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.


  • Excellent analysis.

    Completely agree.

    Liked by 1 person

  • That was a 50-50 ball, with the players approaching from opposing angles. From Mr. Geiger’s angle of view, an ejection was not called for in this case.


    • Sorry, but the French player missed the ball entirely and BROKE A PLAYER’S LEG.

      Three other players have been sent off for that; actually for less than that, since they didn’t break anyone’s leg.

      Geiger got it wrong. Full stop.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Honestly, I have no idea how long he let the free-kick go because I was so busy laughing about the little dance performance and Müller’s fall, I must have missed five minutes or so of the game.


  • I do agree with your thoughts on these referees.
    Mark Geiger missed too much and it looked like he wanted to stay on the save side by staying on the background and not taking firm decisions.

    Ricci did a decent job. Apart from your observations he could have warned a couple of German players kicking the ball away (even though it was just a couple of yards) after he already blew for a foul.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the only really important wrong call was the supposed offsite for one of Germany’s first attacks. That was a really good chance, and definitly not offsite.


  • Completely agree on Geiger’s inconsistency and over-reliance on The Stern Lecture. Trying to control events through “man-management” is the proper way to start but when the players are not responsive, it’s time to move to cards. As for Germany/Algeria, somewhat disagree on the Algerian goal at 16′. If the offside call is close, the procedure strongly encourages the AR to keep the flag down; that call was close on TV with stop-action to draw the offside line. Imagine how the AR saw it. Also, the handling call against Algeria late regulation was poor. The Algerian had turned away from play and was moving his arm away from the ball. Plus, the proximity of the Algerian to the German striker made it difficult for the defender to avoid the ball. In short, it was ball-to-hand contact.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen the replay several times since I posted this and I have to agree on the offside call.I stopped it one point and I seriously couldn’t tell if any of his body was offside when the ball was played. I agree that the AR should have kept the flag down, which meant the goal should have stood.

      Another mark against Geiger’s team (though, in general, I think Fletcher’s a good AR.)


    • The player was clearly with one whole leg in the offside…I even said offside before the flag was even up.
      Algeria kind of ruined this for itself. They were more or less constantly in the Offside. For a team, which never is, it is very likely that a close Offsite-Situation gets overlooked later on in the game. But if they are offsite most of the time because the timing is off, then a close off-site will get called for sure, because they are expected to mess up again.

      Not sure which handball situation you meant, there were several, but I don’t remember disagreeing concerning the decision of any of them.


    • I have to disagree with you (two) on the offside call. Even though it is incredibly, incredibly close, Fletcher was spot on to flag. And assistant referees should really only give the benefit of the doubt if THEY aren’t sure, not if its simply very close.


  • Man management is overly and unnecessarily used in this tournament. But I understand this is FIFA’s ooops Busacca’s instruction. He is to blamed for the serious injury of the Nigerian player.


    • Blame the player who broke his leg, or the referee who let it get that far. Don’t blame Busacca. That takes personal responsibility out of the equation.


    • YoSiUsoLasTarjetas

      I have to agree with Ahmet. When words don’t work, cards must be shown in order to reign in the match. Geiger got in so deep over his head, that he simply drowned in the match. He wasn’t allowed to officiate in the manner that he knew and was comfortable with.
      But why, his change? That’s the way it is when you have to please your handlers(MB and Co.).


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  • I watched the whole France-Nigeria match again on the basis of this post and didn’t see anything that significantly impacted the game (match-changing/critical) or that was missed other than the red card for Matuidi.
    Not every lash-out/frustration is a red card or there would be nobody left on the pitch hence his man management. Geiger stayed in the background and don’t think many people (who are well-versed in the Laws) would have complained about the ref. Matuidi should have gone but I don’t think that merits a poor performance from the American crew.


    • I stand by my report, which on re-reading, is pretty balanced. And I am well-versed in the laws. 🙂

      I’m going to do a larger piece on Geiger once the dust settles.


    • YoSiUsoLasTarjetas

      labitre, go back and and re-watch that match again. But this time, watch it with the laws of the game in hand and remove your clear national bias/pride.


      • LA is not only one of our top commenters, but he’s a referee with a strong understanding of the LOTG. I also happen to know him personally, and I don’t think his nationality comes into play here, since he actually doesn’t have a horse in this race, country-wise, including Geiger’s.

        It’s fine to disagree, but please do so with respect. Read my ground rules to continue commenting…


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