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.

Impressive referee.

(Also: Dreamy.)

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:


  • Interesting.
    Just focusing on the O’leary game: I think that labeling it the worst of the tournament is very harsh.
    There was really only one clear error (the offside call). I don’t think that the “tug” in the lead up to the only goal was a foul and if anybody can be blamed for the Goal keeper dragging incident, it was the 4th official who should have told O’leary what happened and what he should have done.
    I do agree that Peter’s fitness isn’t stellar in comparison with others, but he is getting old nowadays.
    I didn’t think that Mazic was exemplary today either to be honest.


    • There were actually a lot of errors, and O’Leary and his team weren’t communicating well at all, on the calls or the mess with Begovic and the Nigerian injuries. That’s one reason the players were (understandably) frustrated.

      The tug to the shoulder by Odemwingie pulling Saphic behind him sure seemed like a foul to me (and many others), and in fact, O’Leary issued a yellow card for the exact same offense later. And as for his fitness, he was clearly laboured, often running with his head down. Sorry, but the guy was a mess.

      I’m happy to say it wasn’t the worst, but who do you think had a rougher game, across the entire team (not one assistant like with the Colombians)?

      Mazic is one of those guys that when I first see him, I think he’s good and then the more I look at his decisions, the more I scratch my head. So you may be right…


    • Also, Webb and Rizzoli are the same age as O’Leary, and they both had decent matches. Not slating him for getting old (and Rizzoli is a LOT smaller, which does make a difference), but still…


      • I think slating O’Leary as old is well within our rights as critics of the game. Just before half time (42:35), O’Leary spends a few seconds fiddling around in his pocket and the yellow card slips out as he follows the Bosnian rush. The card lies abandoned at centre field and the broadcast was cut to a close up of him collecting it off the turf. Stop fiddling around O’Leary.


        • Much as I ragged on him today, I actually felt sorry for him. Whether it was the heat or just getting flustered, he really struggled. Never like to see that…


  • O’Deary O’Leary


  • Fair enough. The Kiwi Crew were certainly not the most cohesive team that I’ve come across. But remember that Ravinesh Kumar had to be replaced before the tournament.
    Its hard to say who has been poorer than O’leary though. In terms of largest quantity of big errors, Wilmar Roldan (Mexico offsides) and Nicola Rizzoli’s (no send off for Costa and handball decision in lead up to Netherlands goal) teams were worst. (Sorry Jenna, I love Rizzoli too!)
    But its tough to evaluate which team was the roughest without evaluating every single little decision. Better teamwork between Nishimura as well as Irmatov and their assistants could have prevented errors as well.
    But its tough to say.


    • Fair point about losing his assistant, but it was Mark Rule who screwed up the offside call.

      Roldan was actually good in that game. It was the assistant that made both those calls and he was sent home. Roldan has another game coming up. (I’d be shocked if we saw O’Leary again.) In this game, all four referees made mistakes and were miscommunicating. And at least Nishimura’s team only fell apart in one half; these guys had issues all game.

      As for Rizzoli, don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m ready to put this “Costa should have seen red” bit to bed. You’re making up rules. And we’ve heard over and over and over that FIFA has directed the referees not to give yellows and red unless it’s clear cut because of the damage. Even if you could prove Costa was TOTALLY wrong and De Vrij did nothing wrong – according to the Law – a red card was NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. At MOST you would get a yellow for simulation. The only place he’d EVER be sent off was in fantasy land.

      I actually laughed when you said Rizzoli. If you HONESTLY BELIEVE that Rizzoli was worse than O’Leary, well…..

      Liked by 1 person

  • Jenna, I apologies for sounding like an arrogant spectator who has no concept of law. In fact I am a young referee who aspires to such levels as Rizzoli.
    In my opinion, Costa was guilty of using “excessive force or brutality” when confronting De Vrij, meaning that he was guilty of violent conduct (the second send off offense). Simulation is classified by the Laws of the Game as: “attempting to deceive the referee by feigning an injury or pretending to have been fouled.” Therefore I don’t feel that De Vrij was guilty, because he had been fouled. (Even though he did exaggerate the incident)


    • I don’t even think I know what you’re talking about now. What excessive force or brutality? Are you talking about the step (backwards and while controlling the ball) on De Vrij’s sliding tackle? Or an off the ball incident? I’m afraid you’ve lost me.

      But I’m glad you’re refereeing. How far along are you? There’s another young referee here – MiniWhistler.

      And remember, these guys all started when they were 17 or 18. It takes a lot of work, but they show it can be done…


    • Oh wait, the HEADBUTT!!!! (So sorry…been working 12 hour days on this blog and everything’s starting to run together.)

      Yes, Rizzoli was dealing with something else (I think drawing the line) and that happened behind him. It’s unfortunate, but very few people would hold that against him. When the fighting started, Rizzoli ran over and you could tell he knew SOMETHING had happened, but by that point it was he said/he said so it was hard for him to take action on something he hadn’t seen.

      I was shocked that FIFA didn’t do anything about it. Usually, they can take retroactive action, and I actually searched news for a couple of days expecting that…


      • No worries. I’m a bit lost as well. I actually meant Matins Indi, not De Vrij.
        But what surprises me is that I think that Rizzoli was looking. (he couldn’t have been marking the wall distance, it was a corner).
        Anyway, even though I think that he was wrong not to send Costa off for the headbutt, but if you ignore that, his performance in that match was quite sound.
        But may I just clarify, you do actually agree with me on the whole headbutt thing, yes?


        • Well, it was definitely a headbutt and yes, violent misconduct, but I have a hard time believing he saw it. Or at least saw it clearly to make a judgment. Rizzoli is not exactly the kind and gentle sort, you know? He has no trouble tossing you out if you’re being an asshat…

          Liked by 1 person

          • Oh ok. I’m glad that we both agree, because I was amazed that you were so quick to defend Rizzoli when I first said that Costa should have been sent off. You’re absolutely right about the penalty though. Rizzoli was not wrong to award it, and even if he had thought that Costa have dived, the most that he could have given was a yellow (caution).
            By the way, I’m a 14 year old referee from Australia and hope to emulate the achievements of referees such as those at the World Cup this year.


            • I’ve been hearing all kinds of fanciful stuff about that penalty call and I’m kind of like ‘Okay, guys…enough’

              Good for you! I think it’s so great when guys like you and Lewis know so young that this is what you want to do. We need more good and dedicated referees! 🙂

              There are some great referees here; you should definitely reach out to some of these guys. I, myself, am not actually a referee (just an educated fan) but I know there’s a real community built up amongst referees to support young refs…


            • And if you’re 14 I probably shouldn’t be saying things like “asshat”… My language is awful. Apologies.


              • No worries about the language, you get used to it from players.
                And I can totally understand your frustration over opposition to the penalty decision. I know that feeling far to well.
                Many thanks for your encouragement, I certainly enjoy reading your blog, its certainly one of the best ones around.

                Liked by 1 person

  • I want to know what everyone’s take is on the clear problem we are seeing with incorrect offside calls leading to disallowed goals. You are a ref and you have been asked by FIFA for your input. What would you recommend: Would you implement rule changes to the definition of “level” (eg. back foot of opposing player is considered level )? utilize video review technology with or without coaches challenges? take offside completely out of the game or take it out of the game from goal line to 25 yards? Or not change a thing?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d love to hear people thoughts, too. We should do a poll.

      The truth is, four wrongly disallowed goals so far is unacceptable, especially when it’s pretty instant and easy to draw the line with the overhead video camera…


  • Honestly, I think Ricci was mostly lucky to ref a game with two teams which played very fair. Aside from making the right call whenever the Germans deliberately put Ghana offsite (and that’s not his job but the one of his assistant – who was really, really good btw, some of those were very close calls) there really wasn’t much work for him, and he nevertheless managed to make some odd decisions. Like awarding the ball to Portugal when it looked more like Müller had been the one fouled and not the other way around, and once awarding it to Germany when, as far as I can tell, nothing actually happened (and the German players looked kind of surprised). None of the decisions resulted in a goal or even a dangerous situation for either team, so they are easy to overlook, but I wonder how he would have fared in a game with two teams with more “sneaky” or explosive players.


    • I do remember thinking how polite to and respectful of each other the Ghanaians and Germans were. And there are always little things; referees are humans. That didn’t negate the great control and manner he had, or the several good advantages he played. And his fitness…seriously? Sprinting right next to a full-speed Ghanaian on counter attack at 90+!?! Crazy. Guy’s a machine.


      • That he is…still, I wouldn’t give the credit for the fair game to the ref. Neither Germany nor Ghana are teams which are known for unfair play. Klose even once conceded a goal in a game by admitting hand-play.


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  • Another issue I had with the Kiwi team was stoppage time in the 2nd half. 3 minutes was given which was arguably not enough with all the time wasting. Then an injury occurred in the 91st minute and the final whistle still blows at 93:08! What?!


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