Problems at the Caribbean Cup The (English) Football Association first organised its famous cup competition as long ago as 1871, and FIFA organised its first World Cup in 1930. Whatever problems might have arisen in association footballs early days, one might have expected that by 1994 sufficient experience in running cup competitions had been accumulated for major disruption caused by the inadequacy of the rules under which they operate to have been long avoided. In the latter year, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) organised its
Problems at the Caribbean Cup The (English) Football Association first organised its famous cup competition as long ago as 1871, and FIFA organised its first World Cup in 1930. Whatever problems might have arisen in association footballs early days, one might have expected that by 1994 sufficient experience in running cup competitions had been accumulated for major disruption caused by the inadequacy of the rules under which they operate to have been long avoided. In the latter year, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) organised its fifth Caribbean Cup. In the qualifying tournament the 21 national teams were arranged into six groups of either two, three or four nations and played one another once. The winner of each group, plus the second placed team in the two larger groups (with four nations) then proceeded to further group rounds, which produced four teams for a conventional knockout cup format. Things in Group 1 of the qualifying round took a turn that might have been predicted in a perfect world, but in fact was not. The fact that there had to be a clear winner of the group had resulted in the organisers laying down two specific rules: 1 Since the clubs only played each other once, every game must produce a winner. If the game was tied after 90 minutes, there would be sudden death extra time. 2 For reasons that are not clear, it was decided by CONCACAF that, for this competition, any goal which was scored in that extra time would count double. In other words, the team which scored a single goal win in extra time would be deemed to have achieved a two-goal victory. On the face of it perhaps, nothing appears amiss with these rules. The first two games played led to the following results: Barbados 0:1 Puerto Rico Grenada 2:0 Puerto Rico Grenada thus went into the game with a superior goal difference, but Barbados had home advantage. The latter could move to the top of the table, and hence on to the next round, if they could beat Grenada by at least two goals. Barbados in fact led 2:0 until the 83rd minute, when Grenada pulled a goal back as a result of an own goal by a Barbadian defender. This meant that Barbados could only proceed to the next round if they scored again. Grenada not surprisingly started to play very defensively as, with the score at 2:1, they would top the group. Somebody on the Barbadian side realised that a better option than trying to score a further goal in the last seven minutes of play was to force the game into extra time by scoring an own goal, which they proceeded to do, anticipating a score of 2:2 after 90 minutes, and then 30 minutes of extra time in which to score a single goal (a goal that would give them victory of 4:2 because of the second rule noted above, and progress to the next round). The Grenadians however quickly realised that there were two possible strategies: they could score a third goal, or, if they scored an own goal in the dying minutes, the Barbadians would win by three goals to two, which would mean that Grenada progressed. The Grenadians then attacked both goals, as a goal at either end would see them through, and the Barbadians were forced to defend at both ends. This may be football, but not as we would expect it to be played! The outcome was no further goals in normal time, Barbados scored a golden goal, which counted double (giving them a nominal 4:2 victory), and thus progressed to the next stage. Sources: Gardiner (2005); Snopes (2008). Discussion questions 3 Might this bizarre and dysfunctional situation have reasonably been anticipated? 4 Are there any circumstances where games should be replayed because the original result might be considered unsound?
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