KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY
— The record books will tell a simple tale: Ukraine were killed off in Euro 2012 after losing 1-0 at home in Donetsk to England while France, contrarily, stayed alive despite losing 2-0 to Sweden in Kyiv.
A sub-plot, however, emerged powerfully from the end of the co-hosts’ dream and it concerned that long-running controversy over goal-line technology – or, rather, the lack of it.
The victims of its absence were not only Ukraine’s players and coach Oleg Blokhin but UEFA president Michel Platini. But whereas Blokhin’s men were were innocent victims the same could not be said about Platini.
First, a little history.
Trials of goal-line technology systems were reactivated by the law-making International Football Association Board after the 2010 World Cup. The prompt was a second-round tie in South Africa in which England’s Frank Lampard had a ‘goal’ refused in defeat by Germany even though the ball had clearly fallen behind the goal-line before ricocheting back out into play.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, hithero an opponent of technological aids, was converted to the cause through the sheer embarrassment of it all.
However Platini remained an admant opponent. His preference is the use of an extra goal-line assistant stationed alongside each goal. The system is on extended experiment in the Champions League and Europa League.
Platini’s UEFA obtained special clearance from IFAB to use the five-officials system at Euro 2012. Coincidentally, four days after the final on July 1, IFAB will review test results of two GLT systems and – despite Platini’s opposition – hopefully approve full-scale competitive use.
Platini insists that human judgment is superior. It’s not. Ukraine v England proved the point. Platini’s goal-line assistance system was exposed as inadequate in the 61st minute – and exposed by TV replay technology.
Ukraine, needing to win to reach the quarter-finals, were unlucky to be 1-0 down to England when Marko Devic shot for goal. Keeper Joe Hart got his body in the way but the ball looped on, falling under the crossbar into goal.
John Terry threw himself at it and hooked the ball back into play, being watched intently by the goal-line assistant. TV replays showed the ball was entirely over the goal-line but Hungarian referee Victor Kassai waved play on.
Ukraine should have had the goal; it would have brought them level and within sight of a turn-around victory. Instead England, this time, had luck on their side and went on to a victory which sends them into a quarter-final against Italy in Kiev on Sunday. France will face Spain in Donetsk on Saturday.
The ‘only’ role remaining for Ukraine (and Poland) is to stage the remaining seven matches of Euro 2012. Like Austria and Switzerland in 2008 and like South Africa at the 2010 World Cup, they proved to be hosts without a sporting hope.
When it came to the crunch out on pitch they failed the test; just like the goal-line assistants system.
Had it not been for Platini’s patience, Ukraine would have been stripped long ago of the right to co-host the finals. How ironic if that patience should be ‘rewarded’ with a fatal blow to his pet project.
Anyone remember UEFA’s ‘silver goal’ . . . ?
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