May 26, 2024

Did a German Player Bite a French One? A Brief Investigation.

The linesman said he didn’t see it. Neither did the Spanish referee. And the television replays were inconclusive.

But Euro 2020 got its first real controversy on Tuesday:

Did Germany’s Antonio Rüdiger bite France’s Paul Pogba on the shoulder?

Let’s go to the videotape.

The incident happened just before halftime, as Rüdiger snuggled up behind Pogba as he prepared to receive a throw-in deep in Germany’s end during their teams’ group-stage match in Munich.

In the United States, ESPN’s broadcast team didn’t draw any conclusions of what occurred. In Britain, Roy Keane, who knows a thing or two about getting under an opponent’s skin, called it more of a “nibble” than a bite on ITV. In Brazil, where he is preparing to play for Uruguay in the Copa América on Friday, Luis Suárez probably wondered why he was suddenly a trending topic on Twitter.

But was it a bite? Or did it just look like that?

Replays offered Rüdiger enough of a degree of deniability, the former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg suggested on ESPN. He said there was no way the referee — or even the video review system in operation at the tournament — could rule on it beyond a shadow of a doubt. The video-assistant referee was far more certain about the two French goals it ruled out for offside.)

But almost as soon as Pogba vs. Rüdiger became a flash point, it was over. Play continued with Rüdiger taking a free kick. A few minutes after that, it was halftime. But what, exactly, had Pogba been complaining about?

Let’s hope he offers a bit of clarity after the match, which France just won, 1-0.

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