Insider: Webb says Frings should’ve been whistled for handball vs. USA in ’02 World Cup

It’s the biggest “What If” moment in U.S. Soccer history: What if referee Hugh Dallas had called the goal-line handball on Torsten Frings in the World Cup 2002 quarterfinal between the USA and Germany? In this week’s “What If” issue of Sports Illustrated, former referee Howard Webb, who called the 2010 World Cup and Champions League finals, reviewed the video and gave his interpretation of what should have been called.

“The correct outcome should have been a penalty kick awarded for the use of the hand, and a red card for the denial of a goal—not the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, but the denial of a goal, because clearly the ball would have gone in had Frings not blocked it,” Webb said.

“A handball has to be deliberate, but when a team gains such a huge advantage through a handball and there is that element of a slight movement toward the ball—or even not a retraction of the arm away from the flight of the ball—then the referee, generally speaking, will penalize the offender.”

If the handball and red card had been called, the U.S. could have tied the score at 1-1 and had a man-advantage with the winner going on to face South Korea in the World Cup semifinals. Webb is now in charge of the Professional Referee Organization’s Video Assistant Referee program, and he added if VAR was in effect in ’02, the right decision almost surely would have been made.

For more details on this story, including comments from Landon Donovan, Bruce Arena and Gregg Berhalter, check out the new issue of Sports Illustrated magazine.

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