Thoughts on the Referee: Nicola Rizzoli and Germany v. Argentina

You know what?

I thought Nicola Rizzoli was great.

He took control of this match right from the start and never relinquished it. He was fair, communicated well and gave an air of confidence that you just can’t fake.

He owes a lot of his success – in this game in particular – to his outstanding ARs, Renato Faverani and Andrea Stefani. You can’t have a successful offside trap without ARs who are truly on the ball, and these guys were. I saw very little they got wrong.

In fact, you could nitpick a few things here or there, but overall, the Italian gave one of the more solid performances we’ve seen in this tournament.

And in the spirit of nitpicking, here are a few things I saw:

  • The free kick given right outside the box about two minutes in was correct. Muller was chesting the ball down, and the Argentine defender bumped him right before he could.
  • Offside on Muller at 27 was correct.
  • The yellow card on Bastian Schweinsteiger was soft…there was a push in the back. Could have been a free kick, but you get the impression Rizzoli wanted to make a point.
  • The disallowed Argentina goal was absolutely correct. Higuain was WAY offside and Andrea Stefani raised the flag immediately.
  • The Hoewedes yellow could easily have been a red, as high and hard as it was. Awful challenge. We only saw the impact on replay; I suspect if Rizzoli had seen it, he would have acted, but I don’t know for sure.
  • He played advantage when Andre Schurlle was fouled outside the box; he could have pulled it back but chose to give the corner. You could argue either way.
  • I think the foul he called on Higuain at 55, when he collided with Crazy Manny Neuer was incorrect. To me, it should have been an Argentinian throw in, at least, since Neuer punched the ball out before clattering Higuain.
  • Mascherano and Aguero yellow cards were both correct; it was clear around 65 that he intended to clamp down on the game
  • I personally would have given Aguero a second yellow at 108 for the blow to Bastian’s  face. The arm did come up high, but Rizzoli saw it as accidental.

One last thing:

He had a lot of problems with the German bench, who acted very aggressively toward him and his assistants over everything. He did a good job of keeping things calm, but I found their behavior inappropriate.

He left a lot of time on the clock at the end, and the Germans were freaking out, but it was because Bastian Schweinsteiger kept hitting the ground and laying there. No one to blame but him.

Overall, it was an impressive match to cap a very impressive career.


  • A very fair analysis. I too felt that Rizzoli was quite impressive. The only faults that I could find with his performance were the absence of send offs. I felt that both Aguero and Schweinsteiger should have been sent off. There were also question marks about the challenge from Neuer on Higuain, and whether it could have been considered “reckless” or dangerous play. But I’m not going to call that one a mistake.

    Apart from that a very solid outing by Rizzoli, and (even more-so) his ARs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right…I left out the Neuer thing. I think it was probably okay. He punched the ball away before he got the player, but he certainly gave Higuain quite a knock…


      • Neuer went after Higuain with the clear intention of knocking him out for good, he knew that will make the difference between a potential penalty kick and a maybe goal or a sure goal had he left Higuain pass with the ball.
        Neuer play was not only dangerous but also reckless, In a RUGBY match he would have been given a red card and thrown out.
        Rizzoli was in lala land shown by issuing a yellow card to Higuain who was the palyer knocked out by Neuer, a decent referee will have ( at least ) consulted with the lineman )


        • Did he issue Higuain a yellow card? I thought it was just that he gave Germany the goal kick, when it should have been Argentina’s corner. I don’t think there was a card, but I could be wrong…


    • I was kind of okay with him not sending off immediately, but towards the end of the game, he should have been firmer. He especially ignored a number of fouls, including one situation in which Müller was pulled down right in the box by his short (he decided for Argentina for some strange reason I don’t get), one in which Lahm was kept from starting a counter by pulling him by his shirt, a very ugly foul in which a player swept Lahm right of his feet by deliberately hitting his anklet after the ball was long gone, and a lot of smaller fouls on Müller…never mind Schweinsteiger. He looked like he was a professional boxer after the game – even if a ref uses a more lenient approach, a fist in the face of another player should be punished, but instead Germany had to play with ten man while Schweinsteiger was patched up in a very serious phase of the game.


      • I also was shocked/surprised the Schweinsteiger thing happened. WAY worse, though, was Kramer staying on the pitch with a concussion for 15 minutes, and then slumping to the ground. (NOT Rizzoli’s fault, btw)

        Would like to see something like rugby, where the player can get treatment while someone subs for him temporarily, then come back if he’s fit…


        • I give him the benefit of the doubt…I think he did intend to intimidate Kramer by rushing past him like that, but I don’t think that he intended to seriously hurt him. This posing and trying to make the other team back off out of fear of “accidental injuries” has become so common that even the fairest teams has at least one player which can intimidate right back if necessary to protect the own players…in the German team this is Schweinsteiger’s main job. Consequently he often looks like he went through a ringer after a game. To target his anklets is particularly popular with rough teams.


        • To clarify, I give the player who hit Kramer the benefit of the doubt. Rizzoli, well, there is not much he can do if a player insist that he is fine.

          I agree, temporarily subs would be a good idea, though they should have a time limit how long they can stay on the field.


    • Claudia Perfetti

      He could have killed Higuain, so hard it was. It was at least not a foul of Higuain.Neuer was crazy reckless. If that conduct is allowed…He is huge and Higuain was looking at the ball. I say it was incredibly dangerous attitude.


      • Goalkeepers have a right to go for the ball in the box. He also was looking at the ball, and in fact punched the ball away right before he ran into Higuain.

        The fact that he’s ginormous and built of carbonite doesn’t give him some ulterior requirement to avoid guys who are going after the same ball in the box, and it doesn’t automatically get him red carded.

        He is crazy, though. I’ll give you that.

        Crazy Manny.


      • I disagree with many of those individuals who state that Neuer should have been red carded and/or a penalty should have been given. I agree with referee Ricolas Rizzoli’s ruling that Higuain was at fault and that no penalty/free kick was given in favor of Argentina. Under FIFA’s Rule 12 it states
        Offences committed against goalkeepers
        • It is an offence for a player to prevent a goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands
        • A player must be penalised for playing in a dangerous manner if he kicks or attempts to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the process of releasing it
        • It is an offence to restrict the movement of the goalkeeper by unfairly impeding him, e.g. at the taking of a corner kick

        Under the current rules, the goal keepers are protected from even the slightest touch by oppents. Neuer had the right to go after the ball as did Higuain, but here’s the catch: Neuer touched the ball first thus negating a foul or a red card and was then TOUCHED by Higuain (under the FIFA rule this is a foul by Higuain). Being the goal keeper, Neuer has every right to protect himself – this is why he lifts his knee (no ill intent was motive as you can see in the picture he is looking at the ball). As a result, a foul was given. If Neuer had first tackled Higuain THEN touched the ball or didn’t even go for the call then I would not be writing this. Good call!!!!


        • I don’t think your comments are correct.
          LAW 12 has nothing to do with the situation between Neuer and Higuain.

          Furthermore, the goal keeper is allowed to protect himself, but in this situation that was not applicable, since Higuain was not going into the direction of Neuer. Instead of a defensive act of Neuer it was an offensive act.
          The fact that a player touches a ball, doesn’t mean it can still be a foul. In case a player touches the ball, but does that in a way endangering another player, the referee should still call for a foul.


  • I completely agree with you. I thought Rizzoli had complete control of the match from the start. Even if he made a few incorrect calls, I thought the got all of the important ones right. I put a few comments about him today towards the end of this post – . Many thanks for your excellent coverage on the referees at this World Cup. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading it.


  • Overall a decent job of Rizzoli, no really big, decisive mistakes. I do agree with your observations, except the Neuer – Higuain incident.
    Indeed he started of good with the freekick after the push on Müller from Rojo.
    At 14 they missed an offside, but no harm done.
    He could have stopped the match sooner at 17 when Kramer went down with a head injury (he was correct it wasn’t a foul).
    At 33 he gave a freekick to Lavezzi although it was a clear dive.
    He handled well the incident between Müller and Rojo at 41. Rojo kept talking to Müller even when Rizzoli took them both apart and Rizolli was immediately on top of it.
    At a cornerkick in 54th minute the Rizolli team missed Rojo pulling the shirt of Müller. Instead he gave a freekick against Müller. I think this was the biggest mistake of Rizolli during this match.
    Allthough a goalkeeper is allowed to defense himself, I think it was a foul of Neuer on Higuain, because of dangerous play. For certain is was not a foul of Higuain.
    In 63 Hummel pulled back the shoulder of Aguero in the penalty area, but since Aguero stayed on his feet and didn’t claim a foul, no action was taken.


    • I agree the cornerkick when he decided against Müller when he was clearly pulled (and at the same time another player was practically embracing Hummels to keep him from rising up) was the first time my blood really boiled.
      I disagree with the assessment that Schweinsteiger should have seen red for the yellow card action…for one he barely touched the player, two it was not a clear goal chance (there were still other players who could have intercepted), three it was his very first action and at this point he had already let two similar actions of the Argentinian’s go with no card at all. Neither did he pull one when Klose was swept of his feet.
      There were also a lot of small actions against German players which he just overlooked, which finally resulted in them simply pushing back (for example one time Schürrle deliberately pushed a player after a foul on Lahm was simply ignored).

      But overall he handled it well (I suspect he decided pro Neuer (I agree, that one was borderline, though Neuer clearly played the ball in his own box) to make up for some questionable decisions against Germany…he seemed to be set to not make a game changing decision)…until the very end. The action against Schweinsteiger (which was a fist right in his face!!!!) was already the second foul in under one minute…shortly before there was an action in which one player “accidentally” went into Schweinsteiger, first hit his ankle with the studs and then gave him a kick in the back just for good measures. But in both cases it would have been a second yellow, so he let it go, even though the players were constantly “accidentally” kicking Schweinsteiger (and Müller for that matter) at this point.

      Argentina became really “nickelig” (a covert form of nasty) towards the end.


    • Claudia Perfetti

      Excellent analisis. It was clearly a foul agains Higuain and not the other way around. It was an incredibly dangerous hit with his whole body he didn’t care whatever happened!! The referree cowared not wanting to even tell him never to do that again!!! He saw it. Shame on him.


      • I agree with you both that Higuain shouldn’t have gotten the foul.

        But we can do that without inferring some ulterior motive on Rizzoli’s part or “shaming him”.

        Please read the commenting guidelines.


      • The fact it was dangerous, it doesn’t make it more of a penalty. Is tough for a ref to call a penalty, is not 1+1, because it can break the flow of a good game and can destroy a team. Lets suppose it was actually a foul from Neuer. The foul came after the ball was saved (because Neuer hit the ball first) and when there was no goal danger. So you are calling it a penalty when there was no danger against a team.
        All in all, the camera shows Neuer went to the ball,the knee was not intentional and after he reached the ball, so why would you kill a team with a red card and a penalty for that? IMO to call that a penalty is worst than to call a penalty when somebody of the defence is making some grabbing when there is a corner shot (which happened against Germany before Higuain’s action).


      • It wasn’t a foul on Higuain’s part, but it was not one on Neuer’s part either. He played the ball inside his own box, it was a normal challenge. When two players jump in each other you don’t give a card either, unless it is obvious that one had no real chance to even reach the ball and jumped was to much to the side instead of in the air. Neuer played the ball, so he clearly had a chance to reach it, and being a goalie, he is allowed to jump to the side in his own box. Naturally if Neuer hadn’t reached the ball, it would be a different matter, but he did. The ball went into the out after this, I think, and the correct decision would have been to allow Argentina to play it from there, since Neuer was the last one who touched it.


  • Ref observer in Brazil

    No one in either team is talking about Rizzoli today.

    Except if there had been a “De Jong WC’ 10 challenge”, a DOGSO or a fight between players, there is no reason whatsoever to ruin a WC final by sending off people randomly…

    I am sorry, guys. A WC final is just too big of an affair. What really counts is player management, and in this respect Rizolli put in a master class. Way better than Webb in 2010, incidentally…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Personally, any time you have to resort to “IF HE HAD SENT OFF SO AND SO, WE’D HAVE WON”, you’re being disingenuous. If your team can’t win with 11 men on the pitch, then it’s your team that has a problem.

      Decisions to send off or not to send off are judgment calls by the ref, and they happen instantaneously. He has a lot he has to consider including, yes, directives from the governing body on how to referee that match.

      Furthermore, I’ve seen from this site that a lot of people don’t really understand the Laws, and act purely on emotion. Most of the time, they’re just flat out wrong or living in some fantasy land. Yet, they expect the referee to act on THEIR emotion, not on his judgment or understanding of the Laws. It’s kind of cray cray.

      If you can only win the World Cup against 10 men or 9 men, you don’t deserve to lift it, in my opinion.


      • I am more “If he had more firm concerning some of the “smaller” fouls of the Argentineans, Schweinsteiger might not have gotten hurt”…the guy who fisted him already had a yellow card. One would think that he would be more careful in this situation, but apparently the Argentineans were at this point sure that there wouldn’t be a second yellow, which is never a good thing in my book. Though it might have been more a matter of desperation on the part of the players…still, I feel that in a game which ends up with a player looking as if he just went a round with Tyson something went wrong.


  • So, I made a mistake on this site once.

    I let a bunch of fans, angry over a non-call (which could have gone 50-50) fill up the comments on a post with their anger because I wanted to be fair.

    What ended up happening was I got screed after screed that became violent. For two days, I would wake up to horrible comments about the ways the referee should die, how stupid I was, how God would strike us both down, etc. Even the ones I waded through and posted were more referee-bashing than I prefer on my site, but again..I was trying to be fair.

    Screw that.

    I’m now starting to see the same thing again, with everyone nickel and diming every decision of Rizzoli’s, and the attacks on him from angry Argentina fans (usually in all caps) getting more violent. (This is a good time to remind you that if I feel a genuine threat in your email or comment, I will pass it on to authorities.)

    I would dearly love to allow those of my readers who are having genuine, respectful conversations to continue them. But I’ll not subject myself to threats and personal attacks or listen to those about the referee. I do not get paid to do this; it’s a labor of love.

    So before you post a comment, read my guidelines, or better yet, look for other sites which welcome refereeing bashing.

    If I continue to get these kinds of comments, I will shut down comments on this post.


  • Just one more reminder that I am very serious, and will remove any and all posts and threads that devolve into referee bashing or personal attacks (on Rizzoli or me).

    Please read my commenting rules before commenting. I reserve the right to block anyone from commenting if they can’t follow these rules.


  • The Neurer-Higuain incident was not a foul. I keeper got the ball first and collided with Higuain on his follow thru. Its the laws of physics. He was going foward.


  • Hi Jenna,
    I’m from Germany and in my home country there are a lot of people thinking Rizzoli wasn’t impartial although the German team got the cup! I spoke with many neighbours, people from Portugal, Spain, Russia and Italy, and they all – even my friends from Italy! – said to me: “Rizzoli made his decisions for Argentina.” The Argentineans played from the beginning a hard game against the German players at all, not only against Kramer and Schweinsteiger, but which team got the first yellow cards? The German team!?!? Rizolli made many surprising decisions not only for us Germans (so you can read it in the international news). I don’t agree the continuous critics at the refs acting in this worldcup, many made a pretty good job, cause the first rule from chief referee Massimo Busacca for Brasil was:”Lead the game as easy as possible, don’t seak for problems.” So the refs done.
    My favorite ref for the final was Pedro Proenca from Portugal, I’m convinced he would done his job much better than Rizolli.


    • Which decisions exactly? It’s easy to say “Oh, the referee’s BIASED for the other team!!!” No one ever seems to have exact ways in which the referee was biased, according to the law. 🙂

      If he had truly been biased against Germany, he’d have sent your goalkeeper off and given a penalty. But he took a thoughtful (and correct) decision, one which the Argentinians are still butt hurt over…

      So, I call shenanigans on your imaginary “bias.”

      And Proenca was okay but not fantastic in this tournament. If you’d gotten your wish you would not be happy now, either…


    • Poor Germans, they were so nice and subdued against the cruel, savages and reckless Argentineans, The Germans never touched an Argentinean player, all of those fouls were optical illusions from my TV screen. I really made a foul of myself, I thought that Germans and Dutch invented the aggressive way of playing….


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  • I know it’s been a long time. I saw the whole Neuer-Higuain thing as it happened. Higuain saw where the ball was headed, looked to see where Neuer was, saw where he was and where he was going. Higuain then continued on his path to set himself up for the shot. Knowing that if Neuer continued on his path there would be a collision and a penalty shot. So Higuain set the trap for Neuer t o go for. And boy did he! In true Neuer fashion. aggressively attacked the ball and at the same time try and hit the player and possibly hurt. him. he does it alot. Anyway my point is that it was an intentional foul commited by Neuer and in my opinion deserving of a red card and a penalty shot. Neuer could have hit the ball without hurting anyone. But he didn’t. This is why I don’t watch Champions League.


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