UEFA rule responsible for controversial England penalty vs Netherlands explained

The referee initially gave a goal kick but VAR requested he review the incident.
-Credit: (Image: 2024 BSR Agency)

England was handed a lifeline after falling behind against the Netherlands in the semi-final of Euro 2024, as Harry Kane was awarded a controversial penalty.

The England striker was clipped by Netherlands defender Denzel Dumfries seconds after his shot sailed over the crossbar, and initially, a goal kick was awarded by Felix Zwayer. Kane stayed down clutching his right foot, and after a lengthy stoppage of play, Zwayer was told to review the incident as VAR intervened.

A penalty was then awarded following a review by Zwayer, and Kane converted to cancel out Xavi Simons' opener. Although England fans were ecstatic, the decision has been met with outrage by fans of the Netherlands and neutral supporters, with some former England players even questioning the decision.

However, the decision was made correctly in the eyes of UEFA due to one specific rule. The rules state that any player can be penalized for a manner that "threatens injury to an opposing player" while attempting to win the ball, which justified Zwayer's decision to overturn his original call and award England a penalty.

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The UEFA rule states: "It is committed with an opponent nearby and prevents the opponent from playing the ball for fear of injury. Playing in a dangerous manner involves no physical contact between the players. If there is physical contact, the action becomes an offense punishable with a direct free kick or penalty kick.

"In the case of physical contact, the referee should carefully consider the high probability that misconduct has also been committed." Fans were outraged as Kane managed to get his shot off before being fouled, but UEFA concluded that Dumfries' actions were of substantial injury threat.

Former England defender Jamie Carragher instantly hopped on social media to laugh about the decision, putting his national bias aside to question why a penalty was awarded. "Never a penalty," Carragher posted on X.

England players protested the decision but eventually got their way.
England players protested the decision but eventually got their way. -Credit:AFP or licensors

He later added in a conversation with The Telegraph: "That was never a pen. I can't believe the referee was asked by the VAR to look at it. And then I can't believe he gave it. If England go on to win this game, they have luck on their side."

Even analysts covering the game on ITV in the UK were surprised, as co-commentator Lee Dixon said as the incident was being reviewed: "I would be astonished if this was given." ITV's refereeing analyst, Christina Unkel, even admitted that a penalty shouldn't be awarded.

"I am [astonished]," Unkel said. "So, one of the surprising things here is, yes, is there a studs contact from Dumfries onto the top of the boot from Kane? Correct. However, Kane is getting the shot off completely, his momentum is going through. I am quite surprised that this is being sent [to the monitor] because it is not a clear and obvious error and in fact, the preferred recommendation is for this not to be a penalty."