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Asher Smith Headshot

Schadenfreude 1, England 0

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Before Landon Donovan's heroics against Algeria last Wednesday, anyone following the Guardian's minute-by-minute coverage would have picked up on a conspicuous narrative conceit: that Americans, unfamiliar with the vagaries of the beautiful game, lack the fortitude to accept officiating errors in stride.

When you got right down to it, the blown call on Clint Dempsey really amounted to a valuable life lesson:

40 min: Tame effort from distance by Dempsey. Well held by Mbolhi. "I'm in Texas, and if FIFA want us to care about the World Cup, they should at least supply us with competent refs," moans Thomas Langino. Savour the character-building lesson, Thomas. Injustice is part of life, might as well get used to it. So says Sepp.

If the score held at 1-nil in Algeria's favor, the Stars and Stripes' would only have had themselves to blame:

49 min: Mbolhi comes to claim a hopeful American ball into the box. "As frustrating as these disallowed goals have been for a true US football fan, the call in the Slovenia game has been all the talk in the US, where it's well known the public couldn't care less about football," reports Chris Roberts. "Of course there has been little or no mention of the poor first half we put in, which led to a situation where we needed 3 goals to win anyway. In absence of a decent team, nothing seems to unite Americans and draw their attention to the sport like perceived injustice against our 'brave Americans brethren.' If this scoreline stands, I am sure the blaring misses will be unnoticed by the general public, who will instead be abuzz over that disallowed goal. Or maybe that's just the vuvuzelas affecting my thought."

After all, human error is just part of the game's mystique:

50 min: Ziani swings in a sweet corner. DeMerit tugs Halliche's shirt but the ref doesn't spot it and, off-balance, Halliche gets his head to it anyway but, being molested by the American, he couldn't direct it on target. "I'm getting tired of these moaning Americans, they expect some special treatment from Fifa, bad refs are part of the game," fumes Luis Fernando Dominguez. "I'm Mexican and we got out of our own World Cup with a good goal disallowed, Ireland didn't go to this World Cup for a bad ref decision, the hand of God of Maradona is well, a hand. If you don't like the beautiful game, go watch some boring baseball but stop asking for the red carpet because you are Americans and 'FIFA wants you to care about the World Cup.'"

And the Algerian side had fair grievances too, that should not have been ignored:

76 min: Yahia cautioned for a late tackle on Altidore. "If the refereeing had been of a standard even close to the third division of a European league, Clint Dempsey would have been sent off after 20 seconds and the US would have been playing with 10 men for the game, so let's not think that EVERY crap decision went against the US in that match eh?" wibbles Gary Walker.

So how would our friends across the pond react to an egregious officiating foul-up against their own side? From Paul Hayward's post-game write up:

Two counter-attacking goals in four minutes showed up England's defensive naivety and wooden pursuit of an equaliser after the goal-that-never-was: the best indictment yet of Fifa's neanderthal prejudice against goal-line technology.

In the Wimbledon fortnight a simple machine can say whether a tennis ball has crossed a white line. Here in football's biggest competition Fifa tells men their lives will be defined by what happens on the World Cup stage and then denies them the equipment that would make those definitions fair. For the outcomes of World Cup games to be shaped by this prejudice brings the sport into disrepute, if that isn't an oxymoron

Guardian blogger Simon Burnton wrote an entire column on the question, in which he concluded:

Surely nothing in the game is so pure, so human, as a footballer's reaction to scoring a goal - yet Fifa are happy to interfere with that. (...)

It's hard to work out why Fifa is so set on an old-fashioned stance which continues to bring the game into disrepute. Clearly at the very highest level - World Cup finals, the Champions League final, a handful of key events - everything must be done to prevent goals from being awarded or denied and matches from being decided in error.

Clearly, what we have here is another recommendation for shared misery -- still uniting people and nations like nothing else after thousands of years.

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