Thoughts on the Referees: Knockout Stage, Games 5 and 6 (Updated)
It was a rough day for the American, but a typically smooth one by the Brazilian, Sandro Ricci (above).
Mark Geiger, USA: France v. Nigeria
Geiger is the first referee from the US to referee at this stage in the World Cup, which is really impressive. However, the American media’s breathless prognostications about how he’d be in the final were a bit premature, I’d say. He’s a talented referee, but not overly experienced at this level and you could see the cracks today.
His fitness is good, and I like how he communicates to the players, but after a strong start he proceeded to lose control worse than many other referees I’ve seen in the tournament.
His foul detection was a little 50-50 in the early stages; he made a good call (or non call) to deny Paul Pogba the penalty he was looking for. But then a minute or so later he gave a free kick to Nigeria on the edge of the box for what replays revealed to be a slip by the Nigerian player.
The foul at 15 was a little harsh on France, considering the tangle of legs, but it was a foul.
The disallowed goal for Nigeria was offside. No complaints with the team there.
He missed a deliberate elbow from Olivier Giroud to Jon Obi Mikel’s head. That should have been a red card. (Actually, now it doesn’t appear that Geiger missed it; he saw it, and gave the Frenchman another of his completely ineffectual lectures, but chose to do nothing about it.)
He gave a free kick to France’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris at about the 30 minute mark for … nothing, that I could see. He wasn’t impeded or really even touched by the Nigerian player.
Just in general, I couldn’t figure out any sort of consistency to his calls in the first half. He let a lot of things go on both sides, including a corner situation where Evra literally had his arms around Peter Odemwingie and was just holding him, preventing him for getting anywhere near the ball. Geiger lectured Evra afterward, but still, it could well have been a penalty.
The handball call at 43 against Nigeria was a good one.
Unfortunately, Geiger’s inexperience cost Nigeria a man, when France’s Blaise Matuidi threw an absolute leg breaker that missed the ball and hit the Nigerian player’s ankle. That was a red three other times in this tournament, and Geiger only gave it a yellow. (This was his only yellow of this very contentious match; lack of cards is not always a sign of control.) Allowing Matuidi to stay on the pitch while his victim was carted off was a bad thing.
Here it is (not for the weak-hearted):
At this point, France should have been playing with, at most, ten (if you believe Giroud’s earlier thrown elbow wouldn’t have warranted sending off). Worse, France’s Griezmann was later allowed to do nearly the same thing without even a yellow card. By this point, Geiger had lost all semblance of control and France was just being allowed to physically wreck Nigeria whenever they were beaten to a ball.
There were calls for a handball from Nigeria after Paul Pogba’s goal, but I saw no indication of that. I think Geiger’s team were right not to react.
This was an all-around poor performance and it’s a shame, because he’d had a good tournament to this point. Twitter exploded with Americans already putting him in the final, but I don’t think we’ll see him again. He’s not ready for the latter stages.
Maybe in 2018…
Sandro Ricci (Brazil), Germany v. Algeria
After the American’s tough day, Sandro Ricci stepped up and showed how it’s done. His manner is so firm and stone-faced that there really aren’t a lot of shenanigans in matches he calls. Players know there’s no point.
The Algerian goal at about 16 minutes did appear to be offside, so that was a good call.
For everyone saying that Geiger’s lack of control was just ‘letting the players play’, Ricci showed how that’s done. He kept control through very firm communication, but kept the flow of the game moving. And with no broken bones.
He could probably have given Bastian Schweinsteiger a yellow card for a hard challenge (which wasn’t nearly as hard as the Algerian’s screaming swan dive made it out to be) but he chose not to. Same thing with a Mezut Ozil handball that he deemed not to be deliberate but gave a free kick for.
There was a handball call at 85 against Algeria that he got spot on.
There was about a two-minute bit of weirdness with Algerian players going down and up, off and back, and then Germany screwing up a free kick spectacularly. I think he let that go a little long, myself.
He played great advantage throughout the game. His positioning stayed central but without getting into the way of play, and his fitness is good.
Basically, watching these two referees was like night and day. At the end of the day, experience will out.