Thoughts on the Referees: Day Ten
Today, we saw arguably the best refereeing performance of the World Cup so far … and arguably the worst.
Milorad Mazic (SRB), Argentina v. Iran
FIFA really loves Mazic (above), that much is clear. I think he’s usually a pretty good referee, but I haven’t been quite so enamoured of him as they are. He was a bit hit or miss in England v. Uruguay.
Today, I could understand the FIFA love. His fitness is excellent. He was practically invisible the first half, and not the kind of invisibility which just means that the referee is sitting back now but will start throwing around cards when things inevitably fall apart (Hi, Ben Williams!). He always seemed completely in control.
This was with both teams in his face the entire game. Even the slightest touch had Javier Mascherano screaming at the referee for a yellow card or more. Mazic rarely even acknowledged the cries; he just kept playing his game with an “Ask me if I care?” expression on his face. (The answer is ‘no.’)
One big thing in the second half: Mazic refused to call a penalty when Argentina’s Pablo Zabaleta got a light touch on Ashkan Dejagah in the box (Zabaleta pushed the ball away before the touch happened and Dejagah wasn’t controlling the ball; Zabaleta was). It certainly wasn’t a clear cut call, and we saw a similar tackle in the German game that also did not draw a penalty.
But when Mazic refused to make the call, Dejagah lost his mind. He rushed the referee and actually put down his shoulder and bumped Mazic like an angry bull. Mazic – no stranger to getting a little physical – just yelled at him, but I personally would have liked to have seen Dejagah sent off, and I am neutral on both teams.
Getting physical with the referee like that is dangerous and shouldn’t be tolerated, I don’t care how angry you are and how righteous you think said anger is…
Sandro Ricci (BRA), Germany v. Ghana
I don’t have much to say about Sandro Ricci. He was quite brilliant…perhaps the best performance I’ve seen in this tournament.
He made very few mistakes, and handled this game with such aplomb that I forgot about him for long stretches. His presence was such that he was treated with near universal respect by the players.
Basically, this game was as exciting it was in part because of Sandro Ricci.
And his fitness! In the 91st minute, Ghana was sprinting down the pitch on a counter attack, and Ricci was keeping up pace for pace with the speedy Ghana players, something not many referees could do. And that was after running for a full 90 minutes.
Peter O’Leary (NZL), Nigera v. Bosnia and Herzegovina
O’Leary is a very experienced referee and he has the confidence of one. But his fitness isn’t as good as the earlier referees, and it did pull him out of position at times, which would prove costly in this match.
Unfortunately, we had our fourth (count ’em, four) goal wrongly disallowed for offside. New Zealand AR Mark Rule called Edin Dzeko offside and disallowed his beautiful goal early in the first half. Not only was Dzeko onside, he was pretty obviously onside.
On Nigeria’s goal at 28 minutes, it does appear that Peter Odemwingie pulled back the Bosnian captain, Emir Spahic – formally of La Nati – by the shoulder, right in front of the referee, but there was no whistle. O’Leary actually put his whistle to his mouth, and appeared ready to call the foul, but he was clearly looking to the AR to make the call – while the AR was looking to him to make it (rightfully so).
O’Leary’s positioning – affected by his lack of pace – made it difficult for him to make calls like this, and ARs usually won’t make close ones. So the team was always a step behind and both goal situations – and thus the 1-0 final score – were influenced by the referees. That’s unfortunate.
The same situation as with the Odemwingie goal happened again and again, with both teams having figured out that O’Leary wasn’t going to call fouls like this in the box, so they just pulled each other back any time they were beaten.
The Nigerians were also allowed to waste a great deal of time with impunity, including not getting injured players all the way off the pitch. However, in a very ugly scene, Bosnian goalkeeper Begovic actual forcibly dragged a player from the pitch at one point. The referees did nothing.
By the end, even as a neutral and a strong referee supporter, it was hard to watch.
I’m afraid we’ve seen the last of the Kiwis in this tournament.
Featured photo: mirror.co.uk