By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | July 08, 2021

Raheem Sterling has raw pace and brilliant dribbling skills. A ball near his foot sends the alarm bells ringing for the opposition and that is exactly what happened in the second semi-final of Euro 2020 between England and Denmark yesterday.

England was playing Denmark, a team that has shocked the world with their confident march to the semis after a near-death miss… that is until Raheem put on a Sterling performance in extra time. What a dive that was!

Throughout the 90 minutes, the English players had ‘Three Lions’ share of the possession but found it hard to crack through the Denmark defence. A desperate dive by Simon Kjaer to deny Sterling a Bukayo Saka pass found him sending the ball into his own goal. That helped England level the scores at 1-1 after a brilliant Mikkel Damsgaard free-kick.

It was then a relentless hunt for the winner which was denied by the solid Danish team which employed the 3-4-3 formation. Their defence was packed. So what was the use of ball possession if one cannot convert? It’s like having the keys to a Porsche and not knowing where the door to the car is! That was the English team yesterday.

Then, came the penalty. Dutch referee Danny Makkelie immediately pointed to the spot as Sterling went grazing. He appeared to be consulting someone. Who? God knows. Why wasn’t he referring to the television replay for a clearer view? What is VAR for if not for this? You cannot rob a high-tension match of its value with poor decisions. You cannot deny a team a fair chance at play.

Raheem’s Sterling Arjen Robben show
Raheem Sterling begs for goal. Dutch referee Danny Makkelie obliges. VAR referee is still watching replays. England is waiting for it to come home.

I’m sure Makkelie did not expect Maehle and Jensen to make a way for Sterling to score a goal. That was the last line of defence and Danny boy should have known that defenders defend. They do not invite an opposition player, opening the way for him to score a goal. And where was the contact? 

Raheem Sterling and Arjen Robben

Raheem’s Sterling Arjen Robben show!
Arjen Robben in full flight.

Is Sterling shaping his style with that of Holland’s Arjen Robben? His raw speed and ball skills are akin to that of Robben. So are his diving skills. Everybody knows that Robben was a diving cheat. He could fly without physical contact on the soccer field. It would be a shame to see Sterling cheat his way to win trophies for his team. Instead of a penalty, FIFA should come up with a rule to award the Red Card to dives like these. To be sure, consult VAR, but please give a Red Card. Don’t spoil the beautiful game of soccer.

Well played Denmark. At Wembley, amidst a partisan crowd, you rocked on the world stage. What Croatia was to World Cup 2018, you are to Euro 2020. You won the hearts of soccer lovers across the globe after one of yours almost stopped! 

Why extra time? Why not a direct shootout?

If Copa America, which is going on simultaneously, can do without the extra time and go directly to penalties after regulation time, why can’t Euro 2020? That would be ideal for the players as well as viewers from different continents who stay up at unearthly hours. Moreover, after a gruelling 90 minutes on the field, the players hardly have the strength left to go through another 30 minutes. Why tire the players after 90 minutes of rigorous play for another 30 minutes? This is not cricket where fielders can graze on the boundary line and run only when the ball comes to them. Soccer is gruelling and demanding on the mind, heart and spirit. It is also gruelling for viewers who stay up and then have to watch another semi-final: Argentina vs Columbia.

In India, at 12.30 am, the Italy-Spain semi-final kicked off. It went on till 3.30 am because of extra time and penalties. I had to wake up again in two hours to watch the Argentina-Columbia Copa America semi-final. After a 1-1 result at full time, they went straight into the shootout? The Euro 2020 semi-final could have taken the same route. In both these semi-finals, the team that levelled the scores were knocked out. 

Also Read: Denmark are 180 minutes away from destiny; England are at Wembley!

Also Read: Modrić and Dalic have set the bar higher for Croatia

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