February 20, 2015

SPA and DOGSO - Part 2/4: Stopping a Promising Attack

Based on the previously published theoretical post, the following video clips illustrate typical match situations in terms of SPA (stopping a promising attack) and DOGSO (denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity).

Before watching the clips, it is recommended to be aware of the guidelines for SPA by reading the theoretical post or the Laws of the Game.

Clip 1

This clip is a compilation of typical game scenarios where promising attacks are stopped by infringements. While the first four clips demonstrate the dynamic of promising attacks that often times can only be stopped by opponents with unfair means, the last video reveals that even infringements that stop attacks that would have very likely developed to promising attacks within a few seconds must be sanctioned with a yellow card.

Clip 2

This compilation illustrates examples of infringements that prevent attacking players from entering or playing the ball in the penalty area in an advantageous position.
The offenders must be cautioned with a yellow card for SPA, no matter how early in the game the infringement occurs.

Clip 3

This clip reinforces the tactical component and nature of SPA. A team are leading with 1:0 in the very last minute of added time. Their opponents start a last and quick counterattack which is unfairly stopped by a defender. Therefore, a yellow card must be given.

So, keep in mind: Not only the position of the offence matters, but its game context as well!

Clip 4

This clip illustrates a typical situation: a quick counterattack is started deep in the attacking team's own half with many players who could receive a pass and start a potentially promising attack. A midfielder quickly but efficiently holds the ball possessing player and thus stops the attack.
A yellow card can  be given by the referee to send an early message that such misconduct and unsporting behaviour will not be tolerated - this might prevent later attempts to stop quick attacks by the Spanish technically adapt midfield.

Nonetheless, the offence is very light and the movement of the attacking player(s) rather slow than dynamic. In my opinion, a card is therefore not mandatory. In this special match context, the referee did not caution two other Dutch players earlier in the game. Both committed fouls that can be categorized as reckless and therefore needed more than just a warning. The third offence resulted in the 1st yellow card in the match (see clip). As a result, this decision was not that much accepted as there was a visible disproportionateness in the referee's line. So: you should also integrate previous situations into your judgment at times.

Clip 5

After losing the possession of the ball, a defender is holding an attacker and thus makes him fall. Another defender would clearly have the chance to intervene fairly if there was no infringement. Therefore, it must be considered as stopping a promising attack to be sanctioned with a yellow card.

Clip 6

A defender deliberately handles the ball and thus does not only prevent an opponent from getting the ball but also clearly stops a promising attack (the attacker would have probably reached the ball in a good position in front of the goal). An obvious goal-scoring opportunity (see below) is not denied, but the defender must be cautioned for SPA by means of a deliberate handball.

Clip 7

An attacker receives the ball from a ricochet from the crossbar. There is no defender in front of him and he is able to smoothly control the ball. In the progress of pulling off a probably dangerous shot on goal in a dynamic attacking situation, the attacker is however unfairly tackled by an opponent. The possible and very probable shot on goal is equivalent to a promising attack and should be dealt with in the same way. A yellow card for SPA is correctly given by the referee.

Clip 8

This video shows a situation where the referee incorrectly cautions a player for allegedly stopping a promising attack. However, the position of the attacker is not really promising (almost 40m away from the corner flag and very close to the sideline with many other defenders present) and there is no clear dynamic attacking movement by the player or even his entire team. The unfair conduct of the opponent should be deemed as careless - but he is not stopping a promising attack.

Clip 9

This clip emphasizes the necessity to integrate the position and proximity of other defenders into the judgment. An attacking player is dynamically crossing the midfield and is leaving several defenders behind him. One of them decides to intervene unfairly and stops the attacker carelessly.
However, he is not stopping a promising attack given the proximity of another defender who would have intervened fairly and probably cleared the ball even if the foul had not occurred. A yellow card should therefore not be given.

Clip 10

Clip 11

This compilation of three clips shows two quite similar incidents. These offences can be colloquially described as "fielding", i.e. defenders guilty of impeding the progress of an opponent by just putting their body into their opponent's path for a tactical purpose.

In the first clip, this happens quite close to the penalty area. A defender clearly prevents the attacker from reaching the ball in a quite promising game situation. But is it enough to consider it as a really "promising" attack?  

Literally, not really. Even if the foul had not occurred, the attack would have been abortive since the attacker had no chance to reach and control the ball due to the presence and advantageous position of another, well-positioned defender. On the other hand, it was a dynamic attack with a deep forward pass, so there are some arguments to regard this attack as more promising than unpromising.

In the second clip, it happens close to the sideline. This clip is part of the latest UEFA Referee Assistance Program (2014:2). UEFA asked their referees to consider this situation as SPA requiring a yellow card.
Again, the question is: how can that attack be "promising" considering that the attacker clearly had no chance to reach and control the ball even if the foul had not occurred? The deep forward pass was poorly played so that another defender was almost in full control already at the moment of the foul (and the attacker would still have had to sprint some metres towards the ball...).

In my opinion, you can maybe consider the first situation as SPA. But you cannot consider the second situation as a "promising attack" - and this is in line with what referee Svein Moen decided on the field of play. You can say that UEFA wants their referees to punish these infringements also for their unsporting character and the intent to stop a potentially promising attack (taking into account that defenders cannot always know whether another defender is close, so when they are making such a foul they should have the intent to stop a promising attack...).
However, I have some problems with this explanation. If we argued the same way for DOGSO (see below), there should be red cards for the mere intent to deny an obvious goal-scoring opportunity even though our weighing-up process of the criteria does not allow it, because - for example - another defender is very close and able to intervene fairly. The criteria outlined in UEFA's Practical Information for Match Officials 2014 (which is regarded as kind of small "bible" for UEFA match officials) and presented in the theoretical post are there to be the basis for your on-field-judgment. They are not there to be ignored or misapplied.

Another explanation might be: "These attacks were dynamic and intended to be promising, the position on the field of play was promising, so it does not matter whether a defender would have cleared the ball anyway." - this explanation is maculation considering clip 10 (B50) though.

Apparently, it is difficult to find the right balance between focalizing the action's outcome (was a promising situation denied or not?) and the action's purpose (was it the defender's target to stop a potentially promising attack?).

My opinion or rather recommendation is:

As the referee on the field of play, you should use your perception to keep the overview on complex situations and take accurate decisions.
In the first incident, I can agree with the referee's decision to consider the clear foul as "tactical" and intended to stop a promising attack that was developing on the right side nearby the penalty area.
In the second incident, the referee and assistant referee both had the opportunity to clearly see that this attack was anything but promising. So, they correctly did not issue a yellow card.
I support this decision and do not agree with UEFA's post-match interpretation. If you are an official depending on those guidelines, please ignore that and decide as UEFA wants it, of course.

The third clip shows the opposite: the yellow-dressed Dortmund attacker would have clearly reached the ball and would have had a promising attack if he had not stopped unfairly. So the referee correctly cautioned him with a yellow card.

In the next parts (3 and 4) you will be shown more complex and demanding situations as well as many grey area decisions which are not always clearly correct or clearly incorrect. Stay tuned for that.

The videos are owned by FIFA and UEFA respectively. They are embedded here for educational purpose only.


  1. Anonymous20/2/15 21:04

    Stuttgart-Dortmund. 32´Aytekin good penalty but missed RC. What do you think ?

  2. Anonymous20/2/15 21:29

    Clear RC for DOGSO. What did he do...

    1. I'm pretty sure, he lost the player who committed the foul. There is no other explanation (especially taking into consideration that he didn't even book him) that makes sense.

    2. This should be the only reason, yes. Aytekin furthermore looked a bit nervous and unsure, so this would support this hypothesis.

    3. Anonymous21/2/15 12:51

      Yes, it´s true. I thought that he will ask to assistant.

    4. He probably did. They use headsets, so we don't see it clearly when an AR is involved.

  3. Anonymous21/2/15 12:51

    What do you think about czech referees ?

  4. Anonymous21/2/15 13:09

    What do you think about Undiano Mallenco in Shakhtar-Bayern ? I think he wasn´t bad.

    1. I please to hear I am not the only one who thinks his performance wasn,t so bad as some people think in this blog

    2. Well, the elbow on Ribery is a crucial mistake as it has to be considered as an arm used as a weapon. This makes it 7.9. In 61', Undiano missed a SFP by a Shakhtar player and simultaneously a reckless tackle by Alonso (same situation!). Actually a 2nd YC. Technically considered, he made 3 crucial mistakes. That can't be a good performance.

  5. Anonymous21/2/15 13:15

    In many of these situations the nature of the offences was holding. Player should be cautioned for holding not only when stops promising attack of the opponent but also when holds the opponent without interess / possibility to play the ball. IMO, the last clip In the first compilation (JUV - CEL) could illustrate this type of offence.

    In the last compilation are included three clips, not two, and in the last of them is YC necessary. So I think there is not any problem with guideline of UEFA.


    1. Thanks for feedback, the JUV-CEL clip is indeed a prototype-clip of UEFA for SPA and not only holding.

      I don't understand your last statement though. I called the 2nd clip of the last compilation contradictory because on the one hand UEFA asks their referees to follow criteria like position of other defenders, but on the other hand they present a video, in which they demand a YC for SPA, like clip no.2 where the player fouled can clearly NOT reach the ball anymore even if he had not been fouled. In my opinion it would be more logical and consistent (also taking into account the OLY-S04 clip B50) to say "a promising attack has not been stopped as the attacker would have had no chance to reach the ball because another defender had the clear chance to intervene fairly" or alike..

    2. Anonymous21/2/15 15:44

      I oversaw that "My opinion or rather recommendation is" was conclusion to the Clip 11 (with correct recommendation to the third situation). It looked for me like conclusion to all topic and I was not attentive enough when reading that.

      Sorry for that.


  6. Anonymous21/2/15 18:10

    It seems Spain has new ultra-talented FIFA referees. As weak as Undiano and Carballo. But of course, authorities will be impressed with them!

    1. Anonymous21/2/15 20:36

      This AR must be removed from football forever! Unacceptable!

    2. At Spain new ultra-talented FIFA referees.....Where?

    3. Anonymous22/2/15 00:34

      Sarcasm :)

  7. Stuttgart-Dortmund, Aytekin very,very bad as always.
    I don ´t understand how he is Elite UEFA. Collina
    each time more disaster.

    1. "very, very bad as always" - this sentence shows that you didn't follow his carreer. Aytekin made a great development and - except the missing RC - he also did a good job in Stuttgart last friday.

    2. Stuttgart - Dortmund was indeed a 7.9(8.3)...good performance, but the penalty mistake and one clearly missing YC for illegal use of arm/elbow in reckless manner.

  8. All I can say, Niclas, is that this is a brilliantly written article! You hit the nail right on the head! The clips are well chosen and the description is well suited. Also, I share your opinion on the discrepancy between what the offences' intention and its actual outcome is. I think, UEFA are not stringent in their reasoning why Moen's situation shall be considered as SPA. As you say, if we start to judge the intention to stop an attack which "might be promising in near future one day" we open a can of worms (= create unneccessary issues + avoidable YC's) so to say...

  9. Here is the IFAB agenda.


  10. Anonymous22/2/15 00:34

    Just found it:


    1. Anonymous22/2/15 07:56

      Poor Atkinson yesterday. Missed penalty for handball, missed red card for SFP. Of course, correct red card shown for reaction but a referee missing in concentration.

  11. Anonymous25/2/15 10:56

    Hi Niclas! Is UEFA's Practical Information for Match Officials 2014 downloadable anywhere?


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