A player on the opposing team kicks the ball and the ball crosses the goal line. However, before the ball touches either the net or the ground inside the goal, the goalkeeper catches it. Does the ball still count as a scored goal?
From page 34, 2014/15 FIFA Laws of the Game:
A goal is scored when the whole of the ball passes over the goal line, between the goalposts and under the crossbar, provided that no infringement of the Laws of the Game has been committed previously by the team scoring the goal.
In the game of association football, the ball is always out of play when it crosses the line either in the air or on the ground. It never has to hit the ground to be out, like in other forms of football, such as rugby. From page 33, 2014/15 FIFA Laws of the Game:
The ball is out of play when:
- it has wholly crossed the goal line or touch line whether on the ground or in the air
Nets only exist to make it clear to the refereeing team that the ball passed under the crossbar and between the post. They're not even required in the Laws, although most competitions will require them in their competition rules to make things easier for the refereeing team. From page 11, 2014/15 FIFA Laws of the Game:
Nets may be attached to the goals and the ground behind the goal, provided that they are properly supported and do not interfere with the goalkeeper.
Yes this counts as a goal. Once the entire ball passes the goal line, it's considered as a goal, no matter it is on the ground or in the air. However, this is very tough for the referee and his assistants to see and many times such goals are not awarded. That is why the goal line technology was introduced, to reduce controversy in such cases