Who is caught offside, referee or players?
A Euro 2008 controversy broke out on Monday over Ruud van Nistelrooy's first goal for Netherlands against Italy with referees and players arguing about an interpretation of the offside law.
Van Nistelrooy scored in the 26th minute of his team's 3-0 Group C win in Berne, turning a fierce drive from Wesley Sneijder past keeper Gianluigi Buffon from close range.
The Italians protested he was offside and video replays showed him in what looked a blatant offside position. Van Nistelrooy and his teammates looked nervously around expecting the linesman's flag as they celebrated the goal.
But later there was confusion about whether Italy defender Christian Panucci had played the Dutch striker onside.
Panucci fell and went off the field of play behind the back-line after clashing with other players in the preceding goalmouth scramble and was lying injured on his back when the ball went into the net.
Austrian referees' commission chairman Gerhard Kapl was quoted on the Austrian Web site www.sportal.at as saying the goal was correctly awarded. "The injured player behind the goal counts as a player on the field and therefore it was not offside," said Kapl.
Predictably, Dutch players said the goal was good and Italian players said it was not.
UEFA were unable to clear up the matter immediately and none of the experts quoted on various TV networks seemed able to point to a rule in FIFA's laws of the game which could clarify the position.
Donadoni refuses to blame referee for Italy defeat
Coach Roberto Donadoni refused to blame the controversial goal for Italy's dfeat. "I don't like to talk about referees's decisions. A goal is a goal and it is impossible to change the decision," Donadoni said. "We accept it."
Italy striker Luca Toni was convinced it was offside.
"I looked at the replay during the match and it looked to me as if it was offside," he told reporters. "I said to the referee, 'look at the replay'. But he didn't look so that was that."
Italy were outmuscled by the Dutch in midfield and also failed to create many clearcut chances.
"We weren't very good. The Dutch players have physical quality," said Donadoni, adding he was alarmed by some of his side's defending.
France's 0-0 draw with Romania in the other Group C game kept Italy’s hopes alive.