The Laws of the Game are clear on the Eto'o Marshall Bounceballgate, so why did it take so long for everyone to understand. Because they don't even know the rules, says Rob McNichol...
As England fans, we've had our fair share of gripes over the years. I'm not talking about turgid performances, negative tactics, goalkeeper spillages or personnel of any kind; I'm talking about decisions.
Whether it's a perfectly good Sol Campbell goal being ruled out, Wayne Rooney being harshly sent off or Frank Lampard's effort being miles over the line, we seem to have had very little go our way since Tofiq Bahramov nodded his head at Wembley in 1966.
That's not a conspiracy theory, it's just an observation. I don't think anyone is out to get us, I just think we've have the rough end of it in big games. Of course, when you are a little partisan, it stands to reason that you will see things slightly one-sided occasionally. However, I like to think that I am good at taking a step back, even when it is one of my teams involved, and analysing matters fairly. And I think England have been let down on a few occasions by officials.
You may very well be telling me at this point the story of Ukraine scoring a perfectly good goal in the Euros last year, to which I would listen to you, admit that the ball was over the line on that occasion, then tell you that the assistant on that day spectacularly missed an obvious offside in the build-up to that 'goal', meaning it shouldn't have even got that far in the first place.
This week, however, against Ukraine, we got away with one.
Roman Zozulya nipped into the box inside the first minute and, to my eyes, was brought down by Joe Hart. I will take on board the comments about him 'going to ground easily' and perhaps that ultimately did indeed have a bearing on the referee's call. Had he been a little more genuine about the way he fell, the referee might have thought differently.
But it shouldn't have mattered. Hart missed the ball and made contact with the opponent, who has every right to go down. I thought it was very clearly a penalty, and England were extremely lucky. Perhaps, coupled with the ease of Zozulya's fall, the referee was influence by how early in the game the incident happened. Of course it shouldn't matter. A penalty decision, a red card call or anything else should be made regardless of whether they happen in the first, last or 45th minute. A decision is a decision. But certainly, since referees are after all human, sometimes they may feel it is easier to err on the side of caution and to give nothing.
I was curious, though, about what the referee did give. For me, there were three possible decisions. It was either a penalty, which to me was the correct call. The second option was a goal-kick, given that the last touch was off Zozulya. So, if the referee didn't think it was a foul, he has to go with the last touch made by the player. The last option is to give a free-kick to England and caution Zozulya for simulation, if indeed that was the official's view on the Ukrainian's actions.
Instead, he gave a corner, which seems to indicate that he thought Hart got a touch. Or, if he simply didn't fancy giving a penalty so early on, maybe he opted for the corner to at least give the impression that's what he saw. Frankly, that did not happen, so it's a bit of a howler on several levels.
Ukraine could have had a penalty later in the game, when the same player was felled, this time by Kyle Walker. Was it inside the area or was it not? Well, I've seen multiple replays and I still cannot tell, so on this occasion if the referee guessed or at least made a somewhat informed decision, I would have to side with him. How often do we hear the clichéd statement that if the referee isn't 100% sure then he can't give it? This incident saw that statement coming to life.
Much was made of Danny Welbeck not being available due to suspension. The frustration of his absence will have been made so much worse for Roy Hodgson given the fact that both cautions were harsh or trivial.
There is little point getting into the nuances of each caution, but it does strike me that getting suspended for two cautions is somewhat anachronistic given that yellow cards are dealt by officials with increasing regularity and gusto. To miss a vital game because of a couple of marginal decisions seems a little wrong to me.
Rob McNichol - follow him on Twitter but be warned: He tweets a lot about wrasslin'
Campbells goal against portugal was rightly disallowed. John terrys foul cost england not the ref- elpistolero77