Rafa Benitez continues his Euro ’08 column with Spanish newspaper El Mundo, we continue the translated version here…
Let’s save the offside ruling
The Euro Cup has begun and a lone goal by Czech player VÃ¡clav SverkoÅ¡ was enough to sink the Swiss hosts in the inaugural match. It had been many years since the opening game of this competition was decided by a single goal. I seem to remember the last time, when France beat Denmark with a solitary goal by, the now UEFA president, Michel Platini.
Long gone are the days when the first matches were played very openly and many goals were scored, like that France-Yugoslavia in 1960’s Euro Cup, where the visitors won 4-5. The reason seems evident. In a tournament of this nature, the first match is so important that nobody wants to lose. If you lose, you are forced to win the remaining two games and do so under great pressure. Perhaps, for this very same reason, the first match tends to be a ‘˜testing of the waters’, to get to know and measure up the opponents and not risk too much to avoid any surprises. The negative thing is, that if both teams do the same, we won’t see many chances.
This is what happened during Switzerland-Czech Republic; the team that took advantage of the opponent’s mistake won the match. Incidentally, regarding that lone goal, it must be said that it came to be in an interesting situation, to be analyzed from the regulation’s point of view. We all know that there should be more than two players between the opposing team’s player and the byline in order to eliminate the possibility of offside, if the attacking player is in a forward position ahead of the ball. However, with all changes regarding this rule, the most passionate and complex in my opinion, I believe that an enormous amount of confusion is created for the fans and, more importantly and determining, the referees and assistants.
Now they talk about ‘œposition plus influence’ and, after an innumerable number of mistakes and varying interpretations, I believe that it is time to go back and simplify the ruling so that a player in an offside position, whether or not he participates initially, should be ruled offsides since his ‘˜illegal’ position could benefit him later in the chance there is a clearance. And his positioning on the pitch will always command a defenders and /or keeper’s attention if he is located near the box. Thus, in order to help the refs, who end up getting all the blame, and to avoid further scandals, I believe that, any time an attacking player is ahead of the ball and there are no defenders between said player and the byline, he should be ruled offsides.
At least, in the vicinities of the penalty box. A different story would be if he was standing near a sideline where he’s clearly not involved in the play. In that case, the play should continue. But in the centre, the striker is always a threat and a cause of distraction. Don’t tell me that it wasn’t great to watch that unforgettable Milan team, of the never highly-enough praised Arrigo Sacchi, working on the offside trap’¦I assure you that for managers and players it would be a relief also, because we would know what to expect and wouldn’t depend on every referee’s interpretation of the rule, whom in the end, are human beings, and thus not infallible.
In other respects, Portugal showed their credentials in a duel that opened up as the game went on and, when the score-line forced the Turks to leave spaces behind, the likes of Pepe and individual details from players like Cristiano Ronaldo or Nuno Gomes were seen. At the end, Meireles secured a win that, like we mentioned on Friday, puts Portugal in good position to continue as one of the favourites.
Meanwhile, Spain’s debut is fast approaching, where they must count on everyone’s support, maintain the good atmosphere and the team unity and avoid as much as possible, the debates over one type of style of play or another or a specific player or another. If we don’t do these things, the smallest of adversity will create division and we will lose energy and cohesion. This would, in prompt, create problems that don’t even exist at present time. Calm and support will be the key for Spain.