Thoughts on the Referees: Quarterfinals, Games 3 and 4

The refereeing performances on this second day of the quarterfinals were sure better than the first.

Nicola Rizzoli (Italy), Argentina v. Belgium
This is the second time Rizzoli (above) has had to step into the breach after a particularly rough outing for another referee. He followed Yuichi Nishimura’s opening day performance, and today he followed arguably one of the worst performances of the tournament – Carlos Velasco Carballo in Brazil v. Colombia.

But if you need a referee to right the ship, Rizzoli is your guy. Mostly because he really doesn’t give a shit what anyone else does or thinks.

He just does his thing, and he started doing it early; he blew his whistle in the first two minutes and immediately yelled at players for being too rough.

His fitness is pretty jaw-dropping, particularly for 42. Some of his sprints outstripped the younger players on the pitch.

Rizzoli did not stop play at 27 like Argentina wanted, because Angel Di Maria went down (not because of a challenge), but just waved play on. Anyone used to watching him in Serie A would not be surprised; he doesn’t stop play unless he has no other choice.

The yellow card to Hazard at 53 was the right call, I think. Hazard missed the ball and got the player, but the contact was light, so I think that’s why he chose the yellow and not the red.

There was a definitely strong challenge from Kompany on Lavezzi that he could have called, but let go, probably because it looked like Kompany got the ball from his angle. There was also some miscommunication between Rizzoli and his linesman over a Belgian offside at about 61.

The yellow card at 75 against Argentina was reasonable. In fact, none of the yellow cards he pulled out were outlandish.

His ARs – especially Renato Faverani – were particularly good. I rarely saw them make a poor offside call.

Overall, the worst you could say about him were some nitpicky things here or there. He ran a tight, effective, exciting game without ever once losing control.

Which was precisely what FIFA needed from him. Again.

Ravshan Irmatov, Uzbekistan – Netherlands v. Costa Rica
This isn’t the worst I’ve seen from Irmatov in this tournament. (How’s that for lukewarm praise?)

He does have some difficulty communicating with players, and his style doesn’t help with that any. His fitness is questionable; I don’t think he’s unfit but he’s rather slow. He did, however, seem winded about 40 minutes in.

Interestingly, he let several hard challenges on Arjen Robben go, and in fact called a free kick against Robben about halfway through the first half that was actually a foul on him by two Costa Rica players. Was he calling the game or calling by Robben’s reputation?

The yellow card to Costa Rica’s Michael Urmana at 51, though, was correct.

He missed a penalty for Costa Rica when Joel Campbell was literally pushed over from behind whilst controlling the ball in the box. Strangely, just a minute or so later, he called the exact same foul (again, against Campbell) outside the box. I don’t know why one was a foul and the other wasn’t. The culprit, Bruno Martins Indi, was yellow carded a few minutes later, but I still don’t understand why the penalty wasn’t given.

At 81, Costa Rica’s Gonzales hit the onrushing Robben with his arm and, while he went down easily per usual, it was a foul on Robben. The Costa Ricans were using hand motions to tell him it was a dive, but Irmatov wasn’t fooled that time and gave Robben a free kick.

There was another Costa Rican shout for a penalty in extra time, but I don’t think there was really all that much there.

At 100, Irmatov missed Martins Indi stamping on Bryan Ruiz. Ruiz called attention to it by staying down. The Dutch responded by finally kicking the ball out of play, only for Ruiz to bounce right back up with the referee’s help. Quite annoying, honestly.

He gave a handball against Costa Rica at 101 after Robben got in his face. Replays showed with certainty that it hit Junior Diaz in the back of his shoulder. Terrible call. Nothing came of it, but it was still a bad call.

His ARs were decent, though the final offside call on Robben right at the end of regular time did not appear to be correct.

In the end, I don’t think he impacted the game, even with the probable penalty miss. But I certainly thought, head to head, Rizzoli performed better.

Unfortunately, Netherlands moving on puts Bjorn Kuipers almost certainly out of the final, and depending on how FIFA play it, maybe out of the tournament.

That’s a shame, because it means the call will go to much lesser referees.

Featured photo: AP/Martin Meissner



  • Excellent analysis, as usual!

    For Rizzoli: Solid performance indeed. But why such short stoppage time at the end of the first half? The DiMaria stoppages were alone more than what he gave.

    For Irmatov: What did you think of the substitute Netherlands goalkeeper interacting with the Costa Rican penalty takers? That seemed unsportsmanlike to me and I was surprised Irmatov did not intervene there.

    The missed Joel Campbell penalty was a pretty serious decision.

    The ARs in did an excellent job with many close offside calls.

    In stoppage time with the Costa Rican defender who cleared the ball from the goal line to the crossbar with the keeper out, there was an effort from a player closer to the goal line than the second defender (now the keeper) that was missed. If there had been a goal from that scramble, that could have been a big mistake.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My theory is that Rizzoli’s limited patience has a direct correlation to the amount of time he gives. Which means that most of the time, people are lucky if he gives anything…

      (I jest. I’m sure he’s a very nice person.)

      I don’t want to pass judgment on Krul, because I have no idea what he was saying. He could have been wishing them luck, I know that David Luiz was allowed to literally follow James Rodriguez around and whisper to him before his PK, which I thought was even worse interference.

      The PK was Irmatov’s biggest mistake, by far.

      Fortunately, there was no harm no foul on the situation you described, but you’re right – it could have been a huge mess.


  • I was surprised that Bruno Martins Indi challenge on Joel Campbell wasn’t a straight red. It wasn’t that it robbed a goalscoring chance, but he basically tackled a guy without the ball (and for that matter without looking at the ball). For me, that’s a red.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I was actually very impressed by the one AR…the one who stood during the second half and first half of extra time on the site of Costa Rica…they had a very well done offsite-trap, and they could rely on it, because the AR paid attention (unlike the one in the France/Germany game, during which Germany was forced to abandon the tactic during the first half, because the AR didn’t call any of the offsites)

    Liked by 1 person

  • I don’t understand why Irmatov was given a third match in the first place, because he’s made mistakes in all his matches so far. And I don’t know about the penalty, I think that would have been a bit harsh, I thought Campbell had dived when I saw it. But I may have missed something. That the foul was called minutes later outside the penalty area was questionable, though. It once again shows that the refereeing is not always consistent enough in this tournament.

    Now that Kuipers probably will not be refereeing the final, who do you think will have the biggest chance? I hope Webb will referee the final. Although he did the 2010 final as well, I think he was together with Kuipers the most consistent and solid referee in this tournament.

    Do you have theorems why Bakary Gassama only refereed one game? I thought he put on a very solid performance in the Netherlands – Chile match, yet he only did that game.


    • By my count, Irmatov has actually done FOUR matches. Only Pitana has had the same amount, but Pitana at least has been solid.

      I could have accepted the lack of the penalty call…until he called the exact same thing a minute later. There was really no difference between the two fouls except one was in the box and one wasn’t.

      I really have no idea what FIFA will do for the final. The Irmatov and Velasco appointments prove that they will appoint people despite poor performances and mistakes. So, honestly, it could be anybody.

      As for Gassama, I haven’t heard anything. He was very good in his one match, and I expected that they were holding on to a few for the latter stages but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Could be fitness, or politics, or really anything. I’m just not sure…


    • BTW, the Third Team points out that neither Netherlands nor Germany will accept Webb, so he’s probably out.

      My guess is that we’ll get someone less experienced/talented for the final, and we’ll see major issues. I hope that’s not the case.


  • As a Belgian fan, I kept a close eye on what Rizzoli did after the goal in the 8th minute. What I saw was that Argentina already tried to gain time from the 15th minute on. Never ever did Rizzolo warn the Argentinians that they shouldn’t delay the game. I even saw Mexican waves in the audience, because every free kick or thrown-in was taking more than half a minute while it should be within 6-10 seconds. In the end, my analysis is that the referee didn’t want the game anymore after the 8th minute. There was no chance to get into a rhythm and to actually play football by the Belgians (never mind the Argentinians, especially in the 2nd half), and Rizzolo could as well have blown the final whistle after the first goal. While the referee was more or less correct in most of his decisions (and the side referees did a great job with the off-side thing), 2 clear yellow cards were not given to Messi (why not?) + some not existing faults were given to the Argentinians whenever the ball was in their penalty area (remember Lukaku and Fellaini’s headers). Very frustrating to watch and the referee really killed the game. Kudo’s to the Argentinians for playing it this (boring) way, but I wonder if Rizzolo is a fan of Messi and the Argentinian team.


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