After Frank Lampard’s 38th minute shot just barely crossed the line of German keeper Manuel Neuer’s goal in South Africa, fans and vuvuzelas roared, but the official’s whistle stayed silent. Media and fans around the world cried foul.
Amidst the media storm surrounding the 2010 knockout-round match (which Germany went on to win handily), Neuer infamously answered in an interview that even he must admit the ball had crossed the line.
The FIFA World Cup is never without controversy; in fact with all the passion and excitement, it’s to be expected. However, this incident led to real change. Four years later and an ocean away from 2010, FIFA has implemented goal-line technology for the first time in a World Cup.
- Official Communication: World Cup Referees and Players Confer on Expectations for Tournament Officiating
Another bit of soccer technology making its World Cup debut: a vanishing foam spray used by officials to mark 10 yards for the wall to stand for free kicks. This spray, which the center official will have on his belt during matches, will be introduced in an effort to cut down on the regular (but illegal) practice of players in the wall creeping forward to try to block free kicks.
“I think the spray is a little bit funky—funny,” said U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. “But goal-line technology, I’m all for it. You know, there’s got to be things that don’t slow the game down, but I think [this technology] can just determine it right away that the ball crossed the line and help the referee out.”
Though both of these officiating aids are to see their first World Cup this summer, the tournament will hardly be their introduction to the game at the top level.
Goal-line technology has been introduced into the game slowly, making its first appearance in a big tournament at the 2012 Club World Cup. The camera-based goal line technology being used this summer vibrates a watch on the official’s wrist when the ball crosses the line. Such systems can now be seen in use in matches all over the world, including the English Premier League and various FIFA competitions such as youth World Cups.
Not all players have a very strong opinion on the subject, though.
“You know, I’m indifferent with it. Honestly, I think I understand both sides of the argument,” said midfielder Brad Davis. “I understand people that don’t want it if it could possibly slow the game down and take away from the flow of the game. But, I also understand that there are big situations in games where it just might come down to a little mistake.”
The foam spray is a newer technology used by FIFA, and as of this year, the organization uses it in all of its major competitions without major issues. The spray has also been used in various leagues in North and South America, including Major League Soccer.
Though officials in the top flight of the sport have been quite capable over the past decade or so, for the most part, they are still human and make mistakes. These mistakes can and do lead to game changing moments, moments that in a game of ever-decreasing margins can make the difference between a win and a loss.
“I know how tight the margin really is between winning a game and losing a game,” said Klinsmann. “It could be little, little, tiny things that can go against you.”
These new technologies could lessen that margin even more.