Thoughts on the Referees: Quarterfinals, Game 1 and 2

Note: My somewhat lame only “bright side” to Carlos Velasco’s performance in Brazil v. Colombia was that no one had a broken leg. Unfortunately, it now appears that Neymar has a broken vertebrae and will miss the rest of the World Cup. That challenge – which went unpunished – was the direct result of very poor refereeing and lack of control and can be laid squarely at the feet of CVC.

As a fan of referees, I’m absolutely gutted.

I think the games turned out like they should have, but refereeing was more of a talking point than you like to see. While Nestor Pitana of Argentina seemed to do okay, Carlos Velasco of Spain – who was, quite frankly, a bit of a surprise choice – struggled.

Nestor Pitana (ARG), France v. Germany
I missed a lot of this match due to issues with WordPress, but from what I saw, Nestor Pitana did okay.

I saw him let a few things go, but that is in line with FIFA directives we’ve talked about before. I also saw a couple of potential penalties that he waved off.

But in general, I thought he was fine.

He’s such a big guy, though, and he’s not quite as able to keep up with the play as much as some of the other referees. I also noticed that he called an informal water break, something he’s done in other matches, too. In fact, it was Pitana who called the first official water break of the Cup.

Still, I saw and heard of no major issues, so … so far, so good.

Carlos Velasco (ESP), Brazil v Colombia
Twenty minutes into this game, I thought ‘Hey, where’s the referee?” He was practically invisible, and in a good way; he kept the tempo going while allowing the game to flow and just not making himself the story.

But things quickly started to get away from him…

There was a bit of crazy at 23, when there was confusion over the free kick and a little bit of handbags at ten paces. Colombia was shocked by the fact that a disgusted Velasco just allowed the play to continue and Brazil got the ball. I am not even 100% sure I’m describing what happened correctly; it was cray cray. And yet, quite funny at the same time.

I didn’t think the call at 35 to award a free kick to Colombia was the right call. Both players went in high for the ball and the defender won it. Worse, Velasco then allowed the Brazilians to creep past the line on that free kick, and Neymar was way ahead and was indeed the defender to stop the ball. That shouldn’t have been allowed to happen.

He also missed a studs-up challenge on Hulk’s knee that he should have caught.

I also felt in the second half that the players started going down more and more softly. The players must have sensed that they would get a free kick with slight contact.

The disallowed goal was interesting. It appeared at first that it was offside, and indeed, two Colombian players started off offside. But then it bounced off Brazil’s David Luiz and back into play, so it wouldn’t have been offside. It appears that the AR actually blew for some sort of foul, but no one knows quite what for.

Velasco just didn’t really seem a threat to card anyone in this game, though he blew for foul after foul after foul. He finally started showing cards at about 65, but by that time we’d seen 40 or more fouls.  So while I’ve seen games more out of control, this was certainly not the best-managed match I’ve seen.

The penalty for Colombia was definitely correct, and I suppose the yellow card to Julio Cesar was okay. But again, Velasco showed little control by not only letting the Brazilians waste time drinking water while James Rodriguez stood waiting to take the kick, but also allowed Luiz to follow Rodriguez around and talk to him while he was preparing. That just shouldn’t have happened.

Unfortunately, similar to what we’ve seen from Mark Geiger and Peter O’Leary, Velasco started out well, but trying to avoid giving yellow cards backfired and the game turned into a free for all. I put a lot of blame on the directives from FIFA about giving yellow cards, but the referee has to take it on the chin, too.

Not a good performance by CVC.

Featured photo: Getty Images


  • Pitana was quite impressive, excluding a few strange foul decisions. But Carballo was abysmal. No man management, poor foul and card selection and absolutely no personality. At 38′ and 45′ he just stared at players instead of talking to them. Really weird. And his refusal to give cards in the first half meant that he had nearly no control.


    • And he started out so well…

      I was a little surprised by his appointment to start with, since he wasn’t fantastic in his previous outings. Sad to see this in a quarterfinal…


    • Carballo definitely was not in control of the game. Really too bad for the match.


      • This was such a poorly officiated game that I actually took notes because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and I wanted to review the plays later. I’ve never done that before.

        There were 3 instances in the first half where he could have set his tone. One was that strange free kick at 23/24 minutes when clearly tempers were starting to flare and pushing was happening but he just let play continue after a rushed free kick was taken. This is where he needed to blow his whistle, issue stern words to all players to cool it, and show some authority.

        At 37 minutes the same should have applied when Neymar and teammate cheated their way to 5 yards from when the free kick was taken. Here, again, stop play, issue words, and take the kick again. I think it was this play that really set the tone for the cheating and diving that escalated the rest of the match.

        And finally at 44 a yellow should have been immediate for the studs showing tackle on Hulk but again there was no response by the ref.

        And the second half just got worse and worse with diving and calls that I think the ref was just guessing at. And after each foul he called for every flop and dive the players took even more liberties.


    • The thing is that when it actually was offsite, it wasn’t called…then there was a shuffle for the ball, but as soon as he went into the goal, it was suddenly offsite, even though it definitely wasn’t.


  • “But then it bounced off Brazil’s David Luiz and back into play…” Doesn’t matter, unless Luiz actively played it, which it didn’t seem like. It’s still offsides.

    CVC was pretty awful. Egads.


    • Also doesn’t matter,because it wasn’t offside apparently. Oi.


      • I’m willing to accept the offside call. Its really tough for ARs to tell whether players are involved at set plays like that.

        I think that CVC’s performance is similar to O’Leary’s: No Crucial errors (unless you think that the offside was), but still a terrible performance. Over at the 3rd team, its being labelled the worst of the WC so far.


  • Pitana was mostly lucky that none of his strange decisions lead to any goals. But to be fair: It was not his fault that out of the four attacks France made on the German goal in the first half, three were started from not called offsite. That only stopped in the second half, after the other one was responsible for those calls. I actually think that most of Pitana’s questionable decisions were based on the imput of the same guy (it’s hard to tell), including one denied corner kick for Germany. Pitana was at least consistent and fair concerning the cards, but what was he thinking giving four minutes extra-time? There was practically no interruption in the game play, two minutes would have been a stretch already (but okay in my book), four was excessive and I think without Neuer’s very last action, there would have been discussions later on.

    Carballo was abysmal. I think the scene at the very beginning, when he had the discussion with some players and one Brazilian just run away with the ball even though it hadn’t really been given free yet was symptomatic. He should have insisted on a repeat at the very least, but he just allowed the action, and from this point onward the players were basically doing whatever they wanted. There were one situation which was a clear red in my eyes, and he only gave yellow…the attack of Cesar, which prevented a clear chance (he was really lucky there). Not to mention the scene with Neymar. I just hope that he isn’t seriously hurt.
    Not that any team was better than the other concerning the rough game they played. I just hope that for the half final, they pick a ref who is prepared to pull the yellow when the game goes rough, no matter if the player is Brazilian or not.


    • This is why I cringe when I see the “Geiger for Final!”. Do we really think he would be able to control something like Brazil v Colombia. To be fair, few refs can, and Busacca has painted himself into a tight corner with his best refs having teams in the tournament still.

      As for the DOGSO call, I don’t believe we’ve seen a single DOGSO red, and I don’t think that’s because there hasn’t been one. I think that’s due to directive…


      • Currently I am mostly worried about the half-finals…chances are that Germany might win this one, especially now that the Brazilian team is down one (perhaps two if Neymar doesn’t recover in time) players, and the way Brazilian played in the tournament so far, this could get very, very rough. You have on the one hand the team with the most fouls (I think…they are very high on the list in any case, especially after this game) and on the other side the team with the least. And Germany defends as well as today, frustration might break loose.


        • And chances are, they are not going to be able to use their most effective man managers: Kuipers, Ricci, Webb, Rizzoli.

          If they put a Geiger or even a Mazic or Cakir in there, it’s going to be a bloodbath.

          Hopefully, by that point the whole “Oh, don’t show cards too early” nonsense will be moot.


          • I’m hoping for Webb…he would be great for the finals, too, but I guess they won’t give it to him again, and if he gets one of the half finals, I want him on the Brazilian game. He is more or less the only one I trust not to be too influenced by the fact that Brazil is the host.


            • If FIFA are SMART, they’ll throw caution to the wind and give Ricci the semi Brazil is not in, Kuipers the one Netherlands is not in, and Webb the final.

              Then watch these little player heathens try to break down THAT wall.

              But I don’t think they’ll be that smart. 😦


              • We’ll see…one thing for sure, I don’t want to see a game like this again.
                You should have heard Mehmet Scholl after the game, he was enraged about the lack of control of the ref, and the consequences.


                • Like I said…no broken legs.



                  • Neymar was brought to the hospital. That’s certainly not how I want to see a game end.


                  • Oh…and he apparently has a broken vertebrae. Looks like the WM is over for him now….

                    I admit, I was hoping that he and/or Hulk would get a yellow card, too, because that would have prevented them from playing in the next game (Brazil got so lucky concerning the cards, I though they deserved a lasting consequence), but I never hope for players getting hurt, especially not in such a serious manner.


  • Velasco Carballo was truly woeful, I’m sorry, but it’s true.
    I saw a referee who seemed nonchalant and lackadaisical, whistling for a foul then making a gesture – I was starting to wonder if the Spaniard had left his cards in the changing rooms. His starting YC was baffling and man management was non-existent.

    This is not the first time we’ve seen this nonsense from Velasco Carballo as well, he’s been doing this for years (BVB – Napoli springs to mind). I’m to this day still perplexed as to how he was selected over his countryman Undiano Mallenco.

    I really feel sorry for the likes of Gassama, Shukralla and Vera who have performed commendably, yet are forced to sit out due to politics.


    • Right??? He was basically just walking around like a zombie. And he didn’t even look dashing doing it the way Felix Brych does.

      Can’t agree with you more on Undiano. He really should be here…


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