Archive for the ‘ World Cup 2010 ’ Category

FIFA must not over-react

Change is in the air for refereeing before the next World Cup according to Jerome Valcke, the FIFA General Secretary.

He admitted that TV replays showing the Frank Lampard ‘goal’ against Germany made it a bad day for FIFA.

“We are talking about a goal not seen by the referee which is why we are talking about new technology.”

He suggested that the UEFA sponsored experiment with an additional assistant behind each goal would be considered as well as goal line technology.

“Perhaps giving the referee an additional four eyes will give him the comfort and make his duty easier to perform,” he said.

This signals a change of policy by FIFA which was the key mover in the rejection of the experiment on goal line technology at the International FA Board meeting in March.

I think it is inevitable that goal line technology will be introduced in the next year.

Once the principle has been established it will be for the research companies to come up with a solution.

At present the leading players are Cairos who are involved with adidas in developing ball chip technology and Hawkeye which is a system designed for football and based on the basic principles which are used in tennis .

There is no reason why both systems should not be available to be used by confederations, national associations or leagues. If the system proves it can deliver what is required, it will be available to anyone who wants to buy it.

The cost will be considerable and it will probably only be used by wealthy organisations such as the top European leagues and the confederations as well as FIFA.

The media have been highly critical of a number of decisions in the World Cup. They argue that referees must have access to the TV replays which show mistakes.

I think they will be disappointed.

The only decision which would have been changed would be the English goal against Germany.

Video evidence is a different matter and the football authorities are strongly against introducing it.

I agree with their stance.

The referee must apply the Laws in ‘in his opinion.’

If you want a sanitised sport try chess – and how many people watch the Final of the World Chess Championships?

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The World Cup Final appointment

Howard Webb’s appointment to the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final is proper recognition of his top class performances in the tournament.

Three potential World Cup Final referees were not appointed to the quarter final and semi final matches – Howard Webb of England, Benito Archundia of Mexico and Oscar Ruiz of Colombia.

It seems that FIFA had already decided on the short leet after the round of 16 and by keeping them out of the challenging quarter final and semi final matches it ensured none of them were excluded because of problems encountered in these matches.

Howard can feel very proud of the achievements of himself and just, as importantly, his assistants.

He has vast experience in the English Premier League, the highest profile league in world football, and of courses in UEFA competitions.

Although Benito Archundia of Mexico has been appointed to the playoff match for third and fourth place, he will be disappointed to have missed out. He refereed five matches in 2006 and was an obvious candidate in 2010, as was Oscar Ruiz of Colombia, now at his third World Cup.

Perhaps the fact that Spain qualified for the Final had some influence on the appointment since Howard would be seen as a north European refereeing a match between two European teams.

Had either Benito or Oscar been appointed it might have been seen to be a Latin American appointment for a match involving only one Latin European team?

Being told you are to referee the World Cup Final is something a referee will never forget.

I remember making the announcement to the referees in our headquarters in Okura Akademia near Tokyo before the Final in 2002.

It is an emotional experience.

Earlier, the Chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee’, Senes Erzik had proposed at a meeting of the FIFA Referees’ Committee in Tokyo that the referees for the semi finals would be Urs Meier from Switzerland and Kim Milton Nielsen from Denmark. This was approved and the actual matches were allocated after some discussion and a vote.

The Chairman also recommended that the Final should be refereed by Pierluigi Collina of Italy with a team of European officials and this was supported by the Vice-Chairman Ricardo Teixeira, the President of the Brazilian Football Association.

There was some opposition from non European members of the Committee but the FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, was very supportive. He had insisted at an earlier meeting that only the best referees should be appointed and reminded the members of the FIFA Referees ’Committee of his earlier statements.

He was not involved in any way with the actual appointment but insisted that no football politics or regional influences should be considered.

At times like this you need strong leadership and Sepp Blatter provided it!

These events happened eight years ago but they indicate what happens in the corridors of power in world football.

When I made the announcement there was much support and congratulations for Pierluigi Collina and his team although some referees would be privately disappointed to have missed out.

That is the reality of football at this level.

I am sure the same things happen today.

The main thing is that an excellent appointment has been made.

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Some difficult matches can be easy

Some matches are easy for the referees because of the way they manage the players and officials. The players trust them and get on with the game rather than argue about every decision.

Some matches are more difficult because of the attitude of the players but the top referee can cope. Other matches are difficult because of the referee’s performance.

The Spain v Portugal tie in the last 16 was a very poor quality match. Spain were positive but Portugal were negative and contested and complained about almost every decision.

Referee Hector Baldassi of Argentina, however, came out of the match with a lot of credit since he refused to be taken in by the histrionics and what could have been a very difficult tie was well under his control.

The tactical set up of a match can affect its degree of difficulty. This was shown in the group stages match between Chile and Switzerland and it turned out to be a very difficult test for referee Khalil Al Ghamdi of Saudi Arabia

This was always going to be a very difficult match because of the playing styles of the teams and what was at stake.

The midfield became a battle zone. Fiercely contested and often illegally so,

The indiscipline and attitude of the players meant the game was never going to flow.

You could never classify a World Cup semi final as an easy match. There is tension and pressure on players and of course referees and assistants. One mistake can be decisive, whether it be a player missing an open goal or a referee making a wrong call.

Having said that, last night’s semi final between Germany and Spain was relatively straightforward for referee Viktor Kassai of Hungary. There were a number of reasons for this.

Spain are masters at keeping control of the ball and so fouls are less likely to happen. Germany are more direct but they have great discipline and so flare ups are less likely to happen.

Both teams have world class players and that is another factor.

It is most unusual to see a match at this stage of the competition with no cautions or red cards and with a total of only 16 fouls.

This made the match easier for Kassai. He had to conduct it rather than control it and he did this very well. 

Which brings me to my last point.  

Referees at this level must be tactically aware. In the World Cup they will have done their homework on the tactics used by both teams since this can affect their positioning and movement.

In the wider world of football, referees often criticise players for not knowing the Laws of the Game but by the same measure, players could criticise referees for not being sufficiently aware of the tactics of the game.

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Looking to 2014

We have now reached the Final match and both Netherlands and Spain deserve to be there after their semi final ties. There will now be a new winner of the FIFA World Cup.

Semi final matches are always critical. If you lose – no one remembers you, if you win you will take part in the greatest match you have ever been involved in.

And what about the referees?

The appointment to referee a semi final of the World Cup is in some ways the consolation prize. But it a very hard earned consolation prize.

The two semi final referees, Ravshan Irmatov of Uzbekistan and Viktor Kassai of Hungary had excellent matches and can be well satisfied with their contribution to World Cup 2010.

The better teams won the semi finals and there was no question that refereeing mistakes had affected the results.

Just as it is important for a national team to develop its young players for the future, so it is important to develop refereeing teams at the highest level for the future.

Both Irmatov and Kassai will be back in Brazil in 2014 and they will be the referees whom FIFA will rely on to take the tough matches, as they did in South Africa.

They will enter their second World Cup as better referees with the tremendous experience they have gained from 2010.

There can still be more positives than negatives for refereeing from FIFA World Cup 2010.

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The art of assessment

When the decision on who to appoint to referee the FIFA World Cup Final in Johannesburg on 11th July is made it will be influenced by a number of things, as I have mentioned in earlier articles.

Geography will now play no part since the final will be played between two European teams and the referees who controlled the semi finals will not be considered.

A major influence on who was to be retained will have been their performance at training sessions and in the Referee Headquarters in Pretoria. Anyone who did not fit into the team ethos will have gone home by now.

The assessments received by the remaining referees will be considered in great detail.

Assessing how well a referee has performed requires the skill of the assessor to look at the match as a whole and not just note the times of every foul and caution.

A major mistake must be taken into account. Was it caused by poor positioning or lack of courage?

Were the referee’s decisions accurate – did he apply the Laws correctly?

Was he fit and did he read the game and take up good position to give decisions?

Did he lead his team of officials well? Did they work as a team?

How did he manage the players and officials?

Was he confident and did he show strong body language?

This is where it becomes subjective and the referee assessor must assess the overall performance, taking these points into account.

Different assessors will have different opinions but the main question is ‘did he control the game well?’

Assessing a referee’s performance is like looking at a work of art and not at a balance sheet.

The balance sheet might tell you the final score but the painting gives you the bigger picture.

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Crime and punishment

Netherlands take on Uruguay tonight and it is fair to say that, after the quarter final match against Ghana, there will be limited support in Cape Town for the South Americans from the South African spectators .

The handball by Uruguayan, Luis Suarez, in the final minute of extra time in the quarter final match with Ghana would have been forgotten if Asamoah Gyan of Ghana had scored the penalty kick – but he missed.

It would even have been forgotten if Ghana had won the penalty shoot out – but they didn’t.

Ghana were the last African team left in the tournament and carried the support and hopes of the continent in a way that you would never experience for European or South American teams.

So Uruguay qualified for the semi finals, Suarez misses the match and Ghana go home.

What followed next was predictable.

The media demanded that Suarez be severely punished for his handball offence. He should be thrown out of the competition and punished by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee. What about a jail sentence?

It is also worth pointing out that there are three non-football days between the quarter finals and the semis and the media have to have something to report. This incident filled a few news programmes and newspaper inches during this quiet period. Or am I being cynical?

A similar incident happened in the European play-offs when French forward, Thiery Henry, handled the ball in the match with the Republic of Ireland and William Gallas scored the goal which took France to South Africa.

The referee and assistant missed the incident.

Again the clamour was for punishment – ban Henry from the World Cup, replay the match and he was even brought up in front of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee

Absolute nonsense!

Deliberate handball is an offence and is punished according to the Laws of the Game.

Now we have suggestions that football should award a penalty goal when this happens.

Absolute nonsense again!

The team that wins does not always deserve to win – but that’s life!

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Candidates for Final emerge

FIFA todayannounced the referees for the two semi final ties and so gave some pointers as to who will referee the Final of World Cup 2010.

 Ravshan Irmatov’s appointment to the semi final match between Netherlands and Uruguay is worthy recognition of his top class performances so far. However, having controlled superbly the possible powder keg that could have been Germany v Argentina, he must have been a very strong candidate for the Final. He is most unfortunate to miss out.

The appointment of the Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai to the Spain v Germany was predictable to the extent that there was always going to be a UEFA referee selected for this match.

Which takes us to the Final appointment and this will be influenced by the result of the Netherlands v Uruguay match but more importantly by the internal politics within the Referee Headquarters in Pretoria.

After Ravshan Irmatov, the referee who could referee the Final no matter the result of the semi finals is Benito Archundia of Mexico since no team from CONCACAF is involved.

The fact that Irmatov has been appointed for the semi, which many expected would go to Archundia suggests that Archundia is being held back for the Final.

He refereed neither a quarter final nor a semi final and is joined in the final 10 retained referees by his countryman Marco Rodriguez.

Carlos Simon from Brazil and Hector Baldassi from Argentina have been released but a strong South American candidate could be Oscar Ruiz from Colombia who is at his third World Cup.

The only European candidate is England’s Howard Webb since the other two Europeans, Kassai from Hungary and de Bleeckere from Belgium are involved in the second semi final as referee and fourth official respectively.

The behind the scenes pressure in Pretoria will be building up on José-Maria Garcia Aranda who is in charge of the World Cup officials.

It does seem to be any one from three- but who knows?

There will be a great deal of lobbying taking place before the recommendation on the Final referee goes to the FIFA President and his Executive Committee for ratification.

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Let’s get things in perspective

Football is a game of passions and opinions – by the media, players, coaches, and of course most importantly by the referees.

The Laws of the Game state that decisions are given ‘in the opinion of the referee’.

I have read in the international media a list of the worst refereeing decisions in the 2010 World Cup.

They are very obvious and very controversial and no-one would argue with the list below.

  • The disallowed goal for USA against Slovenia
  • The offside goal scored by Tevez against Mexico
  • The disallowed goal for England against Germany when the ball crossed the line
  • The goal awarded to Brazil when Luis Fabiano played the ball twice with his arm when he scored the second goal against Ivory Coast
  • The sending off of Brazil’s Kaka in the same match
  • The sending off of Australian Tim Cahill
  • The penalty awarded to Italy against New Zealand

No doubt others will have additions to this list.

In a football match, research has shown that a referee makes a minimum of 500 decisions.

After 60 matches that means a total of around 30000.

Some are simple – some are controversial.

To get 10 or so major decisions wrong out of 30000 is not a bad average!

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What the papers say

“Nothing can dry a continent’s tears. Nothing can recompense Ghana, the last African side at the World Cup, for the sporting injustice wreaked on them by Luis Suarez, Uruguay’s unofficial goalkeeper”,  said the UK Telegraph on Sunday.

“And nothing will end the nightmare of Asamoah Gyan, whose penalty then struck the bar.”

“Suarez’s offence was obvious. His handling of Dominic Adiyiah’s goal bound header was spotted by the well-positioned Portuguese referee.”

 “Olegario Benquerenca did everything he could under the Laws, dismissing the Uruguayan and awarding Ghana a last-minute penalty.”

“It was not FIFA’s fault that Gyan squandered a wonderful chance to strike a blow for Ghana, for Africa and for all who believe honesty still has a place in professional sport, even one with such scrambled ethics as football.”

“When Gyan missed, Suarez’s jubilant reaction confirmed the cynical nature of his deed. “The truth is,” said the Ajax striker, ‘it was worth it’.”

“His coach, Oscar Tabarez, defended Suarez, arguing it “was not cheating” because “it was instinctive”. The referee thought otherwise. So did everyone watching.”

“So FIFA must now act in the short-term and long-term. Having confirmed it would “be looking at that incident”, FIFA had the power to impose a ban of “at least one match” if the disciplinary committee deemed Suarez guilty of “unsportsmanlike conduct”.

“Already ruled out of Tuesday’s semi-final against the Netherlands here, Suarez should have been suspended for an additional match, ruling him out of the final or the third-place game. To have him polluting the competition again will further enrage Africans and neutrals.”

“FIFA made an idiot of itself by not taking any significant sanction against Thierry Henry when the Frenchman handled in helping Les Miserables qualify for the World Cup at the Republic of Ireland’s expense.“

“FIFA’s fair play code states: “Winning is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly. Cheating is easy but brings no pleasure. Henry escaped with his deception. Suarez should suffer further for his.”

Ghana’s distress was captured in the words of John Pantsil. “In the last minute we got a goal but the referee disallowed it,” said the Fulham defender.

“Instead of him giving the goal he whistled for a penalty.” Laws cannot be changed mid-tournament, and the damage is already done to Ghana, but the International FA Board must examine this.

FIFA privately was very dismissive of the idea of introducing a penalty goal, just as rugby union awards a penalty try for serious or repeated offences close to the line when a try was likely to be scored.”

“FIFA’s fear with all possible Law changes is that it brings in video evidence by stealth. Goal-line technology, as Sepp Blatter is now prepared to consider following Frank Lampard’s misfortune, is now not perceived as a problem as a HawkEye system will not delay the flow of the game, quite rightly a major consideration of FIFA.”

“There will be no reference to a referee in the stand. Nor would there be with the deliberate handball on the line. After the referee had dismissed Suarez, he would simply apply an additional sanction, that of a penalty goal.”

“FIFA is unlikely to follow rugby, a pity as there is another rule that football should adopt from the oval-ball game, that of play continuing while the physio attends a fallen player. Let’s call it the Drogba Rule. A Suarez Amendment would be good too“.

The offence of Thierry Henry and Luis Suarez was deliberate hand ball -according to the Laws, no more and no less.

The Laws have stood the test of time. If they ain’t broken – too much – don’t fix them.

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A great appointment by UEFA

I am delighted to learn that Pierluigi Collina, referee of the World Cup Final in 2002 and one of footballs’s most famous referees with his bald head and menacing stare, has left his job as head of Italian officials to take up a similar role organising referees for European competitions with UEFA.

“I’ve decided to leave my role because I have received an important offer from UEFA,” Collina, who retired from refereeing in 2005, told reporters.

He is the ultimate professional in refereeing terms and will be a major asset to UEFA.

I worked with Pierluigi at both World Cup France 1998 and World Cup Korea/Japan 2002 and was highly impressed.

He is totally aware of so many aspects of refereeing.

He will bring knowledge, awareness and a feel for the game to the UEFA administration.

This is a great appointment by UEFA.

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