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During the U.S.'s World Cup match against Ghana today, I was surprised to see that the player who kicked Clint Dempsey in the face while contesting a ball in the air wasn't booked. I've seen bookings given for accidental elbows (or "accidental" elbows) and this seemed worse: you're clearly endangering the other player by raising your foot so high. Is this a case of the referee judging that the hit was accidental?

Of course if none of the officials see the hit happen nothing will be called, but in the case of today's game I don't think that's the case; the hit occurred very close to the ball. But even if the official didn't see, what if he had?

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Ghana player clearly deserve a booking, but I don't know how to answer your question... –  gbianchi Jun 17 at 13:41

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

When deciding on what action to take when a player kicks, trips, pushes, strikes, charges, jumps at, or generally just tackles an opponent, the referee must consider whether it is careless, reckless, committed using excessive force, or alternatively, none of the above. p. 36 of the 2014/15 FIFA Laws of The Game

On page 117 of the 2014/15 FIFA Laws of The Game:

"Careless" means that the player has shown a lack of attention or consideration when making a challenge or that he acted without precaution.

Only a direct free kick / penalty kick is awarded if the action is careless.

"Reckless" means that the player has acted with complete disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent.

A direct free kick / penalty kick is awarded if the action is reckless, and the player is also cautioned for unsporting behaviour. p. 123 of the 2014/15 FIFA Laws of The Game

"Using excessive force" means that the player has far exceeded the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring his opponent.

A direct free kick / penalty kick is awarded if the action is excessively forceful, and the player is sent-off for serious foul play if it is performed whilst challenging for the ball. If not challenging for the ball, the player is sent-off for violent conduct. p. 126-128 of the 2014/15 FIFA Laws of The Game

If a player kicks, trips, pushes, strikes, charges, jumps at, or tackles an opponent in a manner that is not careless, reckless, or excessively forceful no offence has been committed and play continues.

As Sean pointed out, whether or not the action is accidental has no bearing on the decision that should be made.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRVIoQwzF54

Judging the particular incident, Boye was pushed by Dempsey first (notice the arm on the chest), which led to Boye being off balance. However, swinging your leg high into an opponent's nose, while you and your opponent are in the air, and you are off balance sounds to me like it is at least reckless, and possibly excessively forceful. I would have no complaint with Boye being either sent-off or cautioned for this challenge.

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really solid answer, with quotations from the laws of the game! +1 –  posdef Jun 26 at 12:02

To answer the question simply; the player should have received a booking for this infringement. It is a clear dangerous play and the accidental nature does not change this. As you view matches over the course of the competition you will witness many interpretations of the laws of the game. The human element plays heavily on these matches. Some referees are better than others while others get distracted and even swayed. I hope that helps some.

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