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July, 2010


The controversial and split-second brilliance of Luis Suarez's handball during the Uruguay-Ghana World Cup match.
For what it's worth I fall on the side of Luis Suarez's handball that thinks it's one of the more brilliant plays I've ever seen in sports. In case you missed it, it came in the last minute of extra time between Uruguay and Ghana. After two rebounds Ghana had a clear shot at goal and Suarez stuck his hand up and pulled it down before it could cross the line. He was immediately given a red card, ejecting him from the game, and Ghana was given a penalty kick, which they went on to miss. Extra time ended a minute later and Uruguay won on penalty kicks 4-2. Here's The Wall Street Journal on the play:
How likely was it to pay off? Two of Ghana’s five goals at the World Cup had come from the foot of Asamoah Gyan on penalty kicks, and he hadn’t missed yet. But two kicks hardly are a big sample size. Before he stepped into the box, players had made nine of 12 penalty kicks at this World Cup. (That’s not counting the penalty shootout between Paraguay and Japan, because teams can assign their best penalty taker to take penalties during games.) That’s still not much to go on. A study of 1,417 penalty kicks taken in top European leagues found that 80.1% were successful — though the rate went down to 73.3% in the final 10 minutes of games, perhaps because fatigue affects penalty takers more than goalkeepers. Another study of 459 penalty shots taken in European leagues found a success rate of 74.9%. (Thanks to Advanced NFL Stats for the links.)
Lots of folks are calling what he did cheating, but I'm not sure I see that. Yes, it is against the rules, but so is pulling a player down who is making a clear and open run at goal and that happens. To compare it a handball that goes uncalled and leads to a goal (as AP writer John Leicester did) just seems absurd. The only argument I'll buy on this one is that FIFA needs to change the rule to make goals like this stand (making it a call like goaltending). Otherwise to me it seemed like a brilliant split second decision between going home and giving your team another, albeit incredibly slim, chance to win the game.
July 3, 2010
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