Goal-line technology begins to clear controversial goals

BY Sarah McHaney  June 16, 2014 at 3:22 PM EST
Goalkeeper Noel Valladares of Honduras scores an own goal, France's second, as he fumbles the ball over the line during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group E match between France and Honduras at Estadio Beira-Rio on June 15, 2014 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Goalkeeper Noel Valladares of Honduras scores an own goal, France’s second, as he fumbles the ball over the line during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group E match between France and Honduras at Estadio Beira-Rio on June 15, 2014 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

On Sunday the first goal scored and confirmed by goal-line technology awarded France a 2-0 lead over Honduras. The ball, blasted by French striker Karim Benzema, struck the inside of the top bar and then bounced off the Honduran goal keeper just over the line. France went on to win the game 3-0.

Line technology is almost a staple now in any sport involving a ball, a line and questionable calls. FIFA, however, has long resisted using goal-line technology in their World Cup matches until 2014.

A goal – according to FIFA – is scored when the whole ball passes over the goal line, between the goalposts, and under the crossbar. The ball does not have to touch the net or even the ground to be counted. According to FIFA rules, it’s also written that, “the decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.”

Referees are humans and don’t see everything on the pitch, but this room for human error has long been part of the culture and raw emotion of watching the game.

The new technology monitors the motions of the ball and detects when it passes over the goal line. It then alerts the referee when a goal is scored. The aim is to eliminate all human error when it comes to determining whether a goal was scored or not.

That human error has called controversial goals throughout history. Arguably the most controversial goal was awarded to England in the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany. It was scored during overtime and England won the game 4-2.

Germans argued that they saw chalk dust — meaning the ball hit on the line, not over it. Referee Gottfried Dienst consulted with his Azerbaijani assistant referee, Tofik Bahramov, who signaled it was a goal (the two had no common language so they communicated through hand signals). In 2004 England played Azerbaijan in a World Cup qualifier and English fans asked to place flowers on the grave of Bahramov. 1966 remains England’s only World Cup victory.

More recently, at the 2010 World Cup, England and Germany faced off in the first knockout round. Towards the end of the first half England shot the ball which hit the underside of the top bar, but spun back out and into play. Video playback shows the ball did cross over the line, but neither referee was in a position to see it. No goal was awarded and Germany went on to win 4-1.

German players joked that the countries are now even.

Then in 2012 England eliminated Ukraine by one point in the Euro Cup after a controversial call denied Ukraine a goal. England’s goal keeper hooked the ball out of the goal, but it had clearly passed the line. The next day the referee admitted Ukraine had been denied a legitimate goal. Afterwards, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said goal-line technology is a necessity and “I am confident they (the International Football Association Board) will see the time has come.”

The time has come and France’s goal on Sunday is unlikely to be the only one confirmed and unquestioned by goal-line technology.