Euro 2008 – Polish PM “wanted to kill”
Poland’s prime minister has admitted he felt like he “wanted to kill” after English referee Howard Webb awarded the injury-time penalty that allowed Austria to snatch a 1-1 draw at Euro 2008.
Ivica Vastic’s late equaliser on Thursday meant Poland had to settle for one point from their first two games in Group B.
“As the prime minister I have to be balanced and collected,” keen football fan Donald Tusk said. “But last night I was speaking very differently about the whole thing, I wanted to kill.
“Referees make mistakes and this was an obvious error that harmed us all. I thought it would have been better if we had lost in the first half when Austria had their chances and not after 93 minutes due to an obvious mistake.”
Austria missed three gilt-edged opportunities in the opening exchanges before Roger Guerreiro put Poland ahead when he was clearly offside in the 30th minute.
Poland now face a difficult task to qualify for the quarter-finals when they meet group winners Croatia in their final match in Klagenfurt on Monday.
Webb has come in for some harsh criticism for the decision, but UEFA director of communications William Gaillard backed his referee.
“We don’t think it’s controversial that when a player is pulled down by the shirt with both hands a penalty is given, there is nothing controversial about that,” Gaillard said.
Poland coach Leo Beenhakker complained that if that was a foul, dozens more should have been given in previous games as UEFA had said it would clamp down on the problem.
But Webb clearly had UEFA’s support on Friday.
“You saw that the free kick was taken twice, there was a lot of wrestling in the area, it’s probably why he took the decision. It was certainly within the rules of the game, that’s for sure,” Gaillard said.
“Maybe he could see that this particular foul was worse than he had seen in the rest of the game.”
Gaillard said any analysis of Webb’s performance would be carried out by UEFA’s referees’ committee after the match delegate’s report.
The same would apply, via the control and disciplinary committee, to any possible punishment for Beenhakker, who said of Webb: “I don’t know why the referee saw what nobody else saw, maybe he just wanted to show he was a big boy.”
UEFA aside, it was not all unstinting support for Thursday’s match officials in Vienna.
Former top Swiss referee Urs Meier criticised them for not disallowing Roger Guerreiro’s 30th-minute opener for Poland, which had clearly looked offside.
“The assistant referee did not move,” Meier told German TV. “He was not standing in the correct line for offside as required by UEFA. It was a monumental mistake by the assistant.”
Meier was involved in a controversial incident at Euro 2004 when he disallowed a late goal that would have put England 2-1 ahead against Portugal in a quarter-final they eventually lost on penalties.
He too was backed by UEFA but was savaged by the English media and received thousands of abusive emails. He needed police protection after a tabloid newspaper published his personal details.