Manuel Neuer vs Gonzalo Higuain (World Cup 2014 final)

2014 July 14
by Daniel Lakeland

A serious error in refereeing occurred in the 2014 World Cup final in the beginning of the second half, when German goalkeeper Neuer challenges Gonzalo Higuain in a reckless and dangrous manner, resulting in a collision that is absolutely shocking to watch. I suspect that Higuain only survives this collision because he is unaware that it will occur and does not tense up (his eyes are facing away from Neuer and on the ball the whole time). Videos abound of this event, such as this one (EDIT: takedown requests have made getting good video more difficult, much of what is available is people glorifying this event by replaying it over and over set to aggressive music). After this collision, a foul was given against Neuer (ie. committed by Higuain??) and Germany takes possession of the ball. The charitable interpretation of this is that the referee simply didn't see what happened, and therefore applied a heuristic that the goalkeeper gets the benefit of the doubt. The alternative is actual misconduct by the referee. The uninformed claptrap that abounds on the internet, in which people claim that this is not a foul by Neuer against Higuain, or that it is not worthy of a red card against Neuer seems to be rampant. Fortunately, there are rules to the game which can be looked up. Such as on the FIFA website interpretation of rules for fouls and penalties. Under page 122 of this commentary: "Serious Foul Play"

"A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play.

A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play. Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play. ....

A player who is guilty of serious foul play should be sent off"

Neuer lunges at Higuain, using one leg, from the side (or behind Higuain's direction of view), using excessive force (at full tilt with knee raised) and certainly endangering the safety of Higuain. Some have said this was ruled as a foul on Higuain because he was impeding the progress of Neuer, which is nonsense. On page 118 of the above pdf:

"Impeding the progress of an opponent means moving into the path of the opponent to obstruct, block, slow down or force a change of direction by an opponent when the ball is not within playing distance of either player.

All players have a right to their position on the field of play, being in the way of an opponent is not the same as moving into the way of an opponent.

Shielding the ball is permitted. A player who places himself between an opponent and the ball for tactical reasons has not committed an offence as long as the ball is kept within playing distance and the player does not hold off the opponent with his arms or body. If the ball is within playing distance, the player may be fairly charged by an opponent."

Higuain was within playing distance of the ball at the time the foul was committed, Higuain had a right to his position, Neuer could have avoided the collision (as opposed to Higuain impeding progress by stepping in front of Neuer to intentionally trip him, which is what the above commentary is about).

Was this reckless and endangering the safety of Higuain? Anyone who watches this collision has to see that Higuain's safety was endangered. It's actually shocking that he survives it without being paralyzed. I suspect that this is entirely due to Higuain being unaware of the brutal challenge that is coming since his eyes are clearly on the ball, away from Neuer, the entire time. If he had tensed up when the impact occurred his neck vertebra would have been subject to much higher forces (as opposed to simply bending) and that might have resulted in his permanent paralysis. That isn't even to say anything about the possibility of concussion from the impact.

My prediction is that this World Cup will result in rule changes regarding the treatment of head injuries, it was constantly on the lips of commentators, fans, and others throughout the tournament.

As far as I am concerned, without their primary goalie (ie. playing 10 men and with a substitute for the goalie), Germany would have lost this match badly, and since the rules clearly show that the goalie should have left the game at 56 minutes or so, Argentina are the proper world champions.

 

47 Responses
  1. Mike permalink
    July 14, 2014

    Totally agree with you! It was a 1982 schumachar like brutal challenge which should have resulted in sending off Neuer and consequently an apparent Germany defeat. Neuer had realized that without such a britality he was being outplayed by Higuain who had a very decent chance of scorring with the missplaced keeper. Rizzoli should be disciplined and never allowed to oficate international matches. This was not his first bad mistake: fake penalty on Costa (Chelsea vs Atletico), challenge on Casillas (WC 2014 Spain vs Netherlands). Even though I appreciated his work in the past but it seems that he has lost it.

    • Daniel Lakeland
      July 14, 2014

      Throughout the match the Refereeing was mostly good. I don't know enough about Rizzoli to say anything more than that this call was pretty clearly wrong. I suspect he was simply at a disadvantaged position or something and didn't see what happened. The heuristic he applied was "goalie wins" such a challenge, but it wasn't a proper challenge according to pretty clear rules I've cited above.

      A shame that this play and this call taints what was otherwise a very well played match by both teams.

  2. Mike permalink
    July 14, 2014

    I agree that outside of this incident the match was superb in all aspects. However it doen't make any easier for Argentina. Rizzoli might mave been a bit far though the siderliner was very close. I think they all saw it, but Rizzoli didn't have guts to make such a big call: penalty, red card. I think he simply weighed everything - what if I'm wrong, Higuain seemed to be OK. That explains why he didn't hand a second yellow to Mascerano later in the match. For me it's another screwed up final. In 2010 Webb had even worse time - completely loosing control of match and impacting the outcome big time. This one was less damaging, but still... Anyway Argentina deserved to win and would have won if scored their perfect chances.

  3. Elizabeth permalink
    July 14, 2014

    Just because a play looks bad or dangerous doesn't mean a foul has occurred. A "challenge" is when one player seeks to dispossess another player of the ball. As neither player was in possession of this loose ball (Higuain had made one touch on it, but he was nowhere near acquiring control or possession), both players had equal "right" to pursue. Neuer didn't clatter through Higuain with excessive force or brutality--both sought the ball, Neuer got there first, and Higuian was in Neuer's path. If you watched the first half, you'd see Klose, for example, back off from a promising pass upon seeing that the keeper would be first to the ball, if by only a fraction of a second. Higuain didn't back off, although Neuer beat him to the ball--because he likely didn't see him coming. That's not Neuer's fault, however. I think the "fair" call would have been to call no foul rather than to award a free kick to Germany. But if you think Neuer deserved a card or that Higuian deserved a free kick, then many other plays that produce incidental contact or the potential for injury--such as the shoulder to Kramer's head--would have to be treated in a like manner.

    As for the Schumacher comparisons, that's rubbish, nonsense, and ill-informed.

    • Daniel Lakeland
      July 14, 2014

      Elizabeth: the rules that I link to discuss "charging an opponent" which is a "challenge for space" (does not require control of the ball) and claim that it is a foul when done carelessly, recklessly, or using excessive force.

      In fact, if a play "looks dangerous" (because it is, or should be expected to be dangerous) then a foul HAS occurred according to the rules: quoting: '“Reckless” means that the player has acted with complete disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent. • A player who plays in a reckless manner must be cautioned'

      from the same section:

      '“Using excessive force” means that the player has far exceeded the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring his opponent. • A player who uses excessive force must be sent off'

      We need to make the distinction between a choice made by a player in which he takes a dangerous action when at the time he decides to make that play he should expect to endanger someone else ("reckless") vs a play in which we should expect that things would normally be ok, but they turn out not to be ("accident").

      I think the shoulder to Kramer's head was pretty clearly an accident. The other player wasn't in an unusual position, making any kind of special effort to challenge or charge Kramer or placing himself in a position where he should expect Kramer to be injured.

      Neuer on the other hand specifically targets the ball without regard for the fact that leaping high into the air with knee extended should be expected to cause a collision with Kramer's head, an unsafe action.

      Even if Neuer had only barely collided with Higuain, he should have been at least yellow carded according to the above quoted rules for "reckless". This is the goalie equivalent of a high bicycle kick which gets yellow cards all the time when performed too close to other players (for "recklessness").

      • Daniel Lakeland
        July 14, 2014

        Also see the section on "playing in a dangerous manner" which requires only "trying to play the ball" and does not require physical contact, and is a foul (bicycle kick too close to other players is a typical example). In the case of serious contact, they discuss the more serious foul of "serious foul play" requiring a red card.

        "Violent conduct" is a red-card foul that doesn't even require playing for the ball, such as Zidane's famous head-butt or striking another player in anger etc...

        According to the rules (they're very worth reading, please see the link) red cards can and should be given whenever one player endangers another through either "violent conduct" (away from the ball) or "serious foul play" (while attempting to play the ball).

        control of the ball is not required.

  4. Mike permalink
    July 14, 2014

    Some say that both had 50:50 chance of going after the ball?! How can be 50:50 if Higuain had only 2 options – disengage or collide. The ball was behind Higuain and closer to him and he had a clear positional advantage while Neuer stupidly left goal and realized that without jumping knees forward he wouldn't probably reach the ball. If he had positional advantage he would have just jumped and reached out the ball that's all.

    I understand keepers have their hands to reach the ball, but did you ever see them jumping with their knees forward in the goal box in attempt to reach the ball from the corners? I've never seen that simply because they don't want to get red-carded. The other supporting point is let’s say a simple dangerous play by a player lifting their feet high. If they win the ball and don’t touch the player they get whistled if they touch they get yellow or red-carded depends . I think dangerous play is the key in judging Neuer. He did purposefully endanger Higuain big time, I'd say Higuain was like newly born that night. He could have ended up dead or wheel chaired.

    Rizzoli might have not seen clearly what happened but the assistant referee did. I think they both did, but Rizzoli didn’t have courage to make such a call (red card/penalty) weighing situation. If Germany led at that point he might have made this call. Or the match was simply fixed. Anyway it’s very rare where finals go smooth from the referring prospective. This one wasn’t an exception. I wish Argentina converted perfect chances they had and this incident wouldn’t have mattered. They truly deserved to win. But in football what often happens when you don’t score the opponent will which is what happened.

  5. Daniel Lakeland
    July 14, 2014

    Mike: the rules specifically discuss "playing in a dangerous manner" which "prevents the opponent from playing the ball for fear of injury" so if Higuain had say thrown himself to the ground to avoid this charging leap, even that would be a foul against Neuer for which he would get a yellow card.

    I agree, I think the referee probably didn't have the confidence to call this correctly for fear that sending off the goalie would be seen as biased against Germany even though he had pretty clearly broken the rules for playing in a dangerous manner, charging, and soforth.

    We have to keep separate what we wish for our preferred team from what we know to be dangerous for the players and bad for the game. We can not allow goalkeepers to be brutal and magically immune from rules just because they have a special role and a special box on the ground.

    Head injuries are particularly dangerous, and intentionally playing in such a way as to have a high likelihood of causing a head injury is pretty clearly against the rules as laid out in the linked pdf.

  6. vatodeth permalink
    July 14, 2014

    In addition page 113 covers charging:

    Charging an opponent
    The act of charging is a challenge for space using physical contact within
    playing distance of the ball without using arms or elbows.
    It is an offence to charge an opponent:
    • in a careless manner
    • in a reckless manner
    • using excessive force

  7. Don permalink
    July 15, 2014

    Daniel, your case is very strong; strong like the interesting truss structure above this blog. I commend you for not just throwing out event rhetoric; rather citing the specific Laws of the Game as the proper and legitimate basis for argument. I would not claim to be an expert on these 'laws' although I am involved with the Beautiful Game here in Germany.

    During this tournament, I ofter heard conflicting statements by the so-called Professionals of the Sport saying what is and what is not an infringement to the game. To resolve this in my mind, I did as you did and went to the rule book. On many occasions the Pro-commentators misrepresented the specifics to the games rules (ESPN as well as ARD/ZDF - German networks).

    Hearing the argument for ref action/inaction such as: "To keep the game flowing"..."To let the teams play"...."Not a penalty in WC 2014"..."Less cards = more goals = greater viewer satisfaction/ratings"..."He got to the ball first" is a very slippery slope. I think the awful refereeing mistakes made during the first few games of the tournament made some of the remaining refs a bit shy when the time came to make tough calls. I also understand the human element and mistakes will be made.

    As I sat with my 6 and 8 year old boys (both active footballers) and witnessed Neuer's brutal hit on Higuain, I said "that's it - he is going to get red." Well, not surprisingly I was wrong again, he got the Golden Glove instead.

    • Daniel Lakeland
      July 15, 2014

      Don, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I am glad to hear that not all Germans think their goalie should be putting other players at risk. I suspect as parents who see children and young adults play, we realize that if the top tournaments display reckless and endangering play, our children will seek to emulate that compounding the problem.

      I too was shocked to hear the utter nonsense from people who play the game, people who are professional commentators, etc. I understand that in questionable cases there are heuristics applied by the referees to make quick decisions. In a challenge that might be considered "careless", or "reckless" if the player *doesn't* get the ball, this is a good indication that foul or yellow is required. This doesn't mean that a yellow can't be given if the player *does* get the ball. They key is "reckless" or "endangering" as made clear in the rules.

      The rules are simple to find via google and free to download, I was shocked to see so little reference to them and that is why I put my post up.

  8. Melanie permalink
    July 17, 2014

    Thank you all for your well thought out, well cited and unemotional dissecting of Neuer's challenge. My son is a keeper, a very smart one and even though he thought Neuer was reckless, he said Neuer was I his rights to charge with his leg up. I tried pointing out that there is a difference in jumping with knee up to protect yourself and charging at fullspeed at a player from behind and jumping forward with his knee forward. Thank you all for putting it so much better than I could. I want him to be aggressive, but to never act reckless towards another person on the pitch. I was disappointed with FIFA's handling of Neuer. Especially after giving him the Golden Glove and using a photograph of that challenge on Instagram to say how great he is. It is a dangerous precedent to set.

  9. Smith permalink
    July 18, 2014

    Penalty and red card for Neuer !

  10. Smith permalink
    July 19, 2014

    Short and simple... Neuer didn't get the red card. Argentina had 0 shots on target out of the 10. Keepers protect themselves by coming out with one knee and Germany are world champions 🙂 please continue crying.

    • Daniel Lakeland
      July 19, 2014

      Smith: your point is what? that playing dirty and hurting other players doesn't matter because in the end after you clobber them you will be held up as champions?

      That's exactly the attitude I am vehemently against. Recklessly putting others in danger is wrong, whether or not you win. The rules are the way they are specifically so that soccer/football is a sport not an international combat arena. Neuer broke the rules, and the refs either didn't see, were paid off to favor Germany like they've been paid off in previous world cups (see http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/sports/soccer/fixed-matches-cast-shadow-over-world-cup.html?_r=0 ), or didn't have the guts to call it the way the rules required. This taints Germany's win as much as anything. If you are a fan of Germany's football team, you should be pissed at Neuer for putting his team in serious danger of penalty+red.

  11. Smith permalink
    July 19, 2014

    Nobody had possession. Neuer came out protecting his box, and nonetheless, himself. Any keeper will tell you that if you jump for a ball, jump with a knee out, to protect yourself. Higuain wasn't paying attention and if he was he would have gotten out of the way, at least I would hope. And for not paying attention, he lowered his head to try and control the ball, which neuer beat him to.

    • Daniel Lakeland
      July 19, 2014

      Smith: your argument is basically the same as everyone else I've heard discussing this. It's not based on any actual rules or guidelines for refereeing. The rules are linked above. See the rules defining "reckless", the rules previously cited by others for "charging" and "playing in a dangerous manner".

      Many many people have offered platitudes about how "what keepers will tell you" or whatever. The fact of the matter is, if you can't jump for a ball without kneeing your opponent in the head, then you can't jump for the ball within the rules. Keepers who jump for the ball usually do so while a player is charging THEM not the other way around, so what "keepers usually do" is not really very relevant in this case. Getting away with charging a player in a reckless manner, playing dangerously, etc because referees don't see, or are paid off, or are too scared of controversy doesn't make this behavior good and proper soccer/football.

  12. Peter von Boeck permalink
    July 20, 2014

    Guys in this game you have to be honest and look at all very obvious dangerous plays. If we assume that Neuer committed a dangerous play and should have received a red card, than Argentinian players should have received two red cards for the foul on Kramer (shoulder punch) which caused temporaerely memory loss and the elbow into Schweinsteigers face which left him bleeding, not to mention the many other fouls committed on Schweinsteiger. Admittedly the Argentinians got away with it because the Referee did not make many calls on both sides, but all in all the germans played a cleaner game. Argentina had their chances alone in front of the goal more than once, they did not capitalize on it. A keeper has different rights as a player in the 16 yard room he rules and unless he clearly goes to the player instead of trying to catch the he will get away with it. Neuer clearly focused and hit the ball and in the natural flow collided with Higoun. Schumacher on the other side was nowhere near the ball clear penalty

    • Daniel Lakeland
      July 20, 2014

      Peter: I disagree strongly. Red cards are not given out because something bad happens, red cards are given out because someone does something where we could know in advance that something bad will often happen regardless of whether something actually does go wrong. This is the difference between say having an accident in your car when you don't notice another car slowing or turning... vs weaving in and out of lanes and "driving recklessly" which you can get a ticket for even if you don't cause a collision. The point of red and yellow cards is that they disincentivize doing things that we know will be dangerous.

      The rules are pretty clear about "playing in a dangerous manner" and "charging" and soforth as applies to Neuer's hit on Higuain, which we've already discussed. The point is, when challenging another player for space, and vying for the ball, you can't do anything that you know in advance would endanger that player or yourself. This would include high kicks near another player's head, or jumping up at them from behind with your knee forward, running over the top of a fallen player, shoving a player into another player, jumping up and extending your elbows during a header challenge etc

      The Kramer incident I've found a video replay and see it is very clearly an accident in which Kramer runs into another player because his eyes are on the ball. The other player isn't doing anything out of the ordinary or "dangerous". He doesn't step into the way of Kramer for the purpose of blocking his passage, or anything of the sort. In fact, because Kramer is running towards another player with his head down, and eyes facing somewhere else, you could, according to the rules, give him a yellow card, because players can receive yellow cards when they play in a way that endangers themselves as well as others. However it would have been pointless.

      Schweinsteiger's elbow to the face I can't find a video for review. There were a lot of fouls on Schweinsteiger, but note that a foul is not an automatic yellow or red card. These are reserved for "careless" "reckless" and soforth as set out in the rules.

      A keeper's only "special" treatment is also in the rules. he has special treatment *when he is in control of the ball* such as holding it in his hands, between his hand and the ground, or tossing it up to take a kick etc. Normally a keeper rarely charges other players, they naturally come to him, and so red/yellow cards go to the charging player if done recklessly.

      If a keeper decided he was "king of the roost" and started jumping for the ball and raising his cleats up into other players faces at the same time... or running up the back of a player and jumping in the air to get a ball... believe me the rules say he should go off even if he's going for the ball in his own box.

  13. Ken Schulz permalink
    July 21, 2014

    Daniel, for the sake of your career, develop the ability to look at evidence and data objectively. I am only recently a fan, but I have done biomechanical analyses now and again. If you have access to ESPN online, you should review the replays on the complete-game stream. You will see that Neuer lunges to play the ball, that is, he extends his upper body and shoulder forward to reach the ball. As his feet have already left the ground, his lower extremities must have actually slowed slightly in reaction, and it is his lower limbs that contact Higuain. You will see that the collision is mutual; neither player crashes into the other, and each absorbs a similar share of the energy of the collision. The initial contact is between Higuain's (anterolateral) left shoulder and upper arm, and the lateral surface of Neuer's right thigh and calf. Neuer is spun around a vertical axis, Higuain's forward motion is abruptly arrested. Neuer's knee never contacts Higuain's head. Neither player lunges or even leans into the collision, the collision energy comes entirely from the forward motion of each player pursuing a loose ball at maximum speed. I don't see how either player could avoid a collision and still contend for the ball with best effort, which is what they are there to do. The question remains whether any action made the collision more dangerous than it inherently was; viz. Neuer's raised knee. I suggest that if Neuer had straightened his legs as he leapt, he would have greatly increased his risk of being upended and landing on his head, an extremely dangerous possibility when one player is above another. Nor is it obvious that Higuain would have been any better off colliding with a straightened leg.
    Finally, don't perpetuate the old wives' tale (old spouse's tale?) about going limp - ref. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/9925121/Does-the-brace-position-save-lives.html - besides which, Higuain raises his arms a moment before the collision, which suggests he was preparing for an impact.
    The very experienced ESPN announcers agree that neither player fouled; that seems the reasonable conclusion to me.

  14. Joshua Cowell permalink
    July 22, 2014

    Daniel, I have read all your comments and what strikes me as clear as day is that you are pro Argentina. It should not have been a red card nor a penalty. But you really do go out of your way to wish it so. How sad that there is such biased reporting covered up in a false veneer of objectivity. And it's telling that you do not mention any of the red card worthy fouls the Argentines commited in this game. You simply harp on the Neuer Higuain incident. Clearly, you are cherry picking, or you really do not know the game at all. Thus your having to resort to the rule book. Only those who do not know the game feel the need to run to the rules. It should be second nature with a "feel" for the decisions.

  15. Daniel Lakeland
    July 22, 2014

    Ken Shulz: thank you for your suggestion about the ESPN stream. I wasn't able to find the full set of replays by shuttling around the multi-hour stream. The initial replay at about 56 minutes doesn't include the second replay from the most advantageous angle. I remember several minutes later during a lull they add another angle. I see that FIFA has done a takedown on the Youtube video that I originally linked.

    I remember seeing a replay from an angle that did clearly show Higuain's head bouncing off Neuer's knee, probably a hit to the jaw but as I say I haven't found it in the replay yet. I'll look more. I agree with you now that Neuer's thigh contacts Higuain's shoulder and this is a major force transfer point.

    The truth is, it simply doesn't matter whether he contacts his head, he definitely endangers Higuain's head and neck. That is my main interest here. Head and neck injury. I will say that I have friends who are CNS injury rehab doctors, and a friend with a spinal cord injury. My concern is that no-one should get serious head and neck injuries for playing soccer.

    Joshua: this is not a blog post about the entire game. This is a post about this incident which almost everyone agrees was a bad call. Some think no foul with throw in to Argentina, others such as myself think foul and red card, including some Germans in these comments. I post my reasons related to the rule book. The rule book is the proper place to look at whether a rule was broken. The "feel" of the game is heuristic that makes for faster decisions. A fast decision is useful when the decision isn't critical and no one was seriously endangered. Neither of those things is the case in this decision.

    I feel that Germany was a slightly stronger team. Argentina had many opportunities that they didn't make work. I don't have any long-term or inherent interest in either Germany or Argentina. I do have a strong interest in head, neck, and spinal cord injuries, and the game-theory aspect of setting up and enforcing rules that are incentivizing or disincentivizing for dangerous play.

  16. Ken Schulz permalink
    July 22, 2014

    Daniel, thanks for the response. I agree that the fortunate outcome, that no one was seriously injured on the play, does not change the fact that the collision was quite risky. The outcome could have been considerably worse. I am skeptical, though, that such situations can be prevented under existing rules, even if those are strictly and fairly enforced. The stakes in such a circumstance are high, and the players have overwhelming incentives to push to the limit.
    By profession I'm a human factors engineer; we study how the design of systems can be modified to shape human performance to be safe and efficient. I'm also in the group that thinks that, across various sports, improved strength training and conditioning have increased the risk of certain types of injury, especially when bigger, stronger athletes are moving at ever higher speeds to pursue a ball or puck. And I agree with you that head and/or spinal injuries should not be the price of exciting sports contests.
    So I would be fine with fiddling the rules to reduce the probability of risky encounters. This has been done in ice hockey: there have been changes to icing rules, and occasional discussion of bringing back the two-line-pass rule, both aimed at eliminating some high-speed races for the puck.

  17. Daniel Lakeland
    July 23, 2014

    Ken: as for whether the rules can be enough to prevent risk of head and neck injury, consider how damaging to the German results a penalty and red card would have been at this point in the game? That is sufficient incentive if enforced properly and consistently I believe.

    As I've pointed out, the fact that this was clearly a dangerous move that put Higuain's head and neck at serious risk of injury means that it should be considered a foul and red card under existing rules (yes, from the rule book).

    The rules are more often enforced against similar dangerous play to the lower extremities, such as dangerous slide tackles, cleats to the knee and soforth. Clearly soccer players care about their feet and legs a lot, and they are more commonly put in danger.

    But if someone came up to you with a baseball bat and said that they were going to strike you at full force and you could choose whether it would be the shins or the temple, I'm pretty sure everyone would choose the shins. Head and neck injuries are about dying, paralysis, major loss of mental capacity etc. Even cutting someone's feet off at the shins is mild comparatively. The fact that head injuries are so uncommon in soccer means that not enough attention has been paid to enforcing existing rules as they apply to risk of head and neck injury.

  18. Daniel Lakeland
    July 23, 2014

    I should also say that I've recently signed up for MLS soccer streaming. I've noticed a much stronger enforcement via cards in that league. I believe that the "traditional" markets for soccer were also much more lax in trying to prevent injuries. In the US we have american football to show us how damaging these injuries can be. How many ex american football players have shot themselves in the chest to commit suicide while preserving their brain to scientific study of the long term consequence of multiple concussions as of today?

    http://www.tmz.com/2012/05/02/junior-seau-nfl-suicide/

  19. Cat permalink
    July 23, 2014

    Hilarious. Go over to any discussion forum with actual ref's participating. You'll find that the overwhelming majorities' only criticism with Rizzoli's call is that it shouldn't have been a free kick for GER but a throw in for ARG. Hardly a game changing issue.
    Football at the WC level isn't a no contact sports. Deal with it, or go and watch ice dance instead.

    • Daniel Lakeland
      July 23, 2014

      Cat: right, because referees in soccer are naturally experts on head, neck, and spinal cord injuries. Referees need to be TOLD by people who actually study head and neck injury what constitutes "serious foul play" with respect to head and neck injury.

      the fact that you can get a yellow card for a high bicycle (overhead) kick that was a little too close to someone else but didn't actually contact them, but referees apparently think it's ok to clobber another player at full tilt in a manner clearly endangering the head an neck of another player is what's hilarious, except it's not, it's sad.

      Other than this call which was WAY off, the refereeing in the final match was fairly good.

      I am fairly confident that by next WC you will see changes to rules involving concussion and endangering another player's head as I mentioned in the main article.

  20. Daniel Lakeland
    July 28, 2014

    Scanning through the ESPN coverage a little more, the ESPN commentators mention something along the lines of "although, you know these days if you win the ball and still clatter through the man it can be called a foul". The second commentator doesn't want to go there and dismisses the subject (very controversial obviously). They later say something about how it's too controversial for them to comment on and different factions will have different interpretations.

    I think this highlights the role that changing rules have played. "Old school" players and fans want a fast and loose game in which all that matters is whether you get the ball. Engineers and human factors people such as myself and Ken above are concerned about serious injury. Those concerns have led already to rule and interpretation changes which are designed to prevent serious injury. The rule changes are not consistently enforced by all refs, and not consistently commented on by professional sports commentators.

  21. Björn permalink
    July 29, 2014

    Hello Daniel,

    I'm a German, so you could rightly claim bias. However I consider myself rather neutral and cool on such matters as discussed here.

    Everyone immediately thought back to the Schumacher incident (for me: red card, lifetime ban of Schumacher, time in some French prison), but the two incidents do not even deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence.

    I live abroad, in the Netherlands, and was watching in a bar with a very International crowd, and while everyone was gasping at the incident, the replays immediately showed that there was no foul whatsoever from Neuer on Higuai, and everybody understood that right away.

    First and foremost, I was terribly relieved to see Higuain being okay - that is the most important out of all of this.

    But now I will try to explain to you a couple of basic facts:

    - even if you call it a foul on Neuer's part, it can never be Red, because a) he got to the ball first and b) he had no intention whatsoever to hurt Higuain, because:

    - Neuer wisely shifted his leg position a little to the left so Higuain would feel his thigh instead of his knee - had he not done this, Higuain would have been in real trouble, health-wise, just like Kramer before.

    - Higuain looked at Neuer's position twice (!) and carelessly entered Keeper territory, a very stupid decision on his part

    - Higuain, unlike Neuer, does not jump at all - if two field players have a 50:50 and one jumps while the other does not, most referees will call a foul on the player who did not jump, because of carelessness: undercutting a jumping player can result in serious injury to the player in the air losing control of his trajectory/movement, as you so nicely explained yourself

    The realtime broadcast from some angles look horrible, but only because of the speed of the collision, not because Higuain is actually kneed to the head (which, again, does not happen, he's feeling meat instead of bone).

    One last fact for you: the Ref, in an interview with an Argentinian newspaper after the finale, said that after the game Higuain and others approached him and congratulated him on having made the correct decision. However, Nicola Rizzoli also stated that he admitted there was no foul from Higuain on Neuer either, and that it should have been a throw-in.

    You can challenge the sport, its philosophy, the safety precautions or lack thereof, but you cannot dream something into this challenge that wasn't there.

    And because I don't really trust my own biased judgement, my Dutch (!), Italian (!), English (!), French (!! Schumacher....) and other international friends agree with me, which leaves me confident in knowing enough about the sport to make this call.

    One last thing:

    <>

    Those are Ian Darke and Steve McManaman, they are Commentator-Gods, and there is nothing controversial about this. Ian is on the fence, and Steve - being the likable color commentator, character and former football star that he is - simply denies any claims of foul against Neuer instantly - that's what he means when he says 'I don't believe that at all' - he knows the rules, he sees that Neuer is behaving 100% correctly, and he also sees that there is no foul of Higuain either.

    Throw-In to Argentina, and thank Goodness Higuain came out unharmed out of this high-speed collision.

    • Daniel Lakeland
      July 29, 2014

      Bjorn. Thank you for your thoughtful and cool-headed comment. I think I've made my case fairly consistently already. I agree with you that this is not a Schumacher like event. Schumacher was far and away more of an assault.

      I don't believe the "he got to the ball first" defense against a red card. Would a bicycle/overhead kick which gets to the ball first and then goes into an opponents face, where no other alternative was possible fail to get a red? I argue if that is current interpretation, it is wrong, and must be changed. We can not have people endangering other people's heads just because they get to the ball first.

      I agree it looks like Neuer contacts Higuain in the shoulder with his outside thigh. I do believe that one of the replays shows that later the side of Neuer's knee contacts Higuain at about the jaw level. This occurs because Higuain's head stays still while his body moves to the side (giving the appearance that he tilts his head towards Neuer), but I haven't been able to find that video and all the snippets on YouTube etc seem to have been taken down.

      I don't see any evidence that Higuain looked at Neuer's position twice, but again I feel like my ability to find video coverage has been fairly difficult.

      Imagine if for example instead of this fortunate outcome Neuer had jumped 3 inches higher and Higuain had crouched down 2 inches in preparation for his own jump... Neuer's "meaty leg" would have gone straight into Higuain's head with no shoulder contact, and Higuain could easily have been paralyzed with a broken neck vertebra. It's this *potential* for small changes in the outcome to have huge changes in the consequences which makes allowing this kind of challenge so dangerous.

      I am not dreaming something into the challenge that wasn't there. As far as I'm concerned, when you approach an opponent from the side or behind at high speed, and you jump into the air above them and you collide with their upper body, you endanger their head an neck, and that is dangerous play in just the same way that high bicycle kicks or slide tackles involving cleats to the knee are, except even more so.

      In the second half of the game at least 2 yellow cards were given to Argentine players for plays that were insignificantly dangerous compared to this event. At worst such plays might lead to a substitution and maybe a month on the injured list. Nothing compared to a few percent chance of paralysis or mental incapacitation. Even a yellow card for Neuer and penalty kick would have been significant in this contest obviously.

      I believe the rulebook speaks for itself, but the referees, players, and fans are not yet listening. Dangerous challenges at the legs are already being given yellow that wouldn't even have been called fouls 20 years ago. For example a slide tackle where a player gets the ball but then his trailing leg goes with cleats to the other player's leg. The fact is these kinds of safety rules are not being enforced in head-injury risks because head injuries are thankfully fairly rare in soccer so concern hasn't fully built up with regards to preventing them.

  22. Björn permalink
    July 30, 2014

    Hi again!

    "Would a bicycle/overhead kick which gets to the ball first and then goes into an opponents face, where no other alternative was possible fail to get a red?"

    I have never ever seen a player get red-carded for that. The most anyone would receive is a Yellow card, or even only a thorough warning. Unless you have an example, the situation you describe does not exist.

    "I don't see any evidence that Higuain looked at Neuer's position twice, but again I feel like my ability to find video coverage has been fairly difficult."

    I don't know whether hyperlinks are allowed here or not - also bear in mind that the GIF is about 50MB in size, so it might take a while to load.

    It shows the scene right before the incident twice, first in normal speed, then in slow-motion.

    Higuain is fully aware of Neuer's run, and instead of trying to head the ball, he just blindly runs on, which for me is definitely careless, if not reckless:

    http://giant.gfycat.com/PeriodicWellinformedBalloonfish.gif

    (if hyperlinks don't work: giant dot gfycat dot com/PeriodicWellinformedBalloonfish.gif)

    And I have to say, I don't like your 'would've could've' scenario(s). Neuer did not jump 3 inches higher, and Higuain did not crouch down 2 inches more, and he certainly was not preparing to jump.

    Neuer is a professional football player, not a UFC fighter. He did everything 100% by the book, did it inside the penalty area, saved Higuain from any injury by jumping with a slightly shifted hip, got to the ball first.

    But I can play that game too - what if Neuer had jumped with his legs straight and got overturned in the air by carelessly unaware Higuain, landed on his neck and received an injury, all for punching away the ball in his own area?

    The truth is that in both cases, it's Higuain's unawareness that creates the danger.

    There is no protecting from this - this is Football, this is high-speed contact sport, and just like in any other sport (or even outdoor activity) such things can happen.

    It is a freak situation - the only solution I could think of would be for the players to wear neck-stabilizing gear. Yeah, I can see how popular that would be...

  23. Daniel Lakeland
    July 30, 2014

    Thank you for your Gif. I think it makes your point very clearly. Higuain did know that Neuer was coming for the ball.

    The bicycle kick example is so rare, because players know that they are not to bicycle kick when it endangers others, that it would probably be hard to find such an incident.

    The rulebook on "playing in a dangerous manner" reads:

    "Playing in a dangerous manner is defi ned as any action that, while
    trying to play the ball, threatens injury to someone (including the player
    himself). It is committed with an opponent nearby and prevents the opponent
    from playing the ball for fear of injury.
    A scissors or bicycle kick is permissible provided that, in the opinion of the
    referee, it is not dangerous to an opponent.
    Playing in a dangerous manner involves no physical contact between the
    players. If there is physical contact, the action becomes an offence punishable
    with a direct free kick or penalty kick. In the case of physical contact, the
    referee should carefully consider the high probability that misconduct has also
    been committed."

    So by this rule, a high bicycle kick which plays the ball but proceeds through the ball to impact the head of another player is "high probability that misconduct has also been committed" such misconduct would warrant a red card under the rules for "serious foul play". The rule book is quite clear here. I would be very interested to see what the rule book said 10, 20, 30 years ago. I suspect these rules are interpreted differently now than 20 years ago. I'm not sure when the changes occurred.

    The point of my "what if" scenario is that certain actions can be expected to hurt someone before we commit to them. Before bicycle kicking it's the obligation of the player to make sure he is not too close to an opponent (or for that matter a teammate) because a close kick has a high probability of causing injury. Before leaping for a ball while charging a player the leaper must consider whether he will impact the upper body of the other player in a way that would have a high likelihood of injuring the other player. Basically, a charging leap is a kind of "playing in a dangerous manner" pretty clearly by definition above.

    Many people have argued that they've "never seen" this or that in the past. This is because most players play well and carefully and many contests are much lower stakes than WC finals. Players will not take extra risks when all that is at stake is maybe one point in one game out of many games in a season.

    So far no one has come out and using the wording of the rulebook which I've quoted carefully here, argued that what happened was not "playing in a dangerous manner" "reckless charging" or "serious foul play" by the definitions. If you would like to try to convince me that this challenge by Neuer doesn't qualify for those conditions, you will have to show me how Neuer never "threatened injury" to Higuain, how Neuer's leap does not "prevent the opponent from playing the ball for fear of injury", how Neuer either is not "charging", or if you acknowledge that he is charging how it is not "in a careless manner, in a reckless manner, or using excessive force".

    Furthermore, under Serious Foul Play, you will have to convince me that Neuer is not "lunging at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent". You will not convince me by saying that such a caution somehow "only applies to slide tackling" because the danger is just as real in a high overhead leap.

    My point is: the rulebook is already pretty clear here, you can't jump AT someone else in a way that is likely to injure them, and if you do, and you contact them, you are to be sent off.

  24. Daniel Lakeland
    July 30, 2014

    Note, I really do appreciate people coming here and (politely) giving their arguments and opinions, however I also see that this argument can go on and on with no resolution as each of many many people on the internet give their interpretation.

    Because of that I think I will close comments in 15 days (on Aug 15) and let the arguments stand at that point, that gives plenty of time to finish the current thread of discussion. Others are free to continue discussing this at other venues. Again, I appreciate all the polite and respectful comments I've gotten so far.

  25. Björn permalink
    July 30, 2014

    Oh my, where do I begin 😉

    "The bicycle kick example is so rare, because players know that they are not to bicycle kick when it endangers others, that it would probably be hard to find such an incident."

    On the contrary! Over the many years I have been watching football I have seen many attempts at bicycle kicks near other players, both in relaxed and in tense situations.

    Whether the defending player has been touched by the bicycle-movement or not, referees simply will not ever give a card for that. It has not happened, it will not happen. The bicycle kick example is not applicable. Period.

    ===================

    "So by this rule, a high bicycle kick which plays the ball but proceeds through the ball to impact the head of another player is "high probability that misconduct has also been committed" such misconduct would warrant a red card under the rules for "serious foul play"."

    That is simply not true. You are insinuating that every incident considered a 'misconduct' is automatically considered as 'serious foul play' - which is not the case.

    Here's an image I found on Wikipedia under the 'Fouls and misconduct' section for Football:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Foulsandmisconduct.svg

    So, with all due respect - you are wrong. A Red card is completely out of the question, under any circumstances, because there was no Serious Foul Play, there was no intent on Neuer's part to hurt/injure Higuain, and he did not play in a careless or reckless way, as I'll explain:

    ===================

    "“Careless” indicates that the player has not exercised due caution in making a play.

    “Reckless” means that the player has made unnatural movements designed to intimidate an opponent or to gain an unfair advantage.

    “Involving excessive force” means that the player has far exceeded the use of force necessary to make a fair play for the ball and has placed the opponent in considerable danger of bodily harm."

    ===================

    Neuer has exercised the utmost caution in shifting his hips, and he does not in any way perform an unnatural movement to get to the ball. He does what every goalkeeper on the planet is being taught to do: raise one knee to protect his groin and belly.

    ===================

    "Before bicycle kicking it's the obligation of the player to make sure he is not too close to an opponent (or for that matter a teammate) because a close kick has a high probability of causing injury."

    More of a personal note, but I think this is grossly exaggerated. Having watched years and years of Mixed Martial Arts contests, I find the human body to be extremely resilient, and many times it is simply appalling to see the amount of acting on the Football field. Back on topic, though...

    ===================

    "Many people have argued that they've "never seen" this or that in the past. This is because most players play well and carefully and many contests are much lower stakes than WC finals. Players will not take extra risks when all that is at stake is maybe one point in one game out of many games in a season."

    Again, that is wrong. People do stupid things on local games as well as on the big stage. The stakes are irrelevant, because this can happen any day to any player of any team in any contest.

    ===================

    "Furthermore, under Serious Foul Play, you will have to convince me that Neuer is not "lunging at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent". You will not convince me by saying that such a caution somehow "only applies to slide tackling" because the danger is just as real in a high overhead leap."

    That rule applies to sliding tackles only, because it was written for sliding tackles. QED?

    ===================

    "... you will have to show me how..."

    "...you will have to convince me that..."

    I don't have to do anything. It is entirely your responsibility to know the rules and know the game when you are discussing it. But that does not seem to be the case - without any intended offense:

    if I had to judge how much football you have played and watched in your life, I would guess .....not much 🙁

    You choose to select outrageous and non-applicable examples to support your case, and you carelessly (or recklessly?) misinterpret the rules.

    I see a trace of arrogance in you when you insist on your point of view even after the Argentinian players conceded it was a perfectly fine action by Neuer, and even after the Referee - having seen the replays - confirmed there was no foul, misconduct or bad intention by Neuer, but that he simply should have given a throw-in?

    Oh, one last thing...

    http://i.imgur.com/M8PVWlC.jpg

    • Daniel Lakeland
      July 30, 2014

      Darn I had a longish comment in reply and then pressed a wrong button and lost it.

      The Bicycle kick example is straightforward, it's in the rule book. A bicycle kick is "permissible provided that, in the opinion of the referee, it is not dangerous to an opponent." and "If there is physical contact, the action becomes an offence punishable with a direct free kick or penalty kick. In the case of physical contact, the referee should carefully consider the high probability that misconduct has also been committed"

      The disciplinary sanctions that are appropriate are: "If a player plays in a dangerous manner in a “normal” challenge, the referee should not take any disciplinary action. If the action is made with obvious risk of injury, the referee should caution the player"

      My estimate of how often bicycle kicks happen which are close enough to other players to count as "dangerous to an opponent" is maybe 1 per game or less, "normally" such a thing produces the result "not take any disciplinary action". My estimate for bicycle kicks which contact another player in any significant way is maybe 1 every 5 or 10 games. The disciplinary action there would often be "yellow card" and my estimate of how many times a player bicycle kicks directly into the face, neck, shoulder or upper chest of another player is ... very rarely < 1/100 games. On the other hand, slide tackles into the legs of another player... maybe 5 to 20 times per game, with between 0 and 4 yellow cards given in a typical game for that sort of thing. Orders of magnitude more common than a direct bicycle kick to the face or upper body, hence "relatively rare". Here are the disciplinary standings in MLS soccer here in the US: http://www.mlssoccer.com/stats/disciplinary-points/2014

      according to here: (from 2012) disciplinary points are 1 per foul 3 per yellow, 5 or 6 for red
      http://www.mlssoccer.com/stats/disciplinary-points/2012

      As of today teams have between 37 and 84 disciplinary points for 2014, having played around 20 games a piece.

      The current standings for players:

      http://www.mlssoccer.com/stats/season?season_year=2014&season_type=REG&team=ALL&group=FOULS&op=Search&form_id=mls_stats_individual_form

      Sort that page by red or yellow cards if you like. In the first page of sorted by red cards you'll see this season a total of about 30 cards for 25 players. These players are getting red 1 in 20 games or so, somtimes 2 in 20.

      Yellow cards: the top offenders are getting 4 to 7 yellows in 20 games.

      From the perspective of teams, you see 1 to 4 yellow cards per game, and probably a red card every week or two.

      Perhaps we are seeing a significant difference in culture. Germans may want fast and furious football, where americans want fancy footwork, and no one gets hurt? The referees respond to those incentives by modifying their calls.

      I have no doubt that you're right, the human body can take a lot of punishment. But consider the knee to Neymar's back which broke a vertebra, collisions in football can produce very risky situations. Neymar is lucky, he claimed that he briefly lost feeling in his legs. We need to be conscious of dangers, and weigh those which more serious consequences more seriously. Giving a million yellows for light danger to the lower extremeties and allowing people to clatter through other people's heads and necks is like giving out millions of parking tickets and insisting that drivers weaving through traffic aggressively are "doing no wrong".

      Honestly, I think we are likely to be talking past each other. German culture is very likely different from US culture and what is considered acceptable risk there is likely unacceptable here. That is certainly true of traffic enforcement! 🙂

  26. Daniel Lakeland
    July 30, 2014

    Also I'm not sure where you got your definitions for "careless, reckless, and using excessive force" but they are not the definitions given in the FIFA guide which are:

    “Careless” means that the player has shown a lack of attention or
    consideration when making a challenge or that he acted without precaution.
    • No further disciplinary sanction is needed if a foul is judged to be careless

    “Reckless” means that the player has acted with complete disregard to the
    danger to, or consequences for, his opponent.
    • A player who plays in a reckless manner must be cautioned

    I would agree with you that "reckless" in this case is not cut and dried, Neuer does seem to shift his knee away from Higuain so there is *some* regard, but I would also argue that overall, the jump WHILE CHARGING AT HIGH SPEED disregards the danger to Higuain, perhaps not "completely" but to a significant extent.

    “Using excessive force” means that the player has far exceeded the necessary
    use of force and is in danger of injuring his opponent.
    • A player who uses excessive force must be sent off

    Neuer evidently thought "that ball is mine, I don't care if I'm going to collide with your upper body after I punch it?" he did perhaps make that collision less dangerous than it could have been (by shifting his knee away from Higuain) but the remaining danger is clear as day. Just whiplash danger from this collision with the shoulder is significant.

  27. Daniel Lakeland
    July 30, 2014

    Also, when quoting the "you need to..." and "you have to..." stuff, you completely left out the fact that it was a conditional statement.

    IF you want to convince ME then you need to...

    You certainly don't need to do anything, but if you don't address those issues, then you won't be very convincing to me.

    To put my soccer backround out there: I played for several years in my mid to late teens, I had a lot of experience with the 80's fad of hacky sack and had a lot of leg/foot dexterity, I liked to control the ball using high feet (chest height extended foot to trap the ball etc), and was frequently cautioned for high kicks by referees for the first season. I gave it up in high school when I had a minor knee injury (from a local non-league soccer game) and two ankle injuries (from high school gym classes).

    I watch world cup soccer regularly (every 4 years) I've been too busy and the US has too little quality soccer to watch it religiously in between. Undoubtedly many other people have more experience with how referees commonly enforce these rules. I still think the rules are clear as day here, and that enforcement is irregular from place to place and time to time and referee to referee. I know of several referee payoff scandals, so that adds to the problem though I don't claim anything like that in this case.

    I don't see how anyone can say that the 2 yellow cards against Argentine players in the second half of this game, for pretty minor infractions should be considered ok, but when it comes to Neuer clobbering Higuain, no foul was committed. It's like we live in different worlds where in your world people can't break their neck, receive concussions, or the like but the slightest touch on their shins will create permanent disability.

  28. Daniel Lakeland
    July 30, 2014

    Also note, as a person who does risk analysis, who is trained in Civil Engineering, and who deals with tradeoffs between risk and return for a living, I consider it my job to be the voice of caution in the face of serious injury, the voice of "let's not seriously injure people just so we can watch exciting soccer".

    My interpretation of the rules is laid out clearly, it is based on the letter of the rules and their thoughts on the matter. I am much more familiar with the thought processes that go into writing rules than most people.

    I am explicitly taking the position that as I see it, the line should be drawn well below charging at full speed and colliding with the upper body of another player. I understand that FIFA players and refs have a different opinion. Skydivers have a different opinion about whether people should jump out of airplanes or not too. Insurance companies and trauma surgeons on the other hand, are not so excited about the prospects.

  29. Daniel Lakeland
    July 30, 2014

    Another point of view that may be useful is a cost / benefit tradeoff in the interpretation. Clearly, some people read the rules and interpret as ok for Neuer, and others interpret foul/red (including another German commenter above).

    Let's consider the cost of enforcement: such a jump is banned and therefore doesn't occur because players like Neuer think twice about it. Since only one occurred during the world cup I conclude such jumps occur in less than say 1/20 games. So enforcing this rule will produce maybe 1/20 chance of players having to play a slightly more restrained game. Effect on soccer as a sport: negligible.

    Now, suppose we continue to allow such jumps. Perhaps 1/20 games have this type of collision. Each collision, we'll allow as little as 1/100 chance of serious head or neck injury that is recoverable, and 1/1000 chance of unrecoverable serious head or neck injury (such as say paralysis or mental damage)

    Now, I'll just put out there some cost assessments in dollars, a bit crass for some, but as a first pass a way to consider consequences.

    Appx cost of recovery treatment for recoverable head / neck injury: $1M
    Appx Cost of lifetime treatment for a quadriplegic: $10M
    Appx contract value for high quality footballer: $10M/10yrs

    So these costs are on the order of say $20M for serious injury (frequency estimate 1/20000 games) and say $2M for recoverable injury and loss of 1 year of play (frequency estimate 1/2000 games)

    net expected cost of refusing to enforce this rule in the manner I am suggesting, potentially $2000 per game. This doesn't even take into account "willingness to pay" on the part of the fans to not have to watch another injury like the Shumacher incident. Of course there's also "willingness to pay" not to have to listen to my opinion and to continue to let people jump in this manner without even calling a foul (much less yellow or red) 😉

  30. Björn permalink
    July 30, 2014

    "The disciplinary sanctions that are appropriate are: "If a player plays in a dangerous manner in a “normal” challenge, the referee should not take any disciplinary action. If the action is made with obvious risk of injury, the referee should caution the player""

    --> "caution the player", which can be a warning or a Yellow Card. Nowhere does it say the fouling player ought to receive a Red card. Can you please acknowledge that? 😉

    =======================

    " The disciplinary action there would often be "yellow card" and my estimate of how many times a player bicycle kicks directly into the face, neck, shoulder or upper chest of another player is ... very rarely < 1/100 games."

    You are yet to provide a single piece of evidence for this claim - I have watched the Bundesliga, the Euro's and the World Cups since 1996. I am yet to see one player receiving a Yellow Card for executing a bicycle kick near another player.

    =======================

    "Perhaps we are seeing a significant difference in culture. Germans may want fast and furious football, where americans want fancy footwork, and no one gets hurt?"

    I wouldn't know - I do not follow MLS, but I have heard and read that youth soccer in the US can have extraordinary rules to protect the young players.

    Which to me seems weird in a nation where American Football is revered. That sport is so much more dangerous to players, despite the protection gear - no one could ever drag me onto an American Football field, whereas I'd be only to happy playing Soccer or even Rugby.

    Instead of listing the fouls, cautions, red cards etc. for MLS - you could document the amount of serious injury occurring in Pro Football, including spinal and neck injuries.

    This is not supposed to be a strawman, but I'd really like a comparison between the US No.1 sport and the Germany No.1 sport - I have the feeling Soccer will come out with flying flags as the safer sport, despite such high-risk situations.

    =======================

    "But consider the knee to Neymar's back which broke a vertebra, collisions in football can produce very risky situations. Neymar is lucky, he claimed that he briefly lost feeling in his legs."

    I absolutely agree in this case - Zuniga needs to be banned for life. That challenge was so over the top and so careless, I felt sick watching it over again. One more thing? He does not even go for the ball - all he cares about is hurting his opponent. Somewhat unlike Neuer, eh?

    =======================

    "Honestly, I think we are likely to be talking past each other. German culture is very likely different from US culture and what is considered acceptable risk there is likely unacceptable here."

    Do I need to point towards American Football again? 😉 There is little to no difference between US and Germany, people are the same everywhere.

    =======================

    "Also I'm not sure where you got your definitions for "careless, reckless, and using excessive force..."

    Ironically, I got them from this website, which cites the USSF rules:

    http://www.askasoccerreferee.com/?p=2395

    =======================

    "WHILE CHARGING AT HIGH SPEED"

    Here is what the FIFA rulebook says:

    "It is an offense to charge an opponent..."

    Neuer charges at high speed, but straight towards the ball, not towards Higuain. Had Higuain been smarter in his decision to go for the ball (he ought to either jump, or withdraw), nothing would have happened. You cannot use the 'Charge' rule to describe Neuer's action, sorry! Look at what Zuniga did, and then look at what Neuer did. The difference in attitude and professionalism are quite clear.

    =======================

    "I watch world cup soccer regularly (every 4 years) I've been too busy and the US has too little quality soccer to watch it religiously in between. Undoubtedly many other people have more experience with how referees commonly enforce these rules."

    Back when I soaked in everything labeled 'soccer', I watched every Bundesliga match of my club, every cup game, every International, every UEFA Cup/Champion's League game there was.

    I played it too, not for as long as you did, though: (wait, this is going to be ironic..)

    My soccer career ended abruptly when I was 16 years old - I had a 1vs1 with the opposing goalkeeper. In a highspeed situation I managed to touch the ball first, and the goalkeeper just swept me studs-up into the (protected) shinbone, which was partly broken in the act. I remember flying through the air having no control over my body - I could have landed in all sorts of awkward angles, but that didn't happen.

    The referee thought it was a dive, which even made the goalkeeper laugh. I had to be substituded (and it was only the 20th minute of the game). The goalie told me right away he was sorry and that it was a clear penalty and Red-card, but the referee had none of it. That was the last day I ever played football/soccer/whatever for a club.

    So you may be able to imagine my feeling towards goalie charges, and that I see the danger for strikers.

    In this case though (Neuer vs. Higuain), all the carelessness is on Higuain's part, which endangers both himself and Neuer.

    =======================

    "I don't see how anyone can say that the 2 yellow cards against Argentine players in the second half of this game..."

    No one is discussing the validity of the Yellow cards against Argentina. What everyone is discussing (and what you may have missed?) are the multiple challenges by Argentinians which the referee did not seem interested in.

    1) The Kramer incident - at first, it looked like an accident to me, but then a friend, who is huge US Basketball fan, informed me that this is something you learn in Basketball, and that there is absolute and unmistakable intent behind it. TBH, I don't know.

    2) The multiple careless punches to Schweinsteiger's face.

    3) The multiple studs-up (even double-studs-up) challenges vs. Schweinsteiger and other players.

    4) Let's not forget the horrible tackle made by Höwedes, for which he could have easily been sent off.

    So, forget the Yellow cards - let's talk about the Yellow, Second Yellow and Red cards which weren't given to the Argentinians (and in one case: Germany).

    =======================

    "I am explicitly taking the position that as I see it, the line should be drawn well below charging at full speed and colliding with the upper body of another player."

    I'd like to reply with the following quote, made by USSF on http://www.askasoccerreferee.com:

    "And it is worth repeating — yet again — that the occurrence of contact between players does not necessarily mean that a foul was committed. Contact occurs and it is accepted and welcomed, as long as it is accomplished legally — and that includes most accidental contact."

    =======================

    "Now, suppose we continue to allow such jumps. Perhaps 1/20 games have this type of collision."

    And that is where it becomes obvious you do not follow professional football/soccer too often (again, no offense intended) - because these things happen in almost every game, during corners and freekicks.

    The only reason why this is still being discussed is because this was an isolated incident near the edge of the Penalty area. If this had happened inside the 5-yard-box, no would one even raise an eyebrow.

    =======================

    Your calculation is quite neat - but irrelevant and speculative, not to mention cynical. Please apply the same to College Football/Professional Football (talking American Football here) and tell me why this sport is still legal?

    Also, it's quite cynical to start talking dollars when someone's health or life is on the line. No amount of money will ever give you your old life back.

    Sport is risky, period. Accept it, or stop watching (and commenting) 😉

    • Daniel Lakeland
      July 31, 2014

      Bjorn, here are some issues where I think we disagree or misunderstand each other.

      1) I think American Football is a terrible brutal sport that no one should play. I am extremely sad that several ex american football players have committed suicide due to dementia from head injuries. You will never convince me to allow something in soccer because something more dangerous is allowed in American Football. Let's keep proper football/soccer relatively safe for the players yes?

      2) My specific concern is not with keepers jumping like in a corner kick. It's when they are running at full speed towards a player, or towards the ball when another player is also chasing said ball. I would add that this is not in my mind restricted to keepers, though they are the players more likely to execute such a play. When discussing this issue please don't confuse my position with some position about how keepers shouldn't ever jump like they do to grab a ball from a corner kick! Basically, if you have enough velocity that when you hit another player you will knock them to the ground flat, then you shouldn't jump into the air ensuring that you will hit them in the shoulders, head or neck. THAT is the essence of my position.

      3) It has been my experience in reading rules, code books, internet RFCs and other similar formalized documents (which I have read a fair amount), that "terms of art" are used to describe actions. So rather than choosing from a variety of descriptions such as "sent away" "told to leave the field" "removed from the game" etc... the rule book always consistently says "sent off". This means "red card". Similarly, the rule book always consistently says "cautioned" to mean a *formal* caution, meaning "yellow card". Everywhere you see "cautioned" in the rule book you should read "yellow card". When the rules want the referee to give a verbal warning they say "warn". This formalized language is standard practice in formal documents like this, and unless you show me some specific discussion of "cautioned" in the rulebook that is counter to this understanding, that is how I will continue to read it. An example is under "holding an opponent" in which the referee is told:

      "
      • the referee must warn any player holding an opponent before the ball is in play
      • caution the player if the holding continues before the ball is in play
      • award a direct free kick or penalty kick and caution the player if it happens
      once the ball is in play"

      This means "give a verbal warning... if it continues, give a yellow card, and if it continues during play also award a kick"

      The fact that we have different readings of this suggests that you are not familiar with this practice of using stylized formal language in formal documents such as rulebooks. You may want to re-read the rule book with this understanding to see where I am coming from now. The argument that "yellows are never given" when the rulebook clearly says "caution" is simply arguing that refereeing is lousy and doesn't follow the rules, not that the yellows shouldn't be given.

      4) You seem to think that high kicks *in which another player is contacted in the face or upper body* are common and are not given yellow cards or red cards (depending on the seriousness of the contact). I doubt that they are common. If they are common you may find it easy to cite 3 or 4 in the last week or two of matches you've watched? I have never said that a high kick that doesn't contact a player would normally get a yellow card (though if the referee thought it was particularly careless, or saw another player explicitly jump out of the way or duck to avoid the kick the rules say a yellow should be given). Again quoting the rule book:

      "If a player plays in a dangerous manner in a 'normal' challenge, the
      referee should not take any disciplinary action. If the action is made with
      obvious risk of injury, the referee should caution the player"

      so if no contact occurs because a player jumped out of the way, it still had an "obvious risk of injury" and a good referee should give a yellow (caution).

      5) The point of quoting the card statistics was to allow you to compare the prevalence of cards to German and Euro games. To say that people everywhere are similar when it comes to risk tolerance is to seriously misunderstand societal perceptions of risk. In the US the maximum speed limit on roadways was 55 MPH (88 km/hr) until maybe the early 1990's due to American caution about such things... and yet, as you point out, we have American Football... so perceptions of risk change a lot from one situation to another and one place to another.

      6) Engineers compare dollars to lives all the time. Every day of their working career they are using codebooks which implicitly say it's ok to design for a given level of tradeoff between cost of construction and safety to the occupants. Every time you buy an older cheaper or used car instead of a brand new high end Mercedes you trade off safety vs cost yourself. However, you're right my calculation is relatively simplistic. It is a "back of the envelope" calculation to get some kind of "order of magnitude" of the dollar vs injury tradeoffs involved.

      7) "No one is discussing the Argentine yellows." This is my POINT. They were valid. They involved significantly LESS risk to life and limb than a FULL SPEED jump into the head and shoulders of an opponent. The contact between Neuer and Higuain was NOT accidental. It was a calculated tradeoff that Neuer made.

      8) the rulebook defining charging: "The act of charging is a challenge for space using physical contact within
      playing distance of the ball without using arms or elbows." These rules obviously apply under this definition.

  31. Björn permalink
    July 31, 2014

    Hey Daniel,

    it's been a nice discussion, but you seem to be hellbent on misunderstanding and misinterpreting rules and regulations.

    Yes, 'to caution a player' does indeed mean to give him a Yellow Card, but that is already miles off what you said the rules 'clearly' demand: a Red Card.

    You doubted my statement about Higuain looking twice at Neuer, for which I provided visual undeniable proof right away.

    You acknowledged that Neuer shifted his hips instead of ramming his knee right into Higuain's head.

    And still you somehow remain the notion that Neuer intentionally or at least recklessly endangers Higuain... I am speechless. Or wait, I'm not:

    ================

    There is no foul by Neuer.

    Neuer does not charge into Higuain, or even aim for him.

    There is no recklessness, because Neuer does not aim for Higuain, and he certainly does not punch the ball only to have a crack at Higuain.

    There is not even carelessness, because - as you already admitted - Neuer shifts his hips to save Higuain from trouble.

    Higuain on the other hand looks twice at Neuer to know his position and behavior, and endangers himself and Neuer with his decision to run on (trying to control the ball with his chest) instead of withdrawing or at least jumping to make sure he gets to the ball first.

    Higuain and his colleagues told the Ref he's made the right call.

    The Ref - after having watched the replays and slow-motions - still stands by his decision that Neuer did neither commit a foul nor act care- or recklessly, yet he has the decency to acknowledge the call 'foul by Higuain' was wrong.

    Even after all these things have been explained to you, you still insist that Neuer endangered Higuain care- or even recklessly, seeing no fault on Higuain's part whatsoever.

    You have not changed the original comment in your blog one bit, you're still calling this decision a 'serious error'.

    ================

    One thing I have not even commented on:

    "I suspect that Higuain only survives this collision because he is unaware that it will occur and does not tense up..."

    One thing that is obvious in any MMA contest is the fact that a brain that is aware of a punch/kick about to his the head/neck is able to protect itself just enough to avoid injury, whereas fighters that receive blows to the head/neck while unaware of that blow go unconscious/receive trauma much easier.

    Maybe it is the positioning of the head, maybe it is the tension of the muscles and tendons - whichever it is, if the brain is aware, it is much less susceptible to trauma/damage.

    And while I am by no means an expert on the topic (not in the least), my guess is that had Neymar been aware of Zuniga charging into him, and had he tensed his muscles, there would have been no vertebrae fracture. (I am by no means blaming Neymar, just speculating how it would have turned out)

    ================

    I would like you to watch another incident - the following GIF (Warning, it's very large, again) shows Romero showing actual reckless behavior - and Klose reacting by wisely avoiding to challenge Romero for the ball:

    http://gfycat.com/AcademicOrnateBlueandgoldmackaw

    Fixed the following for you, no thanks needed:

    "As far as I am concerned, without their primary goalie (ie. playing 10 men and with a substitute for the goalie), Agentina would have lost this match badly, and since the rules clearly show that the goalie should have left the game at 28 minutes or so, Germany are the proper world champions."

    If Higuain had been looking straight forward or towards Neuer, a) he would have withdrawn, just like Klose did, or b) he would have chosen to jump to head the ball away from Neuer.

    I am sorry, for maybe I am taking this too seriously, but the fact that a) you don't know a thing about football and b) you seem to a lack the very essential insight from your profession (or is it conscious misconduct?) - namely that the brain being aware of incoming blows does nothing but help protect the body) makes this blog dangerous to the unaware.

    ================

    "The charitable interpretation of this is that the referee simply didn't see what happened, and therefore applied a heuristic that the goalkeeper gets the benefit of the doubt. The alternative is actual misconduct by the referee."

    WOW, where did this come from? I had not even noticed this yet... first of all, the Ref (as you can see very well in the GIF I posted) is looking directly at the incident, from a very good angle. Secondly.. 'misconduct by the referee' ?!

    Are you seriously insinuating the Ref is actively protecting Neuer, thereby cheating the Argentinians?

    Now I understand why you announced for the comments to be closed soon (saving yourself from ridicule) - this blog is not misinformed, it is malicious! For your sake I hope Nicola Rizzoli never reads this, because he'd be in the right to sue you.

    If I were you, I would not close this blog for comments - I would delete the entire thing and pretend it never happened.

  32. Daniel Lakeland
    July 31, 2014

    I am closing comments because I don't wish to spend hours each day arguing this on and on. You seem to be not understanding my argument, taking pieces of it out of context and muddling it around (whether high kicks require yellow vs whether charging leaps require red, etc etc ). I think our arguments so far stand on their own. I hope you continue to enjoy the game, and I hope neither of us ever has to see someone get a serious life-altering head or neck injury during a soccer match.

    I am not ashamed of anything I actually say here and won't be removing anything. I have never stated that any referee DID commit some kind of misconduct, I have stated various alternatives. You do not seem to understand either conditional statements, or the use of hypotheticals in arguments. I'm not sure if this is a language issue, or some other reason.

    One alternative I apparently overlooked is that soccer fans, soccer referees, and the people who actually write the rules live in different worlds where slamming at full force into another player's upper body at high speed, intentionally is considered something everyone should feel free to do during soccer games. I think the rule book pretty clearly precludes that sort of thing. I can certainly imagine the kind of discussion that the rule book writers had about how they want to make rules that prevent serious injury while allowing a certain amount of leeway... etc. This discussion has aspects that fascinate me because I am obviously interested in perception and management of risk, that is a major talking point on my blog.

    It's true, Neuer didn't do this in order to hurt Higuain (such as to take him out of the game) but he did it knowing that he would put Higuain at risk of serious injury, this is the definition of reckless in the rulebook, there can be no question that Neuer knows he will collide with Higuain. I suppose there can be a question of whether football players think of this collision as just not that dangerous. Higuain can shrug it off because it turned out well, but small and unpredictable differences in conditions would have played out very differently. That is what I call a dangerous action.

    I agree entirely with you about Romero and Klose. Romero meets the criteria for "playing in a dangerous manner" however the outcome is no contact, therefore "normal" and the rulebook says no further action should be taken. If Romeros foot had gone into Klose's body or extremely near it, the rules say yellow card and penalty. If the injury had been significant, red card for endangering the safety of an opponent. I don't understand how you can agree with me on this, and disagree on Neuer, but whatever...

    In any case I invite you to consider that we are very clearly unlikely to convince each other of anything. Each of us has our own reasons for believing what we have said. Let's not waste time with arguments that go nowhere for us.

  33. Björn permalink
    August 1, 2014

    "One alternative I apparently overlooked is that soccer fans, soccer referees, and the people who actually write the rules live in different worlds where slamming at full force into another player's upper body at high speed, INTENTIONALLY is considered something everyone should feel free to do during soccer games"

    That one word shows exactly why you cannot be taken seriously. This is your assumption, yet you state it as fact. That is why your blog entry sucks so much - you assume intent, and build a whole case around that assumption. But it's a house of cards - and if you had any clue in regards to how legal matters work, you'd know grammar doesn't protect you from the Law.

    "...but he did it knowing that he would put Higuain at risk of serious injury..."

    More assumption on your part, nothing more.

    "If the injury had been significant..."

    Another proof you do not have the slightest idea of how football works - injury is completely irrelevant to a referee. Had Romero touched Klose in any way with his foot, the only choice the referee would have had would be between 'Reckless play' (Yellow) and 'Using excessive force' (Red).

    Seeing that you cannot distinguish between an unprovoked, unnecessary high stretched leg and a knee/thigh in self-protective position, both in a speedy, 'charging' situation just proves again and again that you need another 5-10 years of watching Football until you may get a grasp of what is going on on the field.

    But you're not alone - even some professional German referees have shown signs of delusion and said Germany were lucky not to receive a Penalty and Red Card. Naturally, exactly these referees have shown abysmal performance during the last Bundesliga season and are already getting stick.

    Unless you're coming up with yet another outrageous statement, that's it for me 🙂

  34. Carolina permalink
    August 2, 2014

    Rizzoli gave a foul in favor of Germany which was a bad call since it couldnt possible a foul since Higuaín was racing backwards, there is no way he could perform a foul like that. All i can say is that it was a frustrating games for every Argentinian and that a Referee of that level shouldnt be making mistakes like that.

  35. Björn permalink
    August 7, 2014

    @ Carolina

    "Higuaín was racing backwards"

    w00t?

    http://giant.gfycat.com/PeriodicWellinformedBalloonfish.gif

  36. Daniel Lakeland
    August 21, 2014

    It's past the announced Aug 15 deadline for comments on this post. Continuing to attract controversy on this topic isn't the point of my blog, which is focused on mathematical modeling, engineering, and society etc. The comments are now closed.

Comments are closed.