I had a little conversation one of my football friends and we had this interesting situation come up during the conversation.

As I understand the offside rule, the offending player should not be closer to the goal than the second-to-last defender.

But, what if at the point of the player receiving the ball, one of the defenders go out of play? Like for example, the goal keeper or the other defender is injured or goes out of the field. Would it still be considered an offside because there is only a single defender between the offending player and the goal? If yes, why can't this rule be exploited to effectively nullify the goal scored, if any?

up vote 17 down vote accepted

You count all the players on the field. It doesn't matter if they are lying on the field, looking anywhere else or what are they doing.

  • If the defender goes outside of the field because of a situation of the game (eg: can't stop his run), he is still counted.

  • If the defender is outside of the field with medical attention, he is not counted (he was out of the field before the ball was in play).

  • If the defender is out of the field on purpose (he step out) then he is not only counted, he should be banned with a yellow card for not playing fairly.

  • 2
    A reference to Laws would help your last point - a player is cautioned (yellow card) if they "[d]eliberately leave[] the field of play without the referee’s permission". Also, this is definitively not a ban, nor even necessarily a suspension or dismissal. Just a caution. – Nij Apr 14 '16 at 12:45
  • There is a somewhat famous example where this was applied: youtube.com/watch?v=73hkEDIR9e8 (Netherlands against Italy at the Euro 2008). The goal counted because the Italien defender was one of the two players 'closer to the goalline'. (Bernhard probably mentions this too, but the link is dead). – E. Sommer Nov 9 at 18:47

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