For 75 minutes in their final Copa América Centenario group game against Peru, Brazil offered their standard performance of late. They dominated possession, threaded together some good passes, took some good chances and ultimately weren’t all that exciting. Precocious forward Gabriel Barbosa, starting for the first time in the tournament, barely touched the ball. Then again, all the Seleção needed was a draw to win the group and advance to face Colombia, and Peru rarely looked threatening.
All of that changed when Raúl Ruidíaz pushed the ball past Alisson with his right arm.
The referee whistled for the goal. Alisson and Dani Alves immediately signaled for handball. The ref took more than three minutes to consult with his assistants to try and get the call right. Players on both sides screamed in the officials’ faces, pleading their case. The ref had lost all control of the situation. He ultimately awarded the goal. Peru won the group. Brazil packed their bags. And some will still argue that video replay has no place in soccer.
Video replay is now an integral part of all major team sports in the United States except soccer, as well as international sports like tennis, cricket and rugby. The detractors want to say that it slows the game down. The detractors want to say that the beauty of the game vanishes when such a cold, "robotic" element is added into gameplay. Nonsense. Not only has replay proved to get more calls right, this fiasco showed that leaving it to the refs actually slowed the game down more than replay ever would. Video review of Ruidíaz’s handball would have been quickly overturned, and play would have been allowed to continue. End of story.
Furthermore, players from both teams harassed the officials non-stop while they tried to sort out the issue. If replay were in place, that harassment would be nullified and players would have no ability to influence the decision.
It’s fair to say that Brazil didn’t play well all tournament and wasted the chances they created. After all, if they’d bagged a couple goals before Ruidíaz’s handball, this wouldn’t be much of a story. That said, the wrong call got a team sent home. This sloppy lack of officiating rigor needs to stop.
Thankfully, the culture does appear to be pointing toward change. Major League Soccer, the Bundesliga and the Eredivisie will be some of the leagues FIFA has designated to begin experimenting with replay next year. One only hopes it yields real fruit.
This was an elimination match in a major international tournament. Teams live and die by these calls. Would West Germany have been able to work their way back into the 1966 World Cup final? Would England have been able to overtake Argentina in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals? We’ll never know. What we do know is that these calls have massive consequences. This call cost Brazil big revenues with their elimination. This call may cost Dunga his job. None of it would have happened if replay was available to the officials. It’s time to grow up.
And if you still thought Ruidíaz scored with his thigh, here’s the Zapruder film freeze-frame that proves you wrong.
Ruidiaz, amazingly, says the ball hit him in the thigh, reinventing anatomy.
Peruvian commentator: 'Raúl Ruidíaz, revolutionising medical science! He's got the first thigh with fingers!'— Sam Kelly (@HEGS_com) June 13, 2016
What a way to decide Copa America.