10, 2021 at 10:48 p.m.

    Beau, I agree with your assessment of the game (England was the better team) and the penalty; Sterling was hit from each side by two different players, neither of whom got the ball.  Contact is not a penalty, but if I knock your leg and that makes you stumble, it's a penalty.  Sterling may have been looking for a penalty (and I am not a fan of players doing that), but if there is enough there to make it a foul, even if they're looking for it, you've got to call it.  In real time it looked like a clear foul, which is what the referee called.  Under VAR it was not as clear, but also not a clear error, so the call appropriately stood.

    I think the ref got the call against Kane right as well.  The Danish player got his foot between Kane's foot and the ball, while the ball was within playing distance.  To me, he's sheilding the ball (since he is able to play the ball with that foot, except that Kane kicked him). Had the Danish player's foot been facing away from the ball (so that he could not play it), it would be a trip.  

    The Dane's had a great free kick, played some excellent defense, and their keeper made some superb saves, but the better team won.  

  10. beautiful game, July 11, 2021 at 10:10 a.m.

    9.0 flop and VAR confirmed it. Yes, England was the better side on the day, but the PK was VAR gifted. 

  11. R2 Dad replied, July 11, 2021 at 10:26 a.m.

    I think UEFA officiating has been pretty good through the tournament, with this call being what everyone would consider "unfortunate". Denmark would have preferred to lose on a goal from open play rather than that pen (said their coach).

  12. George Miller, July 11, 2021 at 10:57 a.m.

    When you dive as iften as Sterling and he goes down yet again with a game changing fall. The lack of clarity
    that he was actually touched is always in question

  13. James Madison, July 12, 2021 at 12:45 a.m.

    A hip check is not a foul?  A fair charge is shoulder-to-shoulder.  Shoving a player over with the hip doesn't come close to what constitutes a fair charge.  Between the trip which put Sterling off balance and the follow-on hi-shove, the CR's judgment of penalty was right, and the VAR correctly did not overrule him.  If, as in the Kane case, he had judged no penalty because it did ot affect play, that decision would also have been upheld by VAR.

  14. jim broshar, July 12, 2021 at 12:54 p.m.

    "Euro 21, semifinals: And with one final dive, England makes the final!"


  15. Zsolt Bertalan, July 17, 2021 at 3:30 p.m.

    Anyone thinking it was a foul,does not understand the game. Football did not go home,it went to Rome. End of discussion. 

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