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As a nation we like nothing more during a European or World Championship to sing this famous chant, blaming the decisions of the ref over the actions of our football players. At almost every international competitive game it gets a good airing.
We like to take it personally too, and hold a grudge. No one can forget, for example, Beckham being sent off in France ’98 against Argentina, or the referee allowing Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ in 1986’s World Cup. More recently, when Frank Lampard’s goal against Germany in the 2010 World Cup was missed by the referee we let our feelings known.
But are such hostile reactions to this unpopular position really warranted? England’s opening game with France elicited this typical anti-referee stance as Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli experienced our wrath. With two yellow cards for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ashley Young, and none for France, could it be said that his decisions were biased?
Arguably, decisions were made (or perhaps, not made) that may have altered the result of the game, as there were definitely late tackles made by the French side that were missed by Rizzoli.
Yohan Cabaye, for example, although possibly not warranting a yellow card, did nonetheless consistently make unfair tackles against the English side throughout the game. He possibly should have got booked for persistent infringement. Samir Nasri also might have received a booking for his very cynical foul on Alex Oxlade-Chambelain.
None of this really detracts from the fact that the yellow cards that we received were actually just; Young and Chamberlain did deserve them. There is also the genuine issue of things being missed, which is one argument for video-play. Relying on a referee and linesmen means that they need to see 100% of what goes on all the time, which is easier said than done. What we can see at close range may look very different on the pitch.
England’s match with Ukraine saw a bit of luck the with the referees (one of which standing on the line) not giving a goal to Ukraine. Maybe bad decisions are starting to even out for England?
It’s likely that we will always find fault in referee decisions, because we are of course also biased. It seems likely too that England fans hold a healthy amount of paranoia when it comes to refereeing decisions, and all fans tend to helpfully forget that the guys in the other experience decisions that don’t go in their favour either.