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Question Number: 34809

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 12/20/2022

RE: Emeritus Regional Referee Grade 16 Adult

Marc Boman of Walpole, MA USA asks...

In added time at the end of the second half of the Argentina v. France World Cup championship game, there was an uncalled event that looked a lot like misconduct under Law 12’s prohibition against initiating “a deliberate trick by causing the ball to be passed . . . to the goalkeeper with the . . . knee etc. to circumvent the Law against the goalkeeper using his hands when a teammate deliberately kicks the ball to him.” The incident occurred at about minute 93:56 of the second half, just after the Argentina goalkeeper blocked a shot on goal (fist first save of the match). The ball lazily rolled about two yards away from the goalkeeper to where Argentine defender #13, Cristian Romero, was standing in front of French attacker #12, Randal Kolo Muani. Romero, in order better to shield Muani from the ball, deliberately went to his knees, taking a kneeling position, and trapped the ball with his knees. This in itself might be considered DANGEROUS PLAY because deliberately going to the ground in order to prevent an opponent from “safely” playing the ball with the foot creates a dangerous situation. Next, Romero can be seen, on the slow-motion instant replay, pushing the ball forward, directly to the goalkeeper, using Romero’s right knee. The referee probably could not see the motion by Romero’s right knee because Romero’s left knee was shielding the referee’s view of what the right knee was doing. NB, the VAR referee is not authorized to advise the center referee about misconduct that would not result in a penalty kick (the sanction for this “deliberate trick” would be a caution and an INDIRECT FREE KICK from the nearest spot on the Goal Area line) or the reversal of a scored goal. My question is whether the referee, had he clearly seen what happened, should have blown his whistle and awarded an INDIRECT FREE KICK for either Dangerous Play or a Deliberate Trick (in which latter case he should have issued Romero a Yellow Card). As you know, in 1992 FIFA issued Circular Number 488 to clarify that a “deliberate trick” would include “a player who kneels down and deliberately pushes the ball to his goalkeeper with his knee, etc.” Sounds like a slam dunk case. Or is it? The sanction against deliberate passbacks to the keeper is intended to prevent time-wasting. And when we think of “deliberate tricks,” we think of something unseemly. Here, we see Romero acting instinctively, in a panicky situation. He had no time to think through a stratagem for evading the laws of the game and he certainly did not have in mind wasting time. On the other hand, he knew better than to use his foot to tap the ball back to his goalkeeper. So how do you see this situation? NB: had the referee blown his whistle and awarded an IFK to France from the goal area line, most of the entire world would have been outraged and clueless about WTF he was doing. The benches would have probably emptied and the World Cup would have ended in shamefully, especially if France ended up converting the IFK into goal. That reminds me of something Sandra Hunt once told me in her pregame instructions: "don't try to be smarter than anyone else on the field or in the stands."

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Marc,
interesting observation well thought out and analyzed!
However, in my opinion, there was no deliberate trick! The LOTG state the referee must clearly recognize there is a trick being orchestrated, this was more natural play to protect & play the ball, as such only a deliberate kick with the foot NOT the knee would create an INDFK. I think it was exactly as you say, a panicky defensive action under great pressure . To award a gotcha type of INDFK be it for PIADM, did the opposition actually STOP challenging? or a circumvent of the handling restrictions off the foot by a deliberately planned action to do so. I totally agree the game could have gone upside down and who knows what or if mayhem would ensue? Sandra Hunts wisdom is superlative as was her game management Best referred final of a WC in recent memory and it ended in fairytale fashion. so yes I concur smart guy let it rest! lol
Merry Christmas

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Marc
Your observation and thinking has been noted.

However I did not see this as a deliberate trick to circumvent Law 12. Context is everything and this for me was not a "trick" to get the ball to the goalkeeper to circumvent this particular law. The way play unfolded the defender was beside the ball after a rebound from a save and he looked like he was going to knee the ball back yet the bounce did not materialize so it looked like he continued the drop to play the ball to the goalkeeper. It was a single touch of the ball so he did not look like a trick to me or that his motive was circumvention. Would it be any different if a player did a diving header to play the ball to the goalkeeper rather than kicking it in open play or the ball bouncing and it been chested or kneed back?
If I was to compare this to a situation where a defender on his own just outside the penalty area under no pressure drops to the ground to head or knee the ball back so that a goalkeeper can pick the ball up that would be circumvention.

As to a possible PIADM that was not a consideration for me. The defender plays the ball towards the goalkeeper with one touch so at no time did he trap the ball preventing it from being played by an opponent causing a risk to himself. The opponent was behind him and he could not get to the ball to play it. He does try to kick the ball after it was played yet by that time it is on its way back to the grasp of the goalkeeper.

So for me it was entirely the correct decision and it would have been an *incorrect* call to penalise this with an IDFK. In the aftermath Giroud was cautioned on the bench for I assume dissent and I'm unsure if it was for protesting about the foul that the referee played advantage on in the lead up to the save or was he protesting the kneeing of the ball. I felt it was for the foul yet advantage was played.

Imagine if it was called in the 4th minute of added time setting up an IDFK and a caution. One recalls the IDFK call in the USA V Canada Womens' Olympics game semi final which was *correct* yet caused such a furore that even governments got involved. I think this situation by allowing play to continue was the best call to ignore it and yes there will be those that want to play gotcha refereeing on the most dubious of calls who will say it should have been. Not for me and I hope that many learn from the call.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Marc,
To understand the issues around this, I think we have to go back to when the law on "a deliberate trick to circumvent the law" was originally introduced in 1992. After players were prohibited from playing the ball to their keeper with their foot they started using a number of different tricks to get around this prohibition. FIFA responded almost immediately by issuing a circular defining what kinds of actions or "tricks" were not allowed to be used in order to avoid this prohibition - or in other words, in order to circumvent the law.

In the words of FIFA Circular 488, issued on July 24, 1992:

"Examples of such tricks would include: a player who deliberately flicks the ball with his feet up onto his head in order to head the ball to his goalkeeper or, a player who kneels down and deliberately pushes the ball to the goalkeeper with his knee, etc."

Where I think this incident fails to meet the criteria for a deliberate trick is in the element of intent. Circular 488 also cautions that the referee must:

"be convinced that this was the player’s motive"

It seemed to me the player dropped to his knees half-accidentally, in trying to shield the ball and then, since he was already in that position, used his knee, as the nearest available body part to the ball, to play it. I'm not convinced that his original motive in dropping to his knees was to be able to circumvent the prohibition on using the foot to play the ball.

So for me, this was probably not an offence, not because of the way the player played the ball (which would fall within the parameters of a deliberate trick) but because I don't think we can be sufficiently sure about his motive for doing it.

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