The glorious uncertainty of sport

Shrouded in doubt and ever disputed the World Cup rolls along with its usual amount of talking points and controversy.

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This edition is no different.

The conspiracy theories are rife and as fingers are pointed it is always nice to know that you are not alone in thinking that something ‘fishy’ is going on. Here are some talking points that you can mull over and things to remember for trivia night’s years from now.

When the ball crosses the line it doesn’t mean it’s a goal

Frank Lampard’s non goal against Germany has cast doubt over whether or not the introduction of Television replays should be used for goal line discrepancies. With Frank Lampard chipping the ball over Manuel Neuer it was plain to see the ball had crossed the line after hitting the cross bar and bouncing in, however a quick reaction from the German stopper allowed him to get away with what could have been a game changing goal.

Neuer later conceded that the goal should have stood, which will do little to cure the English heart ache.

“I tried not to react to the referee and just concentrate on what was happening. I realised it was over the line and I think the way I carried on so quickly fooled the referee into thinking it was not over.” Manuel Neuer said.

However the goal stood and Germany went on to thrash the ‘Three Lions’ 4-1m leaving Steven Gerrard to wonder what might have been.

“At 2-1, if Frank’s goal would have stayed it would have been a nice turning point in the game but I don’t think we can use that as an excuse as a whole.” The England captain said.

For the English it will be another four years of waiting, deliberating and hoping, for Germany it’s another feather in the cap in one of sports great rivalries.

The Jabulani ball

For the Jabulani ball controversy has followed at every bend. Players complain about the way it swerves, dips and spins and what it doesn’t do.

A standard football usually consists of 32 panels allowing drag to influence the way a ball is kicked, so people can bend it like Beckham, Ronaldo or Pirlo, but the Jabulani consists of a mere 8 panels. Many believe this can influence why we have seen very few free kick goals from the worlds best teams and more hit and hope from outside the box.

As the ball balloons over the bar tempers also soared with complaints that Adidas gave Germany a bigger advantage with the Bundesliga using the Jabulani throughout their season.

English defender Jamie Carragher went on record saying that gave them a distinct advantage over other sides.

“It gives them an advantage anyway. That is obvious. We were sitting there last night and that is exactly what we were saying.” The Liverpool defender said at a press conference.

The extra practice certainly helped the Germans with their first up 4-0 win over Australia, and again hammering the English 4-1 in their round of 16 match.

Despite the Adidas claims the ball was offered to all leagues, but due to sponsorship deals with rival manufacturers the Jabulani was used by very few leagues.

The ball has made many people look average in particular goalkeepers with Robert Green dropped from the English side after his howler against the USA and Mark Schwarzer dropping a dipping cross against Serbia after the ball dipped and he spilt it into the feet of an oncoming striker.

Fifa has responded to the concerns and anger by stating that they will investigate, but not until after the World Cup.

“Fifa is not unreceptive about what has been said.” Fifa’s secretary general, Jerome Valcke, said.

Full Coverage: The World Game

The Curse of the Vuvuzela

The Vuvuzela has caused its fair amount of headaches. The enduring memory of this World Cup may not be the picture of the winning captain holding aloft the trophy, but the drone of what some have described as ‘an angry flock of bees attacking the stadium’.

SBS blogs have been awash with complaints, concerns and even anger over the controversial horn that is the way South Africans enjoy their football. The Swiss team trained with a troupe of horns being blown before their match against Spain to acclimatise, whilst the Dutch team banned it from training sessions. Most players have found it difficult to communicate on the field with the constant drone, but one thing is for certain it won’t be forgotten.

Cautions aplenty

Referees at the World Cup have caused more than their fair share of talking points, for what they have seen and what they have neglected. From Tim Cahill’s red card against Germany for what seemed just a clumsy challenge on Bastian Schweinsteiger to an unnoticed handball by Cahill in the dying minutes against Serbia Australia has had its fair share of interesting decisions, but they are not alone in this department.

Red Cards and cautions have littered the tournament with red cards on tackles from behind and the use of elbows coming under increased scrutiny.

The use of arms by New Zealand attackers was put to the test against Italy with many fans complaining at the ease Italian players would fall under the shower of All Whites elbows.

Despite the ‘we was robbed’ sentiment, cautions and send offs hit a peak at 345 yellow cards and 28 reds at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. With an increased amount for players who are caught ‘simulating’ (diving) with many games still remaining that record could be broken yet.

Pre match sex, and beer?

Coming under increased scrutiny is what happens before the game for players. Pre game routines are usually an individual thing to make the player feel comfortable and focused on the match ahead, but that’s not always the way.

England players were forced by their Italian coach Fabio Capello on almost every aspect of their match preparation in the early part of the tournament, from what players wear to Breakfast, to what they eat and when they drink.

With their campaign spiralling out of control players were given a relaxed approach to the match against Slovenia with Capello curiously allowing players a few beers before the match. England won the match 1-0.

The presence of loved ones in the team set up is usually banned by many sides. Managers believe the players can focus on what is ahead of them better without the distraction of children and wives.

However, South American sides have thrown this idea out the window in glorious fashion. Argentine team doctor Donato Villani believes it isn’t a distraction, but only the timing may be.

“Sex isn’t a problem. It’s only a problem if they’re doing it at two in the morning with a bottle of champagne on the go,” Villani said.

Argentina famously allowed loved ones in camp when they last won the World Cup in 1986 with manager Carlos Bilardo noting that sex was fine as long as “the woman does the hard work”.

A move supported by Brazilian manager Dunga, but not Fabio Capello who said his side was ‘there to play not on a holiday’. Needless to say the English sides are now heading home, whilst the Argentines and Brazilians are favourites for the title.

Controversies and conspiracy theories are not a new thing. Throughout World Cup history the weird and wonderful usually takes centre stage when you lease expect it.

Maradona Vs England

Wherever there is controversy in a World Cup it is never far from Diego Maradona. The 1986 World Cup in Mexico was the finest highlight of the brilliant and the controversial sides of his profile.

This enigma of world football scored in one match two of the most celebrated goals in World Cup history, firstly with the ‘Hand of God’ goal and secondly what was awarded goal of the century by Fifa.

It was the 1986 World Cup quarter final and in a post Falklands war environment the relationship between Argentina and England was cagey at best. Mexico City was the host to what was one of the most intriguing moments in World Cup history.

As England goalkeeper Peter Shilton came out to defend a floating ball in the box, he was the favourite to punch the ball away over a far shorter Diego Maradona. Despite a clear height advantage the ball ended up in the back of the net with the Argentine celebrating the goal in the corner. Upon closer inspection the ball was punched in by the just over five foot striker past the hand of Shilton and awarded by the Tunisian official. The English fumed.

Maradona would later claim in a press conference that the goal was “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.”

Just four minutes later Maradona took the ball from inside his own half and dashed 60 metres past five English defenders, and around goalkeeper Peter Shilton in what showed the true skill of the man, a piece of brilliance just moments after a piece of madness. Maradona now hopes to repeat the feats of 86′ when he coaches the likes of Lionel Messi in South Africa.

Geoff Hurst and his winner at Wembley

During extra time, in the 1966 World Cup Final, England’s Alan Ball crossed the ball to Geoff Hurst, he turned to shoot from close range and the ball hit the cross bar, bouncing down on the line and then cleared away by the West German defence after conferring with his linesman the referee gave the goal to the home team England and a nation cheered as one. On closer inspection in the day s before instant replays it was dubious; with German fans certain it was no goal.

It was the last time England tasted success in the World Cup final, and after 44 years the German side believe they received justice with Frank Lampard having a goal disallowed that went much further across the line, only to be disallowed.

Whether or not the referee is always right or wrong, whether or not your team receives the rub of the green controversy will follow the World Cup wherever it is played. Without these moments we would have far less to talk about, and it would be far less enjoyable to watch.

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