Tuesday, 3 July 2018

2018 FIFA World Cup: Officiating at Round of 16 has been mostly good, with only one VAR correction in 8 matches (analysis)

The first round of KO stage has ended. Eight matches with a direct elimination for one of the teams involved have offered overall a good officiating, with only one particular exception. 
Alireza Faghani (IRN) has officiated the first game in Round of 16, France- Argentina
Round of 16 has started with France - Argentina, for sure a very sonorous clash. This game has been officiated by Alireza Faghani from Iran. The Asian referee has faced a very challenging game with some crucial decisions to be taken, especially in first half, and a very tense battle against two heated sides. He got most of the crucial decisions right, with a correct penalty to France at the beginning, and then a few later a correct free kick at the edge of penalty area. In second half, the game became even more complicated for the referee, not so much in terms of further crucial decisions, but rather for the hot atmosphere. In the last part of second half he has for sure struggled a bit for keeping control, but in my opinion at the end he ensured a really good performance, given the extreme difficulty. Further cards were possible, and in case at least one of them would have been the second one for the player involved, of course you are entitled to have your opinions about that. Nevertheless, the first thing that one should underline is the fact that this game ended without any VAR intervention, for sure a success for the Iranian.

The second game of this round has been played between Uruguay and Portugal. Mexican César Ramos has decided to apply a full lenient style in this match, without booking any single player until the last minutes of second half. The game didn't present significant or crucial incidents, however, personally, I didn't like the choice made by the Mexican. I will always remember the scene in the last minutes with both Cristiano Ronaldo and Quaresma screaming and attacking (at least in verbally form) the referee. This was in my opinion the consequence of having shown a certain attitude to avoid cards. In any case, nothing very important and if FIFA is content we can't question too much on that. The same referee will make for sure further experience in future, before attending the next WC.

Kuipers has been in the middle for the interesting match between the host country, Russia, and Spain. The Dutch, as always happens in his game, has ensured a very good control of the match and an appropriate management of  players. He has been always respected. One crucial situation has occurred in first half, with a deliberate handball committed in the box: referee has whistled it without any need of VAR intervention. Also, correct decision by VAR to support a play-on decision by Kuipers, later in the game. Not enough to whistle a penalty, a holding looked to be quite mutual.  Without further issue, the referee from the Netherlands has ended his match.

I didn't watch the game Croatia - Denmark, but what I can report, thank also to your comments on the blog, is for sure another (at least) expected level performance by Pitana, with a crucial decision to be taken in the last minutes of second half during extra time: penalty and YC for DOGSO were the right choice there, VAR confirmed the original decision by referee.

Brazil - Mexico has been officiated by Gianluca Rocchi from Italy. The game has been not so much challenging like other ones, however this doesn't tarnish the good level of officiating. In my opinion, we can talk about an expected level performance. To be reported some mistakes made by AR2 in first half. In one situation, without the offside flag (it was wrong), a potential penalty situation occurred. In this case, referee had no faults, given the raised flag. However, the most significant incident has been for sure the one involving Neymar and Layún: in this case VAR didn't assess as clear violent conduct the action by Mexican player against the opponent, who was lying down. Very likely, one reason was the fact that the player from Brazil is well known for exaggerating contacts. I think that this was a supportable choice, especially given the "lenient" guidelines by committee. At the same time, I don't want to defend such behaviors by players, and I want to say that RC would have been for sure an understandable choice there.

In Belgium - Japan referee Malang Diedhiou from Senegal has kept everything under control. Game has been not so much challenging and without crucial decisions, but the referee from Senegal has left a very good impression.

Sweden - Swtizerland has been the only game with a VAR intervention to correct a referee's decision: this was happened in the very last minutes of second half, when a RC for DOGSO has been shown by the Slovenian. Correct decision, however, VAR had to intervene because the foul made by defender had occurred outside the box. Therefore, after an On Field Review, referee has changed his decision in free kick. I'm wondering why Skomina wanted to rewatch this incident, VAR could have detected by himself that foul had occurred outside and it was free kick instead of a penalty. No changes about the RC. Apart from that, during the 90 minutes, Skomina had offered in my opinion a more than satysfying performance, with some minor mistakes in foul detection and a disciplinary control with small points for improvement - however in any case not a big issue.

The last game of this round, Colombia - England has been handled by Mark Geiger.  Despite of any visible involvement by VAR to correct decisions, the referee from USA has been in trouble regarding the control and players management already from first half. It has been a continuous struggle to keep everything under control. Before the execution of free kicks and in occasion of the penalty whistled to England, there have been poor scenes. I don't know how much one can blame only players for that, but a very similar issue had occurred in a previous game officiated by Geiger: Portugal - Morocco. Like Colombia - England, referee had  apparently managed to control it without major mistakes, but everything in the middle and regarding the disciplinary control of the players had very important points for improvement. However, the crucial decision taken in second half - penalty to England, is fully sopportable. This has been for sure the most discussed game, and in my opinion, said with all the respect, the worst officiating of the tournament, in terms of control and players management.


  1. Overall excellent refereeing in 1/8 finals. Nobody talks about referees and their decisions which is most important thing. Even tonights worst performance of them all hasent had any crucial mistakes and didnt directly affected result of the game

  2. I think "worst performance of the tournament" is harsh for Geiger... it was certainly HIS worst performance of the tournament, but I don't think it's worse than Irmatov or Roldan did...

    1. Worst performance in the Round of 16 would be a fair statement!

    2. IMO Ramos was worse. At least Geiger gained control back after he lost it.

    3. I meant worst in this round

    4. Thing is, Ramos never lost anything that he needed to "gain" back later. He gambled by taking the directives and guidance to their full extent. Yet other than his incident with Ronaldo(who he "only" cautioned as per FIFA directives) and Quaresma, there is little to nothing that he can be held accountable for.

  3. I respectfully disagree with most of what you've said on Geiger. For sure he was too lenient with his control in the first half but I place most if not all blame on the players for their behaviour. He correctly cautioned more than one player for dissent and came out in the second half with necessary cautions to calm the game down. And after the first 20 minutes of the second half had mostly restored order.

    1. This is basically how I see it too. Should have had tighter control in the first half, got behind early and had to slam on the brakes with a bunch of yellows in the second half. But when he did that, very suddenly, the misbehavior was gone, and he must be commended for that. And he got two or three huge critical penalty decisions right. Of course, the first half was poor from a management/control perspective, and likely led to the flood of cards in the second half, but it's not a shockingly bad game like others are suggesting.

    2. Thank you for agreeing with me. As someone from the AFC who was signing Irmatov's praises coming into this tournament I fail to see how Geiger's performance was worse than either of Irmatov's! I agree with you on Penalty decisions as well. What did you think of the yellow for "headbutt"? I was of the opinion that the decision is supportable because the contact was 'negligible'.

    3. I learned something today. According to the LOTG, the "negligible" clause only applies to contact to head/face with HANDS or ARMS.

      VAR reviews these incidents in regular speed, not slow-motion -- makes a huge difference. YC, IMO, was supportable.

      During free kick fiasco, I said to my audience: We need a card here (for Colombia's antics) -- then we had head-butt. After that was over, I said: Colombia will do this again next set piece and a Caution will be mandatory. Then we had PK with no Caution for the antics.

    4. Thanks for that clarification on the "negligible" clause. Learn something new everyday. :)

  4. I think that main problem for Fifa's referees cant be technical knowledges or physical performance, althought important. Maybe can be more psycology prepare specially under pressure. And this only solve, with all respect, refereeing in high stressful conditions as UEFA Champions League or CONMEBOL Libertadores. In others championship around the world I dont see the same challenge. Then, the referee for WC final ever will be a European or South american. I would wish an other for this.

    1. There have already been referees from Mexico (Codesal in 1990) and Morocco (Belqola in 1998) in Finals. Therefore your point of view is not correct. But I agree with you that these high profiled matches more often occur in UEFA or CONMEBOL competitions.

  5. England-Colombia was going to be a difficult one to manage from the start. Everyone wants the referee to be a disciplinarian when the match gets chippy, but when players are sent off everyone complains about how the referee decided the game. I think that some people just want to see fireworks. I think American referees in general (there are obviously some exceptions) have a tendency to allow a little more talking than other referees. That doesn't mean the match is not under control. Players playing a timid game in fear of the referee is not good football. England-Colombia was decided on the pitch by the players, not the referee.

    Geiger took charge of one of the most tense matches of the World Cup and it was decided by the 22 players in red and yellow. That's how it's supposed to be. Geiger resisted the desire that many would have to book the match into submission early and let a passionate match play out in a passionate way.

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