Almost all of the content of our previous postings during
the WC have discussed the referee and what can be learned from their
performances, both positive and negative.
I had been contemplating a short piece focusing on the
assistant referees as an adjunct to these to be posted later on, but the
decisions from yesterday's round of 16 games have prompted me to bring it
I thought about titling this article "What is Irish for
schadenfreude?" for I am sure no nation was more pleased at how France self-destructed at this World Cup than the Irish were, but then I decided that the French expression was more appropriate. (For anyone who does not know to what I am referring here, you can look back at past blogs from late last year.) The only talking point in this match was the red card for the French player, which was a correct decision by the elegant Colombian referee, Oscar Ruiz Acosta. Again we wonder if this was a result of orders coming from FIFA following the incident with Dempsey that was not punished, or if Sr. Ruiz Acosta would have done it anyway. Hopefully it is the latter.
The "goal" incident in the Argentina/Nigeria match prompted the FIFA referee committee to tell us the goal should have been disallowed. That set off a discussion of the position the referee chose to adopt to view the set-piece. And that in turn will provoke a lot of discussion of whether referees are bound to adopt the position that FIFA recommends, or whether they can have more flexibility when dealing with situations near the goal. Should we have mindless automatons or thinkers "outside the box"?
I realize that my choice of words in the final sentence of that paragraph gives away my opinion, which grew in the rich soil of my refereeing experiences during twenty years of professional and international competition. But I am now giving space to a contrary opinion, sent to me by someone who took both time and trouble to put this illustrated observation together. I thank him for his effort and his courtesy. His text will be inbold red, mine inbold green.
After the contentious ending to the USA/Slovenia match, when a perfectly good U.S. goal was disallowed at the same time as assorted defenders conducted multiple muggings in the Slovenia penalty-area (see the post from yesterday), I was hoping we wouldn't have to see anything like that again. The spirit of optimism overwhelmed me, and I contemplated "the best of all possible worlds" for the match between Brazil and the Ivory Coast today. Speed, power, skill and excitement was what I expected. But no, the French philosopher Voltaire told us sarcastically two hundred and fifty years ago his hero Candide in the novel of the same name would live a life of war not optimism, and would experience one disaster after another. And today in Johannesburg a modern-day French referee Stephane
Lannoy served up exactly that: one disaster after another.
After Friday's day of contrasts, it was a relief to see that in Saturday's matches, normal service was resumed. I did not see the third match as I was out assessing a local match myself, but the two earlier games, were almost textbook examples of how it should be done, albeit with two different styles.
This image of the "third goal" is worth ten thousand words, and was put together and sent to me by Charles Carson, to whom Ed and I express our thanks. How many penalty-kicks can you award? Perhaps more importantly: Do they ever award them in Mali?
The eighth day of the World Cup showed tremendous contrasts
in refereeing performance. One referee was very strict, some might say harsh,
one had what can be reasonably described as a nightmare, and one did a sound
job overall, although not without a talking point or two.
I guess that somebody in FIFA reads this blog because on Tuesday the Referee Committee announced that they agree with our analysis of the goal in the Argentina vs. Nigeria game. The goal should not have been allowed for the exact reason that we described: obstruction (blocking) by an Argentinean, to allow an unmarked teammate to score with a header. It's a pity that they didn't go one step further and recommend some different positions for the referee at set-pieces near goal. But FIFA has always been a little behind developments in various parts of the world (even some from the U.S.of A.) Feel sorry for Wolfgang Stark; he won't get one of the big games coming up! Now to the matches.
Thanks for all the comments on our recent posts. They're all published now, and also a couple of additional comments (one positive, one negative) on Wolfgang Stark (Germany), who refereed Nigeria v. Argentina on day 2.