I am of course referring to the foul that occurred at the 113th minute of the round of 16 match between Croatia and Denmark, when Rebić would have scored an easy goal had he not been fouled in the box by Jorgensen:
As we know, a penalty kick was awarded but Jorgensen was only cautioned. Everyone seemed to agree with this decision, on the basis that Jorgensen did try to play the ball. And trust me, I believe this. The following image makes it clear that Jorgensen was attempting to play the ball:
Yet the point I'm trying to make is different. Is the fact Jorgensen was trying to get the ball enough to downgrade the red card to a simple yellow card in this case? People who agree with the referee's decision end up quoting this part of the 2018/19 Laws of the Game (Law 12, p. 108):
Where a player commits an offence against an opponent within their own penalty area which denies an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick, the offender is cautioned if the offence was an attempt to play the ball; in all other circumstances (e.g. holding, pulling, pushing, no possibility to play the ball etc.) the offending player must be sent off.
But read it carefully: this paragraph is only referring to situations where an obvious goal-scoring opportunity is denied. To see why this is important, let's have a look at what the rulebook says just one page earlier:
A player, substitute or substituted player who commits any of the following offences is sent off: (...) denying a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent whose overall movement is towards the offender’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick (unless as outlined below)
As you can see, the rule is actually about two distinct situations: denying a goal OR an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. It is also clear that 'denying a goal' doesn't only occur when a player deliberately handles the ball on the goal line, because
- this paragraph is specifically about offences committed against an opposing player, and
- the situation where the ball is deliberately handled is already discussed in the previous bullet point, and again the Law makes a difference between denying a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity ("denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball").
Now, as the first image clearly shows (and as everyone who has watched the match knows), the goal was empty (the goalkeeper, Schmeichel, was almost outside the penalty area): a tap-in would have been enough for Rebić to score a goal. And seeing how the Laws of the Game do make a distinction between
- fouling an opponent and denying a goal, or
- fouling an opponent and denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity...
...well, then it looks to me that this is the clearest example of what 'denying a goal by fouling an opponent' should be.
So, why did the referee apply that special provision of Law 12 that allowed him to only give a yellow card to Jorgensen, when this exception is only valid in situations when an obvious goal-scoring opportunity is denied?
After all, that paragraph was added to Law 12 because a penalty kick effectively restores the goal-scoring opportunity that was lost, so sending off the offending player would have been too much (Law 12 FAQ #9): indeed, the chance of scoring on a penalty kick is roughly 80%, which is more or less the same chance of scoring that an attacking player has when facing only the goalkeeper during open play. But in this situation, the chance of scoring was easily 99%: the penalty kick does NOT fully make up for the previous situation, and this is why I think the Laws of the Game make a distinction between the two cases.
So, was cautioning Jorgensen a mistake under the current Laws of the Game? Or are there any other official rules/interpretations that justify a yellow card and that I'm unaware of?