Why Harry Kane was onside vs. Germany, when Karim Benzema was offside vs. Liverpool
Kane was handed the chance to claim England’s first point of their UEFA Nations League campaign when the VAR, Juan Martinez Munuera, advised referee Carlos del Cerro Grande to review a foul by Germany defender Nico Schlotterbeck on the England captain.
But Kane appeared to be in an offside position when the ball was first played through, so why did the penalty review still go ahead?
What happened for the penalty?
Jack Grealish attempted to thread a ball through to Raheem Sterling on the edge of the Germany penalty area. Defender Lukas Klostermann was in front of Sterling and attempted to intercept the pass, but he deflected the ball through the box in front of Kane.
Kane went to ground under a challenge from Schlotterbeck as the ball went across the area.
The VAR advised the referee that Schlotterbeck had clipped Kane and caused the fall and therefore it was a foul and a penalty.
After the review, the referee awarded the penalty and Schlotterbeck was booked.
Why wasn’t Kane offside?
Even though Kane was in an offside position when Grealish first played the pass, the offside phase is reset by Klostermann’s “deliberate play” of the ball.
From that point, all England players are deemed to be onside until it is played again by a member of that team.
So, what is a ‘deliberate play’ of the ball?
The offside law states: “A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball, including by deliberate handball, is not considered to have gained an advantage.”
“Deliberate” is then defined as: “An action which the player intended/meant to make; it is not a ‘reflex’ or unintended reaction.”
In this case, Klostermann’s act of trying to intercept the pass and kick the ball is deemed a “deliberate play.”
How is this different to Benzema in the Champions League final?
A “deliberate play” does not mean the defender intended to pass the ball to an attacker, only that he intended to kick the ball in an intentional way.
The IFAB has set out four key considerations for a “deliberate play” in referee guidance.
– A defender goes to play the ball — conscious action
– The defender has time and options
– The defender has control of his actions — not the outcome of the action
– There is distance and space between the pass and the defender playing the ball
And this is where breaking down the guidance is important.
In the Champions League final, Liverpool defender Ibrahima Konate was clearly attempting to win the ball when tackling Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde, before the ball ran to Benzema to score his disallowed goal. But the act of the tackle alone does not make it a “deliberate play.”
The determiner in this specific situation was the short distance the ball, meaning that while Konate was trying to make the tackle, how he made contact with the ball was unintended. In law, as Valverde got to the ball first it cannot be a “deliberate play” by Konate, only a block. There was no time for Konate to react and play the ball in an intended way. Therefore, the offside phase is not reset and Benzema remains active.
Compare that to Klostermann, who attempted to cut out a pass that was played forward, and had time and options in how he played the ball.
Why does ‘deliberate play’ even exist in the law?
It’s to factor in situations where a defender makes an error in trying to clear the ball, just like this.
The logic is that a striker should be able to benefit from a clear defensive error.
It’s controversial, as it also means there are situations whereby a striker can be in an offside position and gain an advantage, just like this.
So this is like Kylian Mbappe in the last UEFA Nations League final?
Largely, and these two incidents clearly show the difference between a deliberate play and what the law considers to be a block.
The goal proved controversial, as Kylian Mbappe was offside by a couple of paces when France teammate Theo Hernandez played him through on goal. However, Spain defender Eric Garcia had extended a leg and touched the ball, deliberately trying to intercept it on its way through to Mbappe, thus rendering everything after that point a new phase of play.
🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷 @KMbappe à 2⃣2⃣ ans:
— UEFA Nations League 🇫🇷 (@EURO2024FRA) October 14, 2021
In this example, just like England vs. Germany, the ball travelled a distance which enabled Garcia to react and make a “deliberate play.”
The small difference in the Mbappe example is that Garcia was attempting to stop the ball going through to the offside goal scorer, Mbappe.
Klostermann, meanwhile, was trying to stop a pass getting through to an onside player, Sterling, and happened to deflect the ball to a different player, Kane, in an offside position.
Why wasn’t Schlotterbeck sent off if it was a penalty?
It was not certain Kane would have been able to get to the ball, therefore it could not be considered denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and so a yellow card was shown.
If Kane could have got to the ball, the referee could have shown the defender a red card even though the challenge was inside the area if he felt Schlotterbeck wasn’t making an genuine attempt to win the ball, and only playing for the foul challenge.