Call or no call, Korean team was to blameHere in Korea, the story of Switzerland’s 2-0 victory over Korea early Saturday, Korean time, was not about how the Swiss reached the round of 16 for the first time since 1994 or how Korea was eliminated by the loss, failing to duplicate its magical run to the semifinal berth in 2002.
Instead, the story was about how the Argentinean referee Horacio Elizondo dealt with the second goal by the Swiss, which came in a disputed play that was initially called an offside by an assistant referee who was overruled by Elizondo.
The goal came in the 77th minute, when the Swiss forward Alexander Frei got possession of the ball inside the Korean penalty box. Assistant referee Dario Garcia raised the flag to signal an offside violation, and Korea’s defenders stopped running, thinking that play would be halted.
But Elizondo never blew the whistle, and Frei rounded Korean goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae for an easy score. Korean protests were to no avail. Elizondo consulted with Garcia on the play, but the goal stood.
“The defenders saw that the linesman had raised his flag, so we stopped playing,” Park Ji-sung told Reuters. “But the referee continued the play. I asked the linesman why he put his flag up but he just said I should carry on. He did nothing. I’m very upset about the situation.”
There are different interpretations of the matter. Some international media outlets claimed the referee was correct because the ball had deflected off Korea’s Lee Ho before ending up at Frei’s feet. Ian Holyman of Eurosport, a French sports Web site, wrote, “Though Frei was standing in an offside position as he received the ball, it was deflected into his path off a Korean leg ―Argentine ref Horacio Elizondo was quite correct to ignore the furor and overrule his hapless assistant.”
FIFA’s Laws of the Game 2006, however, say otherwise. Under the rules, a play is called offside when a player in the offside position gains an advantage, which is defined in part as “playing a ball that rebounds off an opponent after having been in an offside position.”
The call may have been a bad one, but the bottom line is that Korea didn’t help its own cause. The defenders should not have assumed that play was dead without hearing the referee’s whistle. Had the score remained 1-0 without that controversial goal, Korea still would have been eliminated from the first round. Simply put, Korea needed to score and didn’t.
By the nature of their work, officials and referees in sports become known for calls they miss, since their job is to be making “good” calls all the time. You never hear about how a baseball umpire called a great game, but he will make headlines if, for instance, he blows a call at home plate.
Elizondo has generated his share of headlines ― for all the wrong reasons.
by Yoo Jee-ho