How can one rule cause so much confusion within the game?

Football FanCast columnist Rob Facey looks back at the opening goal in last night's
thriller and wonders how the offside rule continues to cause so much confusion.

Last night the lacklustre start to
Euro 2008 was erased as Marco van Basten's Dutch masters taught the world
champions a lesson in counter attacking football. It was a perfect Dutch
display, their "sexy football" controlling the Italians as they couldn't break
down the hardworking Oranje. It's just a shame that the first goal was
blatantly offside, eh? What, pardon? He was onside?!
No, I've never heard of rule 11.4.1…

The chairman of Austria's
refereeing commission Gerhard Kapl has praised the decision to allow Van
Nistelrooy's opener, despite the fact that the player stood alone in the six yard
box. He was, OBVIOUSLY, being played onside by an injured defender, lying
behind the goalline.

Kapl told the BBC the goal was "100%
correct, without any doubt
"
.

He quoted article 11.4.1 of the
refereeing code that states "an
opposing player cannot be offside when one of the last two defenders has left
the field of play
"
– as in the case of Italian defender Panucci.

Keith Hackett, the Premier League's referee's chief added: "I have listened to the commentators criticising the first Holland
goal stating that Van Nistelrooy was offside.

"Christian Panucci went off through contact with his own
goalkeeper Buffon. He is still considered part of the game.



"The fact is the assistant was correct. The defender who slid off the
field is still regarded as active."

But it's not as if he stepped off
the field deliberately, in order to catch the striker offside, so should the
goal be ruled offside? Once more the offside rule has confused everybody –
players, fans, journalists and commentators.

As Van Nistelrooy ran off celebrating
he kept on looking over his shoulder for the flag to be raised, yet it turns
out that the linesman had made the correct call. But do you think he got away
with it, or do you think that as the Madrid striker poked the ball home he
recalled rule 11.4.1 in that split second? I bet you a pair of clogs he didn't.
He probably had no idea.

It's just a shame that in the one
game that has lit up a rather dull tournament has caused so much confusion. Also,
more to the point, why do they not make these things clearer? The offside rule
continues to confound everybody in the game – how many fans were aware that a
player lying injured behind the goal remains active?

How can one rule cause so much
confusion in the game?