Spain’s head coach Santiago Denia has advocated that the practice of showing in-stadia replays on giant screens be scrapped by the organisers of the FIFA U-17 World Cup after his team triumphed 3-1 over Mali in an action-packed semi-final encounter, here.
Denia made the comments while stating his thoughts about the “ghost goal” of Mali, which was not signalled in by the match officials when Spain were leading 2-0. Spain scored another goal soon after the debatable incident, that happened in the 62nd minute, through Ferran Torres to take a commanding 3-0 lead before Mali at the DY Patil Stadium.
“I expected this question. I understand Mali coach (Jonas Komla) is upset and if that (awarding that goal to Mali) would have changed the game or not is not easy to say. We were playing a good match (in dominant position) at that point of time,” said Denia during the post-game press conference last night.
“From the Spanish team’s point of view, we need to respect the referee. It’s not an easy job. One thing which should be considered (by the organisers) is not to repeat replays of matches on the big scoreboard (inside the stadium). I suggest replays should not be shown as it can influence the referees or people in the stadium towards the referee,” Denia remarked on the issue.
A 40-yard pile-driver by Cheick Omar Doucoure flew past Spanish goalie Alvaro Fernandez to hit the underside of the cross bar, bounce on the ground before coming back into play which was headed out. But the ball seemed to have bounced inside the goal before rebounding into play, with the assistant referee not signalling it in as a legitimate goal.
Even as play continued the Mali bench rose as a whole to protest, after seeing the in-stadia replay, and after continuous shouting caught the attention of referee Ryuji Sato of Japan who, after remonstrating with the Mali bench, showed the yellow card to one of the support staff members for repeated back-chatting.
Although disappointed, Mali coach Komla did not want to openly criticise the match officials for disallowing what they felt was a legitimate goal at a time when they were battling hard to bounce back.
“I can’t say anything about referee what he did, but that’s what football is. May be that (goal signalled in) would have given us a little bit of luck as after that there was enough time to score more goals. But Spain did play well and were on the merit list to win the game,” said Komla on the controversy.
Spanish coach Denia said the pace of the game influenced his team’s style of play. “We scored the first goal and had to step forward. There were lots of space behind Mali defenders and we had to take advantage of that. If I have to choose I will want to play the
ball (keep it in possession), but sometimes situations dictates what to do.
“The idea was to avoid transitions (change of playing style) as they take away your energy, but sometimes the pace of the game dictates how you play. The (original) idea was to keep the ball (in possession), but if you could not do that then you have to play the transition, with caution,” he said.
“Spain likes to play the passing game but if situation demands we would play the transition, but carefully.” He also conceded that the team’s defense has to perform better in the final against their Euro rivals England in Kolkata on October 28.
“Today Mali was very strong and was playing well. We need to improve our defense collectively, not individually, and that’s my job ahead of the final. We do have to prepare. We know we have beaten them in the final of the Euro in Croatia. England has improved and we need to improve on things we did today,” he said about what lay ahead of the Spanish armada.
He also praised his captain captain Abel Ruiz, who scored the side’s first two goals, but said the star striker could have scored more had he not spurned chances. “It (Ruiz’s display) was not a surprise to me. He’s very demanding of himself. And he’s first one to know he could have scored more goals. In order to win the final he needs to score those goals. When your captain performs like that the rest of
the team is behind you and look up to you. It’s what the captain is for,” Denia said.
Mali coach Komla said his team had fought hard right through the game but it was not their day. “We lost the match, that was destiny. We played the tie with speed and technique, but it did not work out for us. We tried to play a fast game in the second half and also scored a goal. Yesterday we won, today we lost; this is how football is,” he said.
“It has been a nice experience to be in last four. In the last World (U-17) Cup, (fellow-Africans) Nigeria won, but this time they are not even here; this is sports,” he added when asked whether he was disappointed that no African team was in the final.