In match full of intrigue, nothing in Wednesday's World Cup Group B match between Australia and the Netherlands got people talking more than the handball that allowed the Socceroos to take a 2-1 lead.
With things surprisingly knotted at 1-1 in the 54th minute, a handball was called on Dutch defender Daryl Janmaat in the box. The official awarded the Aussies a penalty kick, and captain Mile Jedinak converted to put Australia on top, as SportsCenter highlighted on Twitter:
GOAAAAL! On the penalty! Mile Jedinak slots it home and the underdog Socceroos take a 2-1 lead in the 54th minute!— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 18, 2014
The moment was a shocking one on the heels of the Netherland's 5-1 decimation of defending World Cup champions Spain in their first match, but most of the talk focused on the handball itself.
It didn't appear as though Janmaat intentionally touched the ball, which is part of the criteria for a handball. Because of that, ESPN's Dermot Corrigan was confused by the decision:
Penalty Australia ... pretty harsh handball decision...— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) June 18, 2014
Former Aston Villa star Ian Taylor agreed with Corrigan's view on the matter:
The same was true of former Southampton soccer player Matt Le Tissier:
Seriously thats not deliberate handball!! #blatterout— Matt Le Tissier (@mattletiss7) June 18, 2014
Although only Janmaat knows for sure whether or not he deflected the ball with purpose, even Fox Soccer's official Twitter account labeled it as an accident:
That type of penalty decision comes at the official's discretion, but one can only assume that a more conservative approach might be taken on the World Cup stage.
It is difficult to blame the official, though, since handball rules are somewhat murky, as Dan Dickinson of Gothamist.com pointed out:
My kingdom for clearer rules about what's handball and what's not. Can both see that given and not given. Sigh.— Dan Dickinson (@GothamistDan) June 18, 2014
Despite the questionable circumstances surrounding the decision and subsequent goal, there was plenty of reaction after Jedinak put underdog Australia ahead of the Netherlands.
His club team, Crystal Palace, congratulated Jedinak for a landmark goal:
Congratulations to Mile Jedinak - the first ever Palace player to score in the @FIFAWorldCup in our history.— Crystal Palace FC (@CPFC) June 18, 2014
Jedinak's strike was solid and confident, but Allan Jiang of Bleacher Report UK pointed out that Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen tends to struggle with penalties:
Jasper Cillessen never seems to save penalties: Mile Jedinak, Xabi Alonso, Aron Johannsson, Jonatan Soriano, James Forrest, Xavi #NEDvsAUS— Allan Jiang (@allanjianga) June 18, 2014
That is an issue for many goalkeepers, though, since the shooter has an obvious advantage. Cillessen wouldn't have been the goat by any means had that goal stood as the winner, but he had to be happy about what ultimately transpired.
Was handball the correct decision?
Just four minutes after Jedinak's goal, Robin Van Persie equalized for the Netherlands. Then, 10 minutes after that, Memphis Depay gave Holland a 3-2 lead.
The official was bailed out more than anyone as there would have been plenty of irate Netherlands fans blaming him for a loss had their squad not come back.
There have been questionable decisions in almost every match during this World Cup, but it can be argued that the handball call tops them all. It ultimately didn't matter in this instance, but hopefully something similar doesn't happen in a bigger spot down the line.
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