Thoughts on the Referees: Day Eleven
Yesterday was an exciting day (who knew Iranians were so passionate about football?), and exciting in the refereeing world is never good. Today was much more calm.
Dr. Felix Brych (GER), Belgium v. Russia
Brych (above) was his usually dreamy, yet insouciant, self.
He just mostly loped around the pitch, looking pretty, but not really being tested too much.
The first half he didn’t make a lot of calls, apart from one yellow for a high Russian boot that caught the hand of the Belgian player. He did wave off a penalty shout from Russia’s Maksim Kanunnikov who tripped on the ball; Brych didn’t buy that there was enough contact for a penalty.
(Edit: I rewatched the penalty shout situation at 26. The Russian player, Kanunnikov, definitely comes down because he stepped right down on the top of the ball and went over the front of it. Even if the Belgian player got a touch on his foot – and if it was, it was minor – he was already going down because he stepped on the ball. Sorry, but no decent referee is going to call a penalty for that.)
In the second half, he called a handball against Russia that seemed pretty obvious, giving Belgium a shot in a good position. Russia couldn’t really argue it.
His positioning overall was pretty good; though – as I’ve said before – he’s not the paciest of referees. He did explain his calls well to the players, but it was usually with a shrug and an “Oh, well” expression. Still, it didn’t seem to have impact his ability to manage the teams and they responded pretty well to him.
Overall, I always like to see Brych on the pitch, and he’s had a good tournament so far. Just not a great one.
Wilmar Roldan (COL), South Korea v. Algeria
Roldan’s team had a rough time on their first time out with Mexico v. Cameroon, but I was glad to see FIFA kept him around, whilst sending home the offending assistant. He actually is a good referee, and he seemed to have no problem adapting to his new Ecuadoran assistant, Christian Lescano.
His foul detection in both halves was pretty decent, and he definitely had a no nonsense attitude. He kept a tight hand on the game, and made it clear he was in no mood for dissent. He was over 50 minutes in before he drew his first card, but the game never felt out of control.
Interestingly, early in the second half, he called the exact kind of shoulder pulling foul by defenders that Peter O’Leary let go in Nigeria’s win over Bosnia Herzegovina. For the record, I think Roldan was right and O’Leary was wrong.
Roldan is really a very good referee, and I’m glad that FIFA had the wisdom to adjust his team and keep him in this tournament. He was a big reason this was such an exciting game.
Nestor Pitana (ARG), USA v. Portugal
Pitana is just enormous. One of the biggest referees I’ve seen.
He called the first water break in the Cup, at about 40 minutes into the first half. It seems late, but the players were starting to flag in the Manaus humidity and heat. Pitana’s blue kit had changed colors through the half, getting a much deeper blue. It was definitely the right decision.
His foul detection was relatively good and no one really screwed with him, probably because he looks such a beast.
He did make a mistake in extra time in the first half when Jeff Cameron made sure to stop Cristiano Ronaldo’s advance by body checking him. He gave the foul, but not the yellow card he should have.
Later, though, he didn’t fall for Ronaldo’s obvious attempt to draw a foul right outside the box, which was the right call.
His ARs were excellent all night.
He added five minutes of time on the second half, mostly due to injuries and frankly – some time wasting from the USA. That five minutes – just like in the Champions League final – impacted the game and allowed Portugal (who, frankly, hadn’t played well) to score.
Overall, though, I thought the Argentinian team did really well and kept themselves from being the story of the game. They’re amongst my favourites in this tournament.