Worst Piece of Refereeing of the Tournament

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No, not the goal line debacle in the England-Germany game, nor the various bizarro sendings off — and I’ll admit I won’t count the disallowed goal against the U.S. because the ref has never made clear what infringement he was calling, so it’s impossible to rate the error. But in tonight’s Spain-Paraguay nail-biter, I think I saw the worst of all: The sequence of penalty kicks awarded and not awarded in the space of a few seconds.

Carlos Batres awarded Spain a penalty kick moments after Iker Casillas had saved Oscar Cardozo’s spot kick for Paraguay. Up stepped Xabi Alonso to calmly slot home, but Batres disallowed the goal, insisting the kick be retaken because Spanish players had encroached by inches into the box when the ball was struck. That was a nonsense call — in fact, players from both sides had been twenty inches further inside the Spanish box when Cardozo’s kick was struck and no retake was ordered. By the letter of the law, the call on Alonso was permissible, but it was absurd given the standards in today’s game — nobody, for example, calls a foul on a keeper who moves just an inch or two off his line before a penalty is struck — and even those Batres himself had established on the earlier Paraguayan penalty.

But worse was to come: On the retaken penalty, goal keeper Justo Villar managed to parry Alonso’s kick, but Cesc Fabregas reached rebound first, and tapped it past the keeper, intending to round him. Villar, unable to reach the ball, then clearly trips Fabregas. That should have been another penalty, perhaps even a dismissal of the goalie for a “last-man” foul. The fact that the ref might have felt a bit of a twerp ordering a third penalty in as many minutes was neither here nor there — if he’d gotten the first call right, there’d have been only one.