Sunday, 24 June 2018

2018 FIFA World Cup: Officiating at Matchday 2 in Group Stage has kept a quite good standard (analysis)

Matchday 2 at 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is over. Referees have kept a quite good standard of performances, with only a few exceptions.  Let's have a closer look. 
Enrique Cáceres (PAR) has handled the first game of MD2, Russia - Egypt on 19/06
Second stage of our analysis about officiating at World Cup 2018. After a definitely good MD1, we can say that the MD2 has been satisfactory as well. Maybe just a small step below the previous round, but still OK. There have been more controversies, given also the increased importance of all games, but of course this must be included in an overall context. Most of the matches have ended without significant mistakes, VAR has intervened several times to correct some decisions and, referees have ensured a good control in most of their games. 

Enrique Cáceres from Paraguay has made his debut in this game, by whistling the "kick off" for Matchday 2. His performance has been surely good, with a major decision in the last part of second half, a penalty in favor of Egypt. Referee had whistled the free kick, detecting immediately the foul, VAR just corrected the position. Absolutely no faults for the officials in such situation, indeed he has been rewarded with a crucial game on MD3.

Clément Turpin has handled his first game at WC. This match has been the most boring of the whole tournament so far, almost without any challenge for the referee, what we can say is that it was an expected level by the French trio.

Surely one of the most challenging games on MD2, with some protests from Moroccan side, following some situations occurred in penalty area. Referee in charge - Mark Geiger from USA,  a very experienced WC official, has kept a certain style, allowing some fouls in the midfield and playing on, following a penalty appeal by Morocco. The latter can be a supportable decision, but penalty wouldn't have been a mistake. Referee was in visual control of the incident and he decided very likely that it was not enough for a so important whistle. The decision is supportable, but maybe penalty would have been a better choice. However, I think we can say, still not a clear crucial mistake. For this reason , VAR didn't intervene.

Andrés Cunha has been the first referee of the tournament, officiating a second game. Differently from the previous appearance, the referee from Uruguay has shown, according to my opinion, a different approach and therefore a different management of players in this game, looking to be maybe a bit more worried to lost the control. However, this didn't happen and his performance was still OK, with a crucial decision taken by AR2 - offside disallowing a goal scored by Iran, absolutely correct and confirmed by VAR.

Antonio Mateu Lahoz has been in full control of a not so challenging game, especially in first half. However, the only major decision, a penalty kick fo handball, has been taken thank to VAR intervention. Referee had missed a handball on the pitch. Not easy to be detected, because  the opponent was quite close and the action very quick. Not a blatant mistake, but surely it would have been excellent for Mateu, if he had detected the infringement by himself. Apart from that, the, game was a full expected level.

Mohammed Abdulla Hassan Mohamed from UAE has got his chance to officiate at World Cup: his appearance in this game has been overall expected level, however a particular incident must be reported, and this can be quite significant at World Cup: in the second part of second half referee booked the wrong player after a foul. He was immediately corrected by VAR. I don't know how much important could have this mismanagement under the eyes of committee, but maybe just the chance to officiate a game at World Cup has been a very good achievement for the referee from the Emirates. 

Maybe this has been the worst officiating games so far, not so much in terms of crucial decisions, but in terms of disciplinary control and players management. Ravshan Irmatov from Uzbekistan, at this third World Cup and overall tenth WC game, has sturggled a lot to keep control. He decided to have a very lenient approach, with many possible YC missed and, when the situation was borderline to RC, he has shown YC. The choice has been definitely not suitable to the game, and players have been frustrated and agitated all match long, until the final whistle. Personally, I expected more from a so experienced referee, in terms of management. Very likely he is  a better referee in reading the game, than in managing such difficult and hot moments he doesn't manage in ensuring the appropriate disciplinary sanctions. A second appointment has followed for the Uzbek, but not the best one. Maybe his chances for WC final are over, but of course we can't know. In my opinion, among the worst performances at MD2. Reason: the first aim of a referee is to protect players when harsh fouls are committed, Irmatov failed in that.

Conger from NZL has made his debut at World Cup in ths game, giving a good overall impression. However, like what happened in other games, he has needed the help of VAR to assign a clear penalty in second half. Maybe AR1 could have cooperated and helped the main referee, this foul could have been detected by the crew on the pitch. Overall, still a satysfying appearance if we exclude this incident. Maybe he will get a second game.

After repeated protests by Brazil following the incidents occured on MD1, Björn Kuipers has been assigned to this clash, as his second game of the tournament. He has shown, according to my opinion, an excellent performance in terms of game control and players management, resisting to pressure in many situations. His authority was clearly shown and players recognized that.Important to add, he managed to do that without cards for most of the game, but this was not a wrong choice, because he  showed to be very alert and mentally ready. Nevertheless, the most important decision of the game, a penalty assigned to Brazil, has been annulled following a consultation between referee and VAR, and then an On Field Review. In this case we must praise Kupers, because, despite of a very soft call on the pitch, has found the courage of changing it. Also, the fact that Makkelie was VAR in this game, played in my opinion a very significant role: they know well each other, so this process of analysis of the penalty whistled was made without any communication problem, two referees who looked to be the same one in deciding about this incident. This is a very important concept, because with a VAR from a different country, we couldn't have been sure that a  call from the room would have occurred, at least in my opinion. Well done, in my opinion this issue wont affect the future appointments of the Dutch.

This has been the most discussed game of MD2, along with the aforementioned ARG - CRO. Referee Felix Brych has shown in my opinion a good performance in a quite challenging context. However, the big issue is about a possible penalty to be whistled in favor of Serbia, when the game was still open to any result. Brych in this situation decided to whistle a foul in favor of defending team, punishing a previous infringment by the player who was later held by two opponents. In my opinion the call made is wrong. It should have been a penalty, the best solution there. Why no intervention by VAR? That's a difficult question to answer. In my opinion, this challenge has been surely a very particular one, not a common situation, in addition Brych had already whistled a foul, as said, punishing the attacker. Maybe these were the thoughts of Zwayer. I think that, without any decision by Brych, this incident would have been analyzed by VAR.

Milorad Mažić has made his debut in this game. I didn't like his performance, although we can back him regarding all the major incidents. He started the game with a very good penalty decision, following a deliberate handball. What I didn't like was his tendency to whistle fouls without booking players from KOR, who were making repeated fouls as a clear tactics. A referee must find a compromise and he must understand when he is allowing definitely too much. However, apart from that, one can still say that his performance was OK in terms of control, and I agree. I would just like to see a different style and not this one. In addition, there were some protests before 0-2 by Mexico, for a possible foul. In my opinion, referee can be supported, in this tournament, as already analyzed, we saw even more blatant challenges without VAR intervention, so still OK.

Szymon Marciniak has officiated his second game, a very important UEFA clash, with an amazing end. It was decided in the last minute of the game. Referee was very good in terms of control but in my opinion he missed a quite clear penalty in first half, when a player from SWE was pushed from behind while ready to  shot on goal. Trying to analyze the situation and to understand the reasons of no VAR intervention, we must underline the fact that the Polish looked to be in visual control of the incident, and he made clear gestures / explanations to players from his choice. So, in front of the evidence, VAR had just to support referee, despite of, in my opinion, a quite clear penalty. Maybe these are the typical situations in which VAR can support during the game but then your observer - or FIFA referees committee in our case - of course, can mark the decision as wrong. We will see, however, as we don't know so much about the guidelines for VAR at this WC, we can only make assumptions. What I didn't understand as well was the delay of the second, very clear, YC in second half, for a correct sending off, the first one of the tournament if we exclude the straight RC for DOGSO  by Skomina.

I didn't expect Marrufo as main referee in this tournament, but his performance in Belgium - Tunisia has been definitely good. Game was not so much challenging, especially in second half, when the score became absolutely clear in favor of one side. A crucial decision led to the first goal of the game: in that occasion referee must be praised for his firmness, he immediately pointed the spot without hesitation, VAR confirmed. What happened later was just an expected level.

Despite of a more than easy win by English side, this game has been very difficult in terms of management and acceptance by players for the referee in charge, Egyptian Gehad Grisha. He has struggled, trying to impose his authority on the players, but in most of the situations he has failed. In terms of crucial decisions he has got everything right or at least supportable, but that's not the point. In this context, we should discuss about the overall picture, surely weak in my opinion. Of course, Panama's players had a big responsibility for that, they acted without any respect for referee, but the same referee failed in showing to be strong and firm while facint them.

A better performance by Rocchi, if we compare this one with the previous in POR - ESP. Surely the game between Japan and Senegal has been less challenging, however Rocchi has controlled it without troubles. Maybe one or two cards should have been issued, but not this big issue. Expected level.

After a quite controversial BRA - SUI, in terms of crucial decisions, Ramos has had a better game, without being too much challenged. He has controlled it until the end without issues. We can make a similar speech to Rocchi, who officiated in the same group after a discussed first appearance. Both seem to have recovered and they could get a Round of 16 game. 


  1. OT: Do you have some informations about observers in this tournament? I have for Croatia matches.

    CRO-NIG Sandy Hunt (USA)
    ARG-CRO Gary Moretti (AUS)

    1. Irmatov was observed by an AFC member?

    2. IRN - POR : Neil Poloso (Solomon Islands)

    3. Source is Croatian Football Federation's system for match reports of all Croatian leagues and national team matches (Analyticom Comet).

    4. I cannot reveal my source but it's sure info :D

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  3. Enrique Cáceres in my opinion with the best officiating in MD2.

    1. I rate him very highly... I expect a good performance in Iran v Portugal as well!

  4. Again, i have to disagree with one point. IMO Irmatov had one of best performances of this tournament so far.

    1. Does the 2nd appointment of Irmatov suggest so?? I think not!

    2. I think you are underestimating this appointment. Morroco will, despite the fact they are already out, play on their maximum and this match get pretty dirty and physical with a lot of job for referee. Plus in case of surprise and Spain loses this match it risks also going out of tournament

    3. It is clearly not one of the more important games on paper. Simple as that.

    4. I think that is to simplistic way of looking on this match. Unlike, p.e. Roldan appoitment where it is clear how RefCom assessed his first performance, this game can get really heated despite the fact that i agree with you how it looks on paper

    5. Getting heated cannot be the sole criteria of judging the match. Spain and Morocco are two vastly unmatched teams in terms of quality. Plus it is no where close to being crucial for qualification as Iran v Portugal or Nigeria v Argentina. Whatever it might be, my assessment of Irmatov's performance remains the same that it was poor as he completely failed to protect the players. And I'm not changing it anytime soon that's for sure!

    6. Well it is not only criteria, but it is very important one. And as i said in case of surprise Spain get knocked out and on this tournament we already saw that surprises are possible, although this one would be biggest one so far

    7. That doesn't make it a sonorous game!

    8. I didnt say it is sonorous. I just said that it shouldnt be underrated.

    9. I wasn't rating the match. I just said after a sonorous match, Irmatov's 2nd game is a not so important match, that is, not a sonorous game!

    10. I dont know. To me this looks like when you said that Portugal Morocco wasnt good appointment for Geiger and then it turned out that it was good that such experienced referee got that match. To me that is similar situation now

    11. I still think Geiger deserved a better game than that match-up!

    12. Thanks, You just proved my point;D. Kidding aside. I understand what are you saying, as a referee it is not a kind of match you are trilled to get. It is not sonorous, not big on paper. But on the other hand it is completely understandable and justifiable why Committee wants experienced and trustworthy refs in these kind of matches. And they definitely dont give them as a punishment of some kind

    13. Well, there are some things to take in account. No doubt that Marocco - Spain is more important than KSA-EGY. If only because they are neighbours and share borders.

      But Irmatov is also a much bigger name than Roldan. If a referee like Irmatov does a bad job, you give him another chance in a match that is not so important but can still be challenging.
      A referee like Roldan, with a lesser 'name' should get a game about nothing.

    14. We agree to disagree.

  5. To make someting more accurate, the poll about best officiating will be closed on Tuesday 26/06 at 09:00 CET.

    1. When will results of previous polls be anounced. I mean those about performance of Irmatov and no penalty decisions by Brych and Marciniak

    2. I'm sorry, I didn't save the results when I changed poll.
      However, Marciniak incident was assessed as clear penalty by most of the voters, (about 80 votes), Brych situation was a clear penalty as well for more than 200 readers, while the performance of Irmatov has been assessed as Below expectation, poor control, significant point(s) for improvement (about 80 votes if I remember well). However, there was also a high numbers of votes for a good performance, but clearly less than the other options.
      In the meaning that for some readers, discussion was still possible there.
      I didn't report all the results there because I thought that, by opening the blog, you could see them directly from the poll.
      Starting from this new poll, I will always report all the preferences, giving also a clear deadline once opened the poll.

    3. Ok, thanks, no problem. It was just interesting to me how assessment of Irmatov performance varied on this blog. Since i follow it (about 2 years) i dont think we ever had such polarization about someones overall performance in some match

    4. At the right of the blog, but not in the mobile version, sorry.

    5. In the mobile version is at the bottom of a page "view web version" et voilà you are there where the poll is.

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