|Néstor Pitana (ARG) was in charge of the opener|
Overall. the level of refereeing in the first 16 matches of group stage has been definitely good. We can say for sure that we expected at least someting like that. It was maybe difficult to do worse than 2014, especially concerning the start of the tournament, however the level of officiating, if compared to that time, has definitely increased and we can be content. Our wish is that alll officials can keep this good standard until the end. Let's have, then, a closer look at all games, trying to analyze what our readers (by the way: a big thank to all of you) pointed out and what we were able to observe.
RUS - KSA
The opener for Néstor Pitana was an expected level game without any challenge at all for the referee. We can say, looking at the final score of the game, that maybe his assignment was "too much" for the game, but committee didn't want to take any risk and the experienced man from Argentina managed to ensure that.
EGY - URU
The second game of the tournament has been officiated by Kuipers. The experienced UEFA Elite referee didn't face troubles at all. It was an expected level without any VAR intervention as well.
MAR - IRN
Before knowing the appointment for this game, maybe nobody would have expected Çakır in charge. The Turkish was assigned to this clash and according to our opinion he did well. He ensured a good control in a potentially hot game. It was a bit more challenging than the previous two games, and it was ended without big troubles as well.
POR - ESP
The first game of the tournament with some interesting and challenging situations for the referee, Italian Gianluca Rocchi. A penalty at the beginning was absolutely justified, then a controversial situation when Spain scored for 1-1. In that case, there was a possible foul before the goal (reckless use of arm / elbow). As the intensity was not high, very likely VAR assssed the situation as not significant, or, to say it better, NOT A CLEAR MISTAKE. Of course one can agree as well as disagree, but this should be the assessment. According to our opinion, it would have been better to whistle foul. Apart from that, Rocchi could have had a better disciplinary control. It wasn't a poor game, but for sure there are clear points for improvement.
FRA - AUS
Andrés Cunha from Uruguay was the choice of FIFA committee for this game. The help of technology for the final outcome was crucial there: indeed two goals were possible thank to a VAR intervention (at first) and then GLT, to confirm that ball had crossed the line. In the case of the penalty in favor ot France, we can't blame referee too much, according to our opinion, it was quite difficult to spot live. So, VAR played a very important role there. Apart from the technology involved in two goals, there was another crucial situation, this time directly assessed by officials: the penalty whistled to AUS. Very likely, AR2 informed referee. Very good cooperation and overall a good appearance by the trio from Uruguay. Indeed, they are now the first crew to officiate a second game in this tournament.
PER - DEN
Bakary Gassama has shown a convincing performance in terms of control of the game, however, some crucial incidents were not correctly assessed. A penalty in first half was assigned only after VAR review, according to my opinion, referee had to whistled it without the help. Maybe the positioning was not that good, but I think that this call was possible. In addition, in the early minutes of the game, another penalty appeal was waved on, but in that case for me the choice is supportable.
ARG - ISL
Szymon Marciniak has been the first referee to break the confederations (unwritten rule), officiating a game involving a team from his confederation (UEFA) against a team from another continent (CONMEBOL). The game was very challenging, especially in second half, with several penalty appeals by both teams. The Polish played on in almost all situations. The penalty assigned to Argentina was for sure a supportable choice, but the big controversy is about a penalty appeal in the last part of second half, in which Argentina asked for another penalty. In this case, referee looked to be sure on the pitch, after the incident he immediately reproached the player, in a very blatant manner. According to our opinion, this should have been a penalty, but VAR didn't intervene because referee had seen and he had assessed the incident by himself. This can be questionable under the point of view of VAR use, but if we think to referees without technology, what Marciniak did was for sure something good (being sure, taking a decision without hesitation). Everybody is entitled to have an opinion.
CRO - NGA
I didn't watch the whole game so I can't judge so much on Ricci's performance, however, thank to your comments, I can report that the Brazilian had at least an expected level performance, if not a very good one. A penalty was called for holding - fully justified decision. No further problems.
CRC - SRB
Malang Diedhiou from Senegal experienced a quite good game until the last minutes of second half in which something happened. At first, there was a mass confrontation close to benches, fourth officials was ready to intervene. Then, after that, in the very last minute of the game, there was a possible violent conduct which was analyzed by VAR (OFR) and referee decided for YC. The situation was borderline, very likely Diedhiou asssessed that the intensity as not significant for RC. Referee can be supported, but we would have liked a RC here. However, VAR system worked properly and this was very good.
BRA - SUI
One of the most discussed game of this first package: César Ramos from Mexico was in charge. The match was characterized by two crucial decisions: at first a possible foul before Switzerland 1-1 (pushing on the back the opponent and then scoring a goal). This looked to be quite evident according to video footage, but, as we look for an explanation, we must say again that very likely the reason for VAR missing intervention was the same occurred in POR - ESP: not a clear mistake accoridng to officials behind the monitors. There is for sure a big room for discussion, and I think foul would have been accepted there. Regarding the second incident, a penalty appeal, I must say that I agree with VAR, not a clear mistake as well. Analyzing the incidents occurred in this game, we can say that VAR has been planned to intervene only in case of VERY CLEAR SITUATIONS MOSTLY MISSED BY OFFICIALS. Having said that, in other aspects, in my opinion, Ramos could have performed better, but still not a poor performance.
GER - MEX
Alireza Faghani officiated this game and his performance was recognized by almost our readers as very good. He had a very delicate game under control until the end, he didn't show too many times cards, but he appeared to be absolutely alert until the end. According to many of our readers, he gained further credits after this game, being now candidate for something big on next weeks.
SWE - KOR
Joel Aguilar from El Salvador didn't impress me too much, the game was poor in terms of spectacle, with both teams targeted only on making fouls. There were some penalty appeals, and referee can be supported in his decision to play on. However, the penalty that decided the game was assigned only after a VAR review. In my opinion, Aguilar should have detected and whistled it by himself. I don't know whether he prefered to wait to be sure, given VAR presence in any case, but that call looked to be quite clear and I expected more.
BEL - PANJanny Sikawze had overall a not difficult game, but he decided to issue from the beginning many cards, because very likely afraid of losing it. First YC of the game was for me a mistake, but not a big problem, after that, with the second half becoming less challenging, referee recovered and we can say overall his performance has been quite good. However for me a clear RC was missed in the last minutes, for a SFP by de Bruyne (BEL), who hit the opponent on his stomach. VAR supported the decision of the pitch to issue only YC. Maybe supportable and not a clear mistake, but many doubts here. Very likely the low intensity played a big role.
TUN - ENG
So far, I didn't talk about the personal and particular skills of each referee, but I mentioned only the significant incidents and very often yellow cards. In the case of Wilmar Roldán, it is different. I need to start from his approach and his attitude during the whole game, to come to the conclusion, shared by many readers, that he is not a referee who shows to have the needed quality to be at World Cup. This can sound very harsh, and I assume my responsibility for saying that. It is not the first time I watch him and I was never convinced. He looks to be apathetic, what happens on the pitch seems not of his interest. A small example: in the last minutes of second half there was a free kick and during the management two players from opposite teams were arguing and contending, he stayed there just looking without doing anything else. Coming to the incidents, penalty whistled is supportable, but there were at least two situations in which the Colombian should have shown consistency. He failed and he played on. Again, fully supportable and correct by VAR to stay silent - but this doesn't mean that referee was right. I didn't like his performance.
COL - JPN
Damir Skomina had a challenging start of the game with the first RC of the tournament - a clear DOGSO. He immediately spotted it. Well done. He was solid during the entire match, however, a pity, he whistled only one wrong free kick and this resulted in a goal directly scored by COL. I think that committee will not make a big problem of that, and Skomina will get other important assignment, because he has shown to be in a very good form, recovered after the recent CL KO stage.
POL - SEN
Nawaf Shukralla did overall a good job there, he played on following a penalty appeal by Senegal in the last minutes of the game. This is the occasion to underline this aspect: so far, we have not still seen YC for simulation in this tournament, despite the fact that some incidents occurred. Maybe committee instructed the referees to issue a disciplinary measure in that situation, only in case of very blatant protests, with the player asking for the penalty and mobbing the referee, after a fall without contact. Apart from that, maybe a potential second YC was missed, but the overall imagine was OK, with other correct decisions.