World Cup is over. We can start an analysis about refereeing through the six confederations. Who has been the best referee? Who has disappointed?
|Pitana will stay for sure as "icon" of 2018 World Cup: he officiated 5 games, including the opener and the final.|
The Asian Football Confederation has shown us some surprises but at the same time, at least in my opinion, the most disappointment for a referee. For sure, first of all, we must talk about Alireza Faghani success: he has been among the best referees of the tournament with four games, but his World Cup has ended in Third Place final. He has been for sure a candidate for the major final, but he has missed the last decisive appointment. In any case, not a big drama, he will remember this tournament forever. No doubts. He was not among the favorite referees for something big, indeed I had predicted him for a game in KO stage, but nothing more than that. He can be proud of what he achieved. Best Asian referee at the tournament in my opinion. What happened to Ravshan Irmatov is, on the contrary, something very difficult to explain. The very experienced referee from Uzbekistan has definitely lost credits after having shown a poor performance in his first game: Argentina - Croatia. Big points for improvements in disciplinary control and card management: technically, he whistled the fouls, but then he was unable, for some reasons, to identify the severity of offenses. This was not so much acceptable, indeed after the second game (a bit better than the first, but still not expected level), he was sent home. He was a big candidate even for the final, but he failed without doubts. The reasons for his ultra-lenient approach are definitely unknown. He has just confirmed the record as referee with the high number of games at WC ever: 11. In any case, that's not enough. I can't believe that this was the "real" Irmatov. Nawaf Shukralla had overall a satysfying WC, but committee maybe didn't trust him for something more. So, two group stage games were just the expected outcome for him. Mohammed Abdulla Hassan appointment for France - Peru has surprised most of us because not expected. He has shown an OK performance with a significant mistake (he booked a wrong player), in my opinion for sure he couldn't ask more than that. Ryuji Sato has been confirmed as reserve referee.
Great expectations of African refereeing for this WC were kept in Gassama's hands. However, the Gambian has not managed a good tournament, rather, after only one appearance, he has stopped his experience, at least as main referee. Why? That's the question we should try to answer: we must add that before the tournament one of his assistant referees, Aden Marwa Range from Kenya, has been removed from the panel of WC officials, due to a scandal. For sure this has not helped Gassama, but at the same time the main reason of his failure should be found in his performance: in my opinion he has not convinced the committee, relying too much on VAR, without taking a crucial decision on the pitch, it was a cristal clear penalty to be whistled without hesitation in Peru - Denmark. Positive notes came from Malang Diedhiou: the referee from Senegal started the tournament without being too much in the spotlight, but, game after game, he managed to convince the committee: three matches, including a round of 16, are for sure a success. Maybe he himself didn't expect that. He was also assigned as fourth official in Third Place final. Zambian Janny Sikazwe has managed a solid World Cup. with two group stage games. He has been kept until a certain stage of KO phase, working also as fourth official in decisive ties. Very good for him. Gehad Grisha has officiated only one game in group stage, and maybe this can be enough for him, Difficult to think, based on the performance, that he could have expected more. Not a real disappointment, but rather it looked like he was also aware of his ambitions. Bamlak Tessema Weyesa and Mehdi Abid Charef have worked as fourth official.
In CONCACAF Mark Geiger has confirmed the expectations in terms of appointments (two group stage games and a KO appearance) but making a deep analysis and going into the detail of his performances, we can say for sure that he could have done by far better. In almost all three games, he looked to be in trouble regarding players management: he struggled to assure a decent control. The worst performance was the third game: the round of 16 between Colombia and England. With better appearances, he could have reached more. Not a full disappointment, but at the same time one must admit that we expected clearly more by him. Mexican César Ramos has had a similar WC to Geiger: two group stage games and a round of 16, the latter between Uruguay and Portugal. The Mexican has been overall quite good, but personally I didn't like his style in the third game and I think that he still needs to gain experience before getting something bigger. However, at the end, he can be proud of what he achieved, for sure this was not the minimum expected as it was for Geiger. Joel Aguilar had some problems with an assistant referee before the tournament, so for his reason he got a "mixed" team with an AR from his country and another one from Costa Rica. This led him to officiate only one game in the tournament: for sure a disappointment, as we expected him as least in two group stage matches, if not more, considering also his experience. The reasons of Aguilar failure can be maybe found also in his performance: like Gassama, he missed a quite clear penalty (of course, my opinion) having to rely on VAR. This was maybe not liked by committee, and for this reason, his experience ended after only one game. For Jair Marrufo this tournament has been for sure a success: we think he wasn't planned as main referee on the pitch, but he had the chance to officiate a game, with an overall good appearance in Belgium - Tunisia. John Pitti and Ricardo Montero were confirmed as fourth officials.
Néstor Pitana has been the "hero" of the tournament. Five appointments, the only referee to manage that, including opener and final. I have already said everything about him, and you can find an analysis in our previous pages of the blog. However, I want to remember that he was on focus by committee already before the start of the tournament, coming from an excellent background. Everything for him went at least as expected, and so he got the final. In this analysis I can just add that his last performanc yesterday, has been not so good as the previous ones, but in any case, still OK and he has managed an excellent World Cup. He will remember forever Russia 2018. Sandro Ricci from Brazil with two group stage game and a solid quarterfinal has for sure hoped to get the final, but, despite of his good performances, he has stopped his tournament after the third game. If you ask me, he was fully entitled to be a candidate for the last act, and, along with Pitana, he has been for sure the best CONMEBOL official at this WC. Enrique Cáceres with two group stage games can be maybe satisfied, but according to my opinion he could have got more. The second performance was not so good, however neither very poor. Maybe a lost chance for something more, but still overall an OK tournament for him. Andrés Cunha has been one of the surprises of this tournament: however, if you ask me, the appointment for a semifinal was definitely something unexpected and maybe undeserved because quite early: the normal consequence of his two good group stage games, would have been a round of 16, or maybe, at maximum, a quarterfinal. Reasons for which he went throught that and he got directly this big game are unknown. He was for sure good, but the appointment has in my opinion a different explanation and we will never know more about that. In any case, making merely the analysis of his tournament, for sure a big success. No problems in his games, no clear mistakes, overall a quite good appearance. But he would have needed more experience to officiate a semifinal. Wilmar Roldán has been a big disappointment: the Colombian has failed again in confirming the expectations he was already keeping before the previous World Cup in Brazil. When the time to show the best comes, he fails. I was never impressed by him. Two games in group stage have been for sure already enough and maybe also too much. Julio Bascuñán has been the only referee from CONMEBOL working as fourth official.
Matthew Conger was the big hope of OFC in this WC: he has officiated only one game, Nigeria - Iceland, in group stage. We expected more, at least a second appearance in group stage. However, he has been kept until the end to make further experience, even without handling further games. Maybe the reasons of the missing second appointment can be found in the fact that he missed a penalty and he had to use VAR. This happened also, as reported, in Gassama and Aguilar games, and indeed all these referees got the same management by committee. We can say that the penalty in Conger game was more difficult to spot live, AR1 could have helped as well, but I think that one must also consider the performances of the other referees. If most of the officials didn't miss any penalty in their games, maybe they deserved more a second appearance than the NZL man. Of course, this is only mi idea to explain the management by committee, but maybe there isn't a specific or particular reason and he was already planned for only one game. Norbert Hauata from Tahiti worked as fourth official.
Last confederation to analyze is UEFA:here, all the referees called for the tournament have got at least one game. We can start with some referees who got in my opinion what they expected, a regular WC: Clément Turpin and Antonio Mateu Lahoz with two group stage games can be definitely satisfied, and they couldn't have asked for more. Especially the French has had a quite good tournament, considering that he was among the least experienced there. Russian Sergey Karasev has officiated one game: this was maybe expected for the referee representing the host. Damir Skomina has had a regular WC as well, with two group stage game and a round of 16: maybe some minor mistakes in his last match, but he can be definitely happy with what he achieved. After two good group stage games, Cüneyt Çakır has been kept for a semifinal: the Turkish has got some criticisms but I think that overall he has managed another very solid appearance at WC, and he has got another semifinal, following the previous one in Brazil 4 years ago. Maybe he has been not so much "excellent" in order to get more, but the semifinal was a justified assignment. Gianluca Rocchi has had regular performance after his first game between Portugal and Spain. He has managed to keep under control his games, however, I think that he got the maximum he could reach, despite of the fact that he was kept until the end. Milorad Mažić from Serbia can be definitely proud of his WC: after a quite poor Brazil 2014, now he has been by far better, resulting among the best UEFA referees, and kept until the end. He has officiated two group stage games and a quarterfinal, the latter between Brazil and Belgium. In this occasion, there were discussions about a possible penalty to whistle to Brazil, but mostly this was not referee's faults. I think that VAR had to inform the Serbian. However, what I didn't like about his performances, was the attitude shown in his first game, South Korea- Mexico, in which he decided to have an ultra-lenent approach, without booking players for mandatory fouls. In any case, given the guidelines of this tournament, not a big fault for referee. Dutch Björn Kuipers has been the best UEFA referee of the tournament, in my opinion. Despite of a crucial mistake in Brazil - Costa Rica, corrected by VAR, he has impressed for his skills in controlling players and keeping everything under control. He has got four games, being a contender for the final with Pitana. On the contrary, we have had two big disappointments at this WC in UEFA: Szymon Marciniak and Felix Brych. What happened in their games is still unclear: so I wont add speculations this time, but I will report that clear penalties were missed. The Polish didn't whistle penalty in GER - SWE, while the German made a wrong assessment in SRB - SUI. After these performances, both were not appointed again. If in the case of the Polish one can still say that two group stage matches can be OK as first WC experience, the big disappointment here is with the German, who was expected to have a better WC than 2014, and he was for sure expected in KO stage. His national team was also eliminated after group stage, so what a pity for Brych, especially after an excellent KO stage in Champions League. Maybe in terms of WC, this was his last chance, but he will have still EURO 2020, maybe as last big tournament for him, to achieve something important in a major competition between national teams.
My proposals for the best referees of the tournament and the three disappointments are the following:
1) Alireza Faghani
2) Néstor Pitana3) Björn Kuipers
1) Ravshan Irmatov
2) Felix Brych
3) Wilmar Roldán