Referee Nicola Rizzoli: I was right to award France penalty vs. Germany
Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli feels vindicated about his decision to award France a penalty in the semifinal of Euro 2016, even if not everybody on the field and off it shared his view.
Rizzoli hesitated for a few seconds before pointing to the spot after Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger appeared to handle the ball inside the penalty area in the closing stages of the first half. Antoine Griezmann tucked away the spot kick and France went on to win 2-0.
There has been much debate about whether Rizzoli made the right decision, but he explained to Gazzetta dello Sport why he knew he had got the decision spot on.
"It takes a combination of your gut feeling and concentration following the dynamics of an action," the Bologna-based official said. "Our position for a corner is standard, while it is you who decides where to look based on the groups of players which form.
"I had a perfect view of [Patrice] Evra and Schweinsteiger and I knew straight away that the ball was heading towards them and so I focused on their movements. A handball happens in an instant and I took a mental photograph of it and made up my mind in that instant."
It nevertheless took Rizzoli several seconds before he actually pointed to the spot, and few on the field were expecting that call to be made.
"We're talking about the semifinal of a European Championship and I have a colleague behind the goal who has a different view to me," Rizzoli said. "It's normal that I ask him for confirmation, but in this case [Antonio] Damato's view was blocked, as you can see from the TV images. At that point, I followed my own conviction and gave the penalty.
"It comes from your gut feeling. I had recorded the penalty with a clear image in my mind and I cannot let anything after that influence me. It's true, many of the players didn't realise straight away what was happening apart from [Olivier] Giroud.
"The Germans were asking me for an explanation and when I told them it was Schweinsteiger, they looked at him and saw he had his hands over his face, disconsolate. They realised then that I had got it right. The best thing of all was when I watched it again on TV that night and I saw that the action went precisely the way I had remembered it."
Rizzoli said he was not disappointed not to have been awarded the final, adding he sent Mark Clattenburg a text message to congratulate him on his appointment.
The 45-year-old has already reached the age of retirement for international referees, but there is still a chance he will be permitted to continue officiating at the highest level for a few more years to come.
"I'm still in good shape physically and psychologically and I want to carry on refereeing," he said. "I'll carry on for as long as I feel this way. I want to earn an extension to be able to carry on refereeing internationally. For that, I need to do well between now and December in the games I am awarded, starting off in Serie A. So let's see."
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.