Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Few Words About WC Referees

The referees in the World Cup this year have received a lot of criticism, especially from the ABC/ESPN announcers and supporters of the US team. Some of it is deserved and some is just relocating blame that rightly should be placed on the US team. However, I found this page on that rates the WC referees and, interestingly, the referees the US had are ranked quite low. I don't think there was a conspiracy or anything like that but make of that what you will. Carlos Amarilla, who officiated the USA-Czech Republic game, is tied for 15th out of 22 referees in the WC. Jorge Larrionda--the USA-Italy official--is rated #20, and Markus Merk--the USA-Ghana official--is tied for 18th. It is unclear how these rankings are determined but I assume it is not public opinion.

On the other hand, I have watched every match thus far and must say that the referees have generally performed very well. I tend to agree that the officials have reached for the cards rather quickly to the detriment of the players and games. In some instances the cards are meant to prevent a game from getting too physical that is anticipated to be played that way, but usually I think it has been just antsy refs trying to meet FIFA's demands to the detriment of the games. Larrionda was officiating in this manner in the US-Italy game and the only call I would quibble with was Pope's second yellow, but Pope was playing with fire at this point.

However, there have been some serious blunders this year. Referees do make mistakes and I can't say whether this year has been above average for the WC or not. Here are some the most obvious errors in my mind. Markus Merk awarding the PK in the US-Ghana match; Benito Archundia and his assistants not seeing France's second goal against Korea; Carlos Amarilla in the Tunisia-Ukraine match where he awarded Shevchenko a PK on an obvious flop and missed a clear Ukraine handball in the box for a Tunisia PK (I think this was the worst because it could have cost Tunisia an advancement to the second round); and Graham Poll and his 3-yellows to one player debacle in the Australia-Croatia game.

The officials in today's first knockout games were very good and I expect the officiating won't be as big of an issue from now on. If it is you can go to here to read about an actual soccer referee's view on the performances of the referees. I really recommend this page if you have any interest in a more objective, or at least less impassioned, view of the officials.

Update 6/25/06 2:04 p.m.: I would like to add the list of bad performances by officials Valentin Ivanov, who officiated the Portugal - Netherlands match. He gave out 16 or so yellow cards and 4 red cards (a new record). It wasn't just one or two calls in this match, it was the complete loss of control by the referee from the very outset of the match. Too bad because it could have been a really good game.


TheVagabond said...

What about placing the blame for poor, chippy, hyper agreesive, dive filled play where it rightly belongs: on the players not the referee!

If the players were mindful of the laws and their intrepretations the game could still be both physical and beautiful. Instead they see "gamesmanship" as part of their aresenal. That's what creates problems. the refs are left to clean up the mess. Blame the proximate cause not the janitor.

I have no real problem with FIFA's intent to bring the game back to the rulebook.

Lastly, is Marcelo the ultimate one trick pony on this subject? A foul is a foul regardless of how early or how late in a half (or for that matter where on the pitch) it is committed. I don't recall seeing anything about not carding players at certain times when I've read the laws!

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm pretty sure the ratings are public opinion.

Nicole said...

You said: "In some instances the cards are meant to prevent a game from getting too physical that is anticipated to be played that way"

That thinking right there is what's gotten a lot of referees in trouble in the first place. You absolutely cannot anticipate how a game is going to be played and make refereeing decisions based on that. That's ludicrous and wrong and that's putting all the power of the game into the ref's hands.

The referee is meant to officiate, not control. To say that they are anticipating is like a ref pulling a flag in football because a player had committed that foul earlier in the season.

I'm sorry, but that's not ok.

Anonymous said...

referees should not be the centre of the game, if they would do their jobs well they shouldn´t get the attentention they are getting now!
i watched the Holland game last night and mr. Ivanov was a real disaster, although not being helped by second rate Portugese actors, especially Figo. What a "#$%&!

Matt said...

Any consideration for that PK that gave Italy the game vs. the Aussies?

The Fan's Attic said...

Vagabond: I agree that blame must be placed on players. Sometimes, though, the officials are just as complicit when a game goes awry and deserve blame as well. In my opinion, the Portugal-Netherlands match was one of those times. Also, sometimes the blame is only on the referee when he makes a bad call and not on the players.

Matt: As far as the Italy-Australia game goes... That was just a brutal call to end the game. I truly think it was a foul (maybe a light foul), but it's like ending the NBA finals on the free-throw line--you don't want to see it. The Aussie went in on a slide tackle and missed the ball and obstructed the Italian's progress. The Italian may have acted some but he did just beat that guy and had some space to work.