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On air: Should 'penalty goals' be adopted by football?

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Ben Sutherland Ben Sutherland | 23:13 UK time, Friday, 2 July 2010

ghana.jpgThis topic was discussed on World Cup Have Your Say on 2 July 2010. Listen to the programme.

There are so many talking points in the aftermath of Ghana's 4-2 defeat to Uruguay on penalties that it is tempting to suggest it hard to know where to begin - except that, like a thumb that is not only sore but has repeatedly been hit by an Acme mallet, one thing sticks out above all else.

That is the issue of the drama in the very last minute of extra time.

For those who missed it, here's a brief recap, courtesy of my BBC colleague Paul Fletcher:

Unbelievable scenes. One of the most extraordinary ends to a game you could imagine. A Ghana corner is glanced on and Fernando Muslera cannot punch properly clear - Dominic Adiyiah has one shot from six yards blocked on the line by Luis Suarez, before Adiyiah's next effort, a header, is punched off the line by Suarez. The striker is sent off and Asamoah Gyan steps up to take the penalty, but he can only smash it against the crossbar. More penalties coming up.

The referee did exactly what was expected of him in the rulebook. Suarez was dismissed - the best player of Uruguay's tournament so far will now miss the semi-final against the Netherlands, the country in which he plays his football - and a penalty was awarded.

But - perhaps struggling to bear the weight of a continent's expectation - Asamoah Gyan, until now so deadly from the penalty spot, smacked his shot into the crossbar.

Here's former World Cup finals referee Graham Poll on Twitter:

"Yes Suarez only gets a one match ban for denial of goal scoring opportunity. It's a cheats charter."

And immediately, comparisons have begun with the sport of rugby. There, if a team is illegally prevented from scoring a try, the try is given anyway.

And some would argue that a similiar logic should apply to football. After all, Suarez undeniably prevented Ghana from scoring what would have been the goal that took them through - and through blatant cheating. Had he not handled the ball, the Black Stars would be looking forward to lining up against the Netherlands in the semi-finals.

Instead, in the penalties, they withered.

On the other hand, here's Gabriele Marcotti:

Luis Suarez isn't Thierry Henry. Suarez got punished per rules of the sport. Henry went unpunished

The rules state simply that if a player denies a clear goal-scoring opportunity, he is dismissed. That's exactly what happened. Suarez, arguably, could not be said to have cheated as he was punished.

It is not as if it is unprecidented. A few years ago, in the heat of the Premiership title race, Manchester United's Ole Gunner Solksjaer committed a foul on Newcastle United's Rob Lee that ensured his dismissal at the expense of Newcastle almost certainly scoring.

Far from being castigated, Solksjaer was applauded off the field by the Manchester United fans. They saw it as a case of the player putting the glory of the club before himself.

The point could be made that Suarez has similarly sacrificed himself in order to help his country.

And The Guardian's Spanish football correspondent Sid Lowe, again on Twitter:

That's the question: cheat who got away with murder or hero who fell on his sword? There isn't really a "right" answer

Or is there? Would a rugby-style "penalty goal" work in football? Or should we accept that the game is played within the rules drawn up?


Update: Suarez himself has now explained his actions, saying:

"This was the end of the World Cup. I had no choice. I have the 'Hand of God' now. I did it so that my teammates could win the penalty shoot-out. When I saw Gyan miss the penalty it was a great joy"

And his compatriot Diego Forlan added:

"It's a pity [for Suarez], he made a good save today. We'll try to do our best. He played his part. He didn't score a goal but he saved one and now we go to the semi-final."

But Ghana's coach Milovan Rajevac said it was a "sporting injustice."

"I'm very proud. We managed to achieve a great result and the whole of Africa supported us. We didn't deserve to lose in such a way and it's difficult to talk about it at the moment. We had bad luck that's all I can say."

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