Croatia v. Italy. Referee: Webb (England)
Overall this was better officiated than his first match. He seemed to be calling fouls that he let go in the first match, perhaps he received advice after a review of first match and other matches where too many fouls have been let go. (Are they reading this blog?)
He was deceived by a Croatia player who pretended to be injured in collision but it was with his own player. The whistle stopped a good attack by Italy and a free kick awarded to Croatia. Shortly thereafter, Balotelli was challenged and fell very easily just outside the 18, and Webb quickly and firmly awarded a free kick. It should be pointed out that this challenge was not any harder than several that Webb had let go unpunished. Was this a kind of make-up call for the previous error made against Italy? In any event, Pirlo curled the ball perfectly into the goal from the free kick for Italy’s only score.
It was good to see the YC given before a corner kick, after man-management had not worked. However not a lot changed after that and PKs could easily be given at almost every corner kick. It may take referees with more courage to award one or two before all the grabbing and shoving stops. But YC near the end on the Croatian for a little push-off was inconsistent with what had gone on earlier with no caution issued. Webb seemed to be desperately wanting to not get cards out, after having no cards in his first match. One technical matter concerned the smoke caused by a flare thrown onto the pitch. It was poor judgment to allow play to continue into the smoke, when neither the players involved nor the ball could be seen, and then have to stop it after protests from the Italy keeper. He should have waited until the smoke dispersed. It may have been because Webb was used to refereeing matches in the fog in his native Yorkshire!
Assistant referee-2 gave Italy offside on three very close situations that looked even at first glance and verified by sol-mo. This is somewhat disappointing given the mandate to ARs to keep the flag down on close calls in favor of attacking soccer. It looked like Clattenberg as AAR helped give a decision in the penalty area. There was a somewhat late whistle on it before giving a free kick to the defence after two players tangled and fell.
Netherlands v. Germany. Referee: Eriksson (Sweden)
Well officiated overall. Major incident was not doing anything about the tackle at 38 minutes by Muller in which Muller raked his studs into van Bommel’s Achilles tendon. Advantage was given, but it came to nothing. A free kick with the caution would have been better. As it was van Bommel could not continue after half-time. But again, three cautions issued in the last 10 minutes of the match. They were correct, especially on de Jong, another of the “usual subjects” but perhaps earlier cards would prevent the later ones. The caution for time wasting at a throw-in to #20 of Germany, Boateng at 67 minutes was interesting. Boateng had received a caution in the first match. Was this deliberate on his part in order to miss the third match in the group, with Germany essentially already through to the quarters, rather than get the 2nd yellow in the third match and then miss the quarterfinal? Should the referee be aware of this, and not be part of the plot?
Denmark v. Portugal. Referee: Thomson (Scotland)
Had first foul at 48 seconds to give impression of early tight control. He was seemingly conned by Pepe who feigned an injury to get the game stopped after he missed a tackle and was left on the grass way out of position. Postiga then tried to get an opponent booked or sent off by exaggerating the severity of the foul against him after he was knocked down. Fortunately Mr. Thomson did not fall for it. The headed goal by Pepe came from a corner kick where the ball did not seem to be properly placed in the quadrant.
The major discussion point in this match was the deliberate handling by Miereles of Portugal to stop a Danish breakaway. The ball was going past Miereles about 40 yards out with a Danish forward running onto it. Miereles jumped and batted the ball away blatantly. The referee only issued a caution, but it was a clear DOGSO and should have been a red for DOGSO. The only reason possibly not to go red on this incident would be that it occurred too far away from goal. But the Danish forward was running at speed, and most likely would have got to the ball with only the keeper to beat. Preventing situations like this by clearly unfair and cynical means was the reason the DOGSO criteria were put in the Laws. Other cautions were good for fouls but again left until late in the second half. It was disappointing to see the referee issue a caution at 92 minutes with the whistle still in his mouth.
Spain v Ireland. Referee: Proenca (Portugal)
It seemed odd to assign a Portuguese referee to a match involving Spain, when there were referees from non-adjacent countries available. However it did not make any difference as Spain totally dominated the match, and thus took away any possible claims of bias. The referee positioned himself very close to play, and actually knocked over an Irish defender close to the Irish penalty area. This allowed the Spanish forwards to get free but fortunately for the referee, they did not score from this chance. Although proximity is important in refereeing, being too close can get in the way of the players. Five cautions were issued, all well deserved. But the final one at 84 minutes by Ireland #2 which was a two-footed lunge came very close to being a red card. All of the criteria were present.
Ukraine v. France. Referee: Kuipers, Netherlands
Play was suspended in this match because of the torrential rain and lightning for about an hour. It was a wise decision by Kuipers to take the players off, although it may have been made for him by the match commissioner, as is usual in tournaments of this nature. Kuipers’ performance was reasonably good overall, given the conditions. His main negative was not to issue a 2nd yellow card to France #14 at 45 minutes. The player had been cautioned correctly for taking down Shevchenko at 40 minutes, but his later foul was a fast lunge that hit the Ukrainian player hard right on the ankle. The unfortunate repercussion of this was that #14 scored the opening goal at 52 minutes. Once again, except for the card at 40 minutes, the three of the other cards were given late in the match at 78, 80 and 86 minutes.
England v. Sweden. Referee: Skomina, Slovenia.
This was a crunch match for Sweden, a loss and they go home. As a result it was played at a hectic pace with no quarter given, very like an EPL match. The referee allowed quite a lot to go but sometimes let too much go, especially when Gerrard was barged off the ball just outside the 18. Yet another upper body foul not given. Carroll was fortunate not to get booked for persistent infringement. He committed 2 fouls in the first two minutes, and then one more at about 11 minutes mainly from clumsiness rather than malicious intent. Early in the second half he committed another foul, and was warned very sternly by the referee, but not shown a card. Sweden scored as a result of this free kick. He finally fouled an opponent later on in the 2nd half. This lenience is puzzling, when other players were cautioned for single fouls, and one in particular to Olsson for impeding Hart the England keeper as he was trying to distribute the ball. There was actually a decision made by an AAR in this match! Hart could not control the ball played to him and it rolled just barely over the goal line wide of the goal right in front of the AAR, before Hart regained control and booted the ball upfield. After everyone, including the referee had followed the ball into the Sweden half, the whistle blew and the ball was taken back for the corner kick. The referee indicated that he had just heard the signal from the AAR. There was no flag from the AR on that side, although he could easily have got to the goal line to make the call. Overall the entire incident, although eventually reaching the correct decision, looked quite bizarre.
The final group matches have some very interesting match-ups, with several teams needed to win, making them more like knock-out cup matches. We will discuss our predictions for the games that seem to be potentially explosive in a forthcoming post.