During the 2022 FIFA World Cup match between Japan and Spain, Japan's second goal, scored by Ao Tanaka, was scored after the ball had seemingly gone out of play and been dragged back in by Kaoru Mitoma:

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Why was this goal deemed to be valid?


2 Answers 2


According to Law 9.1 of The Laws of the Game (emphasis mine):

The ball is out of play when:

  • it has wholly passed over the goal line or touchline on the ground or in the air

From the angle shown in the question, it does indeed seem as though the ball is out of play. However, from this aerial view, we can see that part of the ball is still just barely on the line, not over it. As a result, the ball is still in play, and the goal is valid. It's really, really close, I grant you, but I think the right call was made as per the Laws of the Game.

enter image description here

  • 3
    even in that angle the camera isn't completely overhead, a camera in line with the line would show a larger (though still very small) overlap Dec 2, 2022 at 12:46
  • 1
    And this is why the way rugby does it is better... If any part of the ball touches the line it's out. It's far easier to tell that than when a round object has completely passed over it Dec 3, 2022 at 14:44
  • 3
    @ScottishTapWater But doesn't the question of whether it touches the line give rise to exactly the same sort of dispute as to whether it is over the line? There remains the problem of the overhanging part, which must be exacerbated in rugby with the oval shape.
    – WS2
    Dec 4, 2022 at 8:31
  • @WS2 No, the overhanging part isn't touching the line is it? It's in the air... Dec 4, 2022 at 16:34
  • A rugby ball doesn't roll flat on the grass at all; a football does, very often. Judging whether the football has touched the line drawn on deformed grass or non-deformed grass or rough dirt or on any other surface that isn't perfectly flat is just shifting the challenge to an even worse situation, since you can't even see the ground under the ball.
    – Nij
    Dec 10, 2022 at 3:16

See this tweet for the video that match officials used the goal line camera images to check whether the ball was still partially on the line.

https://redd.it/za20rz shows that the ball was still in the game:

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This tweet shows a nice simulation to understand 3D:

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  • 3
    While I think everyone agrees it was close one way or the other, I'm not sure that tweet actually shows much. You could reasonably move both the red and blue lines by their width and get a different result.
    – Philip Kendall
    Dec 2, 2022 at 13:29
  • 2
    How do we know that the top image was taken from directly overhead, above the line and perpendicular to the ground?
    – brhans
    Dec 3, 2022 at 15:02
  • 3
    The photo shows that the ball was (just) "in" at the moment in time when the photo was taken. It doesn't prove that it was "in" a millsecond earlier or a millesecond later. The fact is, however precise your observations, there are going to be situations that are undecidable, and we then have to turn to whatever clauses in the rule book say who should get the benefit of the doubt... Dec 4, 2022 at 1:16
  • 3
    Incidentally, I play croquet, where this decision only has to be made for a stationary ball rather than a moving one. Yet I once had three referees spend 10 minutes examining a stationary ball and eventually deciding it was too close to call, and invoking the rule that the striker of the ball gets the benefit of the doubt. Dec 4, 2022 at 1:19
  • 1
    @MichaelKay see mobile.twitter.com/FIFAcom/status/… for the video that match officials used the goal line camera images to check whether the ball was still partially on the line. Dec 4, 2022 at 5:27

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