#NOERAPENAL

Luis Gonzalez, Sports Editor

Get over it. It’s been more than a year since that very annoying hashtag, battle cry, “No Era Penal” (It was not a penalty) was born in Brazil. Now, thanks to another tight call in the Gold Cup, this time favoring the Mexican national soccer team, not only is the phrase back, but also allegations of conscious favoring toward one of the favorites of the tournament. And you know what–it is all absurd.

The way it was absurd a year ago to blame Mexico’s round of 16 loss on the referee buying Arjen Robben’s clear dive inside the Mexican box, it is crazy to say Costa Rica got robbed on an even tighter play Sunday afternoon in New Jersey.

If Costa Rica wants to blame somebody, they need to blame themselves, their coach and training staff. They had their moments in the first half, but, for the most part, the Central Americans executed a cautious game plan that rarely paid off. Not to mention the fact that their guys on the field were dropping all over the field out of exhaustion in the later stages of the game.

Now, to the play itself, the referee’s performance and the resulting outcry and disappointment because of the clear favoritism showed toward CONCACAF’s cash cow.

I can’t believe I am about to defend CONCACAF and their morality when they are one of the leaders in corruption inside FIFA.

But, there was nothing in that quarterfinal game to support these allegations.

The foul called inside the box with time expiring was very tight, but there was contact. As Mexican forward Oribe Peralta went up looking for a ball in the air, a Costa Rican defender made contact with Peralta’s back. There was a push.

The severity of the contact is unclear, but anybody who has ever played competitive soccer knows that when you are in the air, any sort of contact can make a world of difference. The Mexican player could very well have exaggerated the contact and the fall, but the contact did exist and it is unfathomable to me that so many fans and “experts” are so certain it was not a foul. It’s just not that clear.

It was a normal soccer play that could have easily gone either way. I’ll put it this way–if that foul happens at midfield and it is called, no one would have a problem with it. I’ll go even further, the same media guys who are questioning the call would be questioning it if it had not been called.

The idea that it was all a way to ensure Mexico’s survival is not farfetched, but with the way the match developed that was just not the case.

The referee was bad for both sides, which should not come as a surprise—North and Central American officials are just bad, period. But if anything, Mexico was on the wrong end of the calls for most of the match.

The referee had plenty of chances throughout the 120 minutes prior to the controversial call, where he could have favored the Mexican squad and he didn’t.

Every time there was a set piece and Mexico sent the ball into the box, players were getting manhandled and bear hugged—he could’ve called a penalty every time and he didn’t.

Costa Rica fouled significantly more times than Mexico all throughout the match and there were more than a few occasions in which cards should have been showed and they weren’t.

Yes, Oribe Peralta, the focus of the controversial call should have been ejected five minutes prior to the foul because of a two-footed tackle. But by that logic, Costa Rica should have had one player booted for an elbow to Peralta a lot earlier in the game.

There were other instances where Costa Ricans, who were already booked with a yellow, committed fouls deserving of a second and the referee let them live.

The point is, the play was tight, not as clear-cut as many want it to be, but most importantly one isolated play does not define a game. Mexico was better, even if the referee made a mistake—when that happens it is part of the game. Costa Rica can’t be mad at the call, be mad at the fact that you didn’t do enough to win the game.

The same way Mexico quit playing against the Netherlands that June afternoon in Fortaleza and lost because of it—not because of Robben’s dive—Costa Rica lost because they were not the best team on the field, period.

Luis Gonzalez may be reached at [email protected]