We had a mixed bag as far as our predictions went in the third group-stage matches.
Portugal/Netherlands turned out not to be the foul fest that many of us feared. Perhaps the fact that the Dutch left out two of their tough defenders, van Bommel and Heitinga had something to do with it. Anyway, it was a very wide open match, and Ronaldo did not come in for special attention, in fact they seemed afraid to tackle him most of the time. The result was that he was allowed to display his skills and scored two goals from the many chances that came his way. One interesting point for referees was when Ronaldo complained to the referee after his team mate was fouled. The referee had played advantage as the ball had ran to another Portugal player. Ronaldo wanted the free kick, even though the incident was about 30 yards out. The message for referees is to know the players. In cases like this the free kick would be the most advantageous situation, as a player with the skills such as Ronaldo possesses would have a reasonable chance to score from a direct free kick and should be given the opportunity. The corner kick for Netherland at 18 minutes was interesting. It seemed as though one player had kicked the ball out of the quadrant in an apparent “trick” play, but the Portuguese defender spotted it and ran in to intercept, whereupon the next Dutch player just bent over and picked the ball up and took the kick again. Should this have been hand ball foul by the Dutch? Technically probably so, but a tough one to give.
Germany/Denmark surprisingly was a quiet affair, with only 14 fouls and no cautions. The Spanish referee obviously changed his approach after his very strict officiating in his first match. Perhaps he was advised to relax a little.
Stark was clearly well prepared for his match between Spain and Croatia. He cautioned Srna for persistent infringement before half-time, and although this did not entirely stop the fouling tactics of Croatia, it may have kept their foul count down to 21. He had to issue six cautions, three in the final three minutes, as the frustrations of the Croatians who knew that they were eliminated began to bubble to the surface. The AR should be praised for keeping his flag down on two very close offside decisions leading up to the lone Spanish goal.
There was a possibility of a PK to Croatia when Ramos tackled Mandzukic with a flying studs-up challenge, but he probably just got to the ball first. I doubt if there would be much complaint (except from Spain) with a yellow and PK given here, but the decision was a corner.
In the Italy/Ireland match, Italy scored a goal with the ball just over the line before being booted away by a defender. The AAR was right there to see it but AR could have seen it also since it originated from a corner and with a defender on the goal line anyway, the AR would have been standing at the corner flag.
The signal that the Turkish referee gave to indicate the goal was unfortunate given the problems with neo-Nazis and racial abuse of players at soccer matches these days. This signal is not recommended.
The England-Ukraine game was probably the most difficult of the eight, and accordingly the referee was Kassai of Hungary, considered one of the top referees in Europe. He was very confident, and very strict as far as admonishing players for protests. But his yellow cards were uneven. He cautioned Cole for time-wasting at a throw-in but it occurred during a stoppage for a substitution anyway. Shevchenko was cautioned for a really bad foul that might have been a red card on another player in another place. In between these Gerrard was cautioned for a simple foul during an aerial challenge. His discrimination between these incidents needed to be better. However these incidents were overshadowed by probably the biggest error in the tournament so far. Ukraine got the ball over the goal line, but it was cleared away by Terry. The AAR did not indicate that the ball had completely passed over the line, and no goal was given. Furthermore, the AR had missed a very obvious offside on the build-up to this “goal.” These were game-critical decisions, but did not have an effect on qualification since even if the goal had been given, making the score 1-1, Ukraine would still have been out.
There was a very unexpected result in the Sweden-France match, a 2-0 win to Sweden, but as expected, it was a fairly quiet game for Proenca, the Portuguese referee.
On to the quarterfinals, with the survivors in both competitions!