THERE’S a South African striker called Nathan Paulse who might be smiling to himself tonight. And it’s all thanks to a dodgy offside decision and a video replay that should never have been shown inside the stadium.
Paulse, who failed to make the national squad for his home World Cup, plays club football in Sweden for Hammarby. Fourteen months ago, he suffered a kind of instant replay injustice that may ring a few bells with Frank Lampard and Mexico’s defence.
During a Swedish Allsvenskan match against Djurgarden in April 2009, Paulse hit a shot which bounced down off the underside of the bar and crossed the line – but neither referee or linesman saw it. So far, so Lampard.
But the big screen at Hammarby’s Söderstadion showed a replay of the incident almost straight away, proving that a goal should have been awarded – and the home fans were furious. (Hammarby still won the game, though.)
It was a huge story in Sweden, but it’s the sort of thing that could never happen at the World Cup, because FIFA don’t allow replays of controversial incidents to be shown on a stadium’s big screen while a match is in progress.
That’s the theory, anyway.
Tewnty-five minutes into tonight’s game in Johannesburg, Carlos Tevez gave Argentina the lead from an offside position. The goal should have been ruled out, but Mexico’s players didn’t realise it until someone, somewhere in the stadium mistakenly allowed a replay to be shown on the big screen.
Mexico’s players went crazy, and for the second time today, every football pundit in Britain argued the case that replay technology should be used to help referees make decisions. It’s an argument I can’t disagree with.
Would Mexico have won the match without that cock-up? They had hit the bar through Carlos Salcido before Argentina scored, so maybe they could have caused an upset. But they were never in the match after Tevez’s opener.
There was a technology-related accident following Argentina’s second goal too, scored by Gonzalo Higuain after Ricardo Osorio’s slip had let him in. The touchline cameraman got too close to Argentina’s celebrations and collided with Gabriel Heinze, who responded by slapping him away.
(They do get a bit too intrusive sometimes, those cameras. Last night in Rustenburg, a cameraman got an audible ticking off from a Ghana player for trying to get into the middle of their half-time huddle. That spidercam that flies above the pitch is great, but you can only get so close to the action, you know.)
Heinze wasn’t the only one who was ready for a fight if the situation demanded it. At half-time, both sets of players threatened to come to blows as Mexico surrounded the referee yet again. Surprisingly, the peacemaker was that stocky bloke with the grey suit and the grey beard who jumps around a lot on the touchline during Argentina’s games.
Tevez’s second goal, seven minutes after the break, finished Mexico hopes – a sublime 25-yarder into the top corner that should have been shown on the big screen over and over again. Javier Hernandez’s smart turn and shot wasn’t bad for a consolation goal either.
Maradona’s men are in the quarter-finals, but they won’t be facing England, as they did in 1986. It’s as well for him that there weren’t big screens showing instant replays then – although any fool could have seen THAT handball first time around. Well, any fool except the one who mattered.