In the pantheon of completely ridiculous, over-involved refereeing decisions, the one that essentially decided a UEFA U-17 European Championships semifinal between the Netherlands and Ireland on Monday night belongs pretty close to the top of the list.
With the teams in a do-or-die shootout for a place in the tournament semifinals, Irish goalkeeper James Corcoran somehow kept out a shot by Dutch captain Daishawn Redan. You can’t see it in the video above, but Deadspin’s screen captured video right here shows that it was a kick save, and a beauty. The Corcoran save should have ensured that the match advanced on to another round of shooters for each team.
Instead, the match referee — Zbynek Proske — showed Corcoran a yellow card for allegedly coming off his line in an illegal attempt to block the shot. As that was his second yellow card — he was previously booked for time wasting — Corcoran received a red and was forced to walk off the pitch.
Yes, a referee kicked a goalie off the field while he was involved in a penalty shootout. The resulting finale was pretty much a disgrace; Corcoran was forced to hand his Irish jersey and gloves to teammate Oisín McEntee — a central defender who is not a goalkeeper — and despite his best efforts, Redan scored easily to book the Oranje’s place in the tournament semifinals.
Making matters worse is this comparison of the positioning of both Corcoran and his Dutch counterpart during the shootout:
If it looks like they’re approximately in the same spot, that’s because they are. There was essentially no difference to how both lined up; the only difference was that the referee penalized Corcoran … knowing full well that he had already shown him a yellow card.
“I think he said something about coming off his line earlier, and he warned the Dutch keeper twice as well,” Irish manager Colin O’Brien told Ireland broadcaster RTE.
As one might expect, the entire incident has sparked rancor and enormous frustration in Ireland, where a semifinal berth by the national U-17 squad would have qualified as a relatively significant achievement. Even the manager of the full national team, Martin O’Neill, reportedly aimed testy language at the referee following the match.
Instead of celebrating a heck of an achievement, the Irish are instead heading home. And it sure doesn’t seem like it’s their fault.