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If a player in possession narrowly dodges a very reckless and dangerously attempted tackle, but ends up losing the possession, will this still be ruled a foul despite no contact being made?

P.S: I vaguely remember such a debate had taken place previously when in 2009 David N'Gog (Liverpool) won a penalty against Birmingham as the referee thought there was enough contact for foul. Videos proved there was no contact later and it was ruled as a dive by media. But N'Gog subsequently clarified that he didn't dive to win the penalty but rather to avoid a dangerous tackle. Many Liverpool fans claimed that it was right to award a penalty in that case while other called it blatant dive. But what do the rules say?

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Law 12 (here) point you in the right direction about this:

capture from fifa page

Group of Six:

  • kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
  • trips or attempts to trip an opponent
  • jumps at an opponent
  • charges an opponent
  • striker or attempts to strike an opponent
  • pushes an opponent

Anyway, referee has the option to allow the play to continue, and when the play stops, take a disciplinary measure (like a yellow or red card).

Remember that everything that happens in play, is judged by the referee.

The rule clearly states about the attempts, so missing the tackle could be interpreted by the referee as a foul.

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  • 2
    This answer is correct but might be improved with a link to the official Law of the Game, instead of FIFA's powerpoint about the laws. It's here with the relevant Law on page 37. fifa.com/mm/Document/FootballDevelopment/Refereeing/02/36/01/11/…
    – Duncan
    Apr 12 '16 at 17:04
  • The link is there.. (law 12 is a link!).. but is hard to tell that is a link.. I will try to improve it...
    – gbianchi
    Apr 12 '16 at 17:07
  • Yes, my point was that the link is to a pdf of a powerpoint presentation that discusses Law 12. While this is very useful to help interpret the wording in Law 12, it also makes it a little harder to piece out the direct wording of the Law itself. I think it's useful to include a direct link to the Laws themselves. No worries if you don't want to include it.
    – Duncan
    Apr 12 '16 at 17:22
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Yes. Not only is it a foul to attempt a reckless tackle, it is also misconduct, resulting in a caution for unsporting behaviour.

From p. 37 of the 2015/16 FIFA Laws of the Game:

Fouls and misconduct are penalised as follows:

Direct free kick

A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following seven offences in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force:

  • kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
  • trips or attempts to trip an opponent
  • jumps at an opponent
  • charges an opponent
  • strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
  • pushes an opponent
  • tackles an opponent

As you can see, not all of these careless / reckless / excessive force offences require contact.

If the referee believes a player has attempted to make reckless contact with an opponent instead of challenging for the ball, but has done so without making contact with an opponent, a direct free kick will be awarded for recklessly attempts to trip an opponent or recklessly attempts to kick an opponent.

If the referee believes the player has attempted to play the ball in a reckless manner, but has done so without making contact with the opponent, a direct free kick will be awarded for recklessly tackles an opponent.

If these offences occur in the penalty area, a penalty kick is awarded. On the same page, after the other three direct free kick offences, it states:

A penalty kick is awarded if any of the above ten offences is committed by a player inside his own penalty area, irrespective of the position of the ball, provided it is in play.

This explains why it is a foul. As to why it constitutes misconduct (ie. a caution [yellow card] or send-off [red card]), the following is found on p. 119 of the 2015/16 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.

  • No further disciplinary sanction is needed if a foul is judged to be careless

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

  • A player who plays in a reckless manner must be cautioned

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

  • A player who uses excessive force must be sent off

On p. 125, it states that the caution for a reckless foul is for unsporting behaviour:

There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behaviour, e.g. if a player:

  • commits in a reckless manner one of the seven offences that incur a direct free kick

...

This is an important clerical distinction, as the referee reports the caution as being for unsporting behaviour, not for a reckless foul. p. 39 of the 2015/16 FIFA Laws of the Game lists the cautionable offences. Note that unsporting behaviour is one of these offences and reckless foul is not.

A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he commits any of the following seven offences:

  • unsporting behaviour
  • dissent by word or action
  • persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game
  • delaying the restart of play
  • failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick, free kick or throw-in
  • entering or re-entering the field of play without the referee’s permission
  • deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission

The referee's duty to report cautions is outlined on p. 25/26 of the 2015/16 FIFA Laws of the Game:

The Referee:

...

  • provides the appropriate authorities with a match report, which includes information on any disciplinary action taken against players and/or team officials and any other incidents that occurred before, during or after the match

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