The linesman apparently didn’t see it. Neither did the Spanish referee. And the television replays were inconclusive.
But Euro 2020 got its first real controversy on Tuesday:
Did Germany’s Antonio Rüdiger bite France’s Paul Pogba on the shoulder?
Let’s go to the videotape.
The incident happened just before halftime, as Rüdiger snuggled up to mark Pogba from behind as he prepared to receive a throw-in deep in Germany’s end during their teams’ group-stage match in Munich. Suddenly, Rüdiger, the German defender, pressed his face into the back of Pogba, the France midfielder, and the latter let out a shot, grabbed the back of his right shoulder and then leaned forward while holding it.
In the United States, ESPN’s broadcast team didn’t draw any conclusions of what occurred. In Britain, Roy Keane, who knows a thing or two about getting under an opponent’s skin, called it more of a “nibble” than a bite on ITV. In Brazil, where he is preparing to play for Uruguay in the Copa América on Friday, Luis Suárez probably wondered why he was suddenly a trending topic on Twitter.
But was it a bite? Or did it just look like one?
Replays offered Rüdiger enough of a degree of deniability, the former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg suggested on ESPN. He said there was no way the match referee — or even the video review system in operation at the tournament — could rule on it beyond a shadow of a doubt based on the available replays. (The video-assistant referee was far more certain about the two French goals it ruled out for offside.)
But almost as soon as Pogba vs. Rüdiger became a flash point, it was over. Play continued, with Rüdiger taking a free kick. A few minutes after that, it was halftime. But what, exactly, had Pogba been complaining about?
Neither Pogba nor Rüdiger offered any clarity immediately after the match, which France won, 1-0.
UPDATE: The players appeared to have resolved any animosity, if there ever was any, after the final whistle.