Yesterday's final match between Italy and Spain at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium has not only proven the fact that this Spanish U21 side seem to be unbeatable, but it was furthermore characterized by a very good performance shown by the match officials. Slovenian Matej Jug and his team thus confirmed the exceedingly good refereeing level at Israel's Under-21 European Championship.
|Slovenian Matej Jug correctly awarding a penalty to Spain (c) ZIMBIO|
Apart from this summary, you can find reports for every match on this page. Within the following paragraphs, you find a few situations mentioned. Please click on the underlined passages to find a video corresponding to these incidents.
Additional Assistant Referees
It was the first time that UEFA had decided to deploy additional assistant referees (AARs) on the goalline at a final Under-21 European Championship tournament. Taking everything into consideration, they contributed to a better decision taking. Several situations were assessed in an adequate way only thanks to their help and presence, such as a correct penalty in the match between Russia and Germany, where Turkey's Halis Özkahya correctly advised referee Matej Jug to point to the spot. Also in yesterday's final, one may suspect that Özkahya at least strengthened his chief to award the second penalty to Spain, since it happened in his area of vicinity and responsibility. Özkahya moreover supported Serhiy Boiko's hard but correct penalty decision in England-Norway. No miracle that this Turkish guy reached the final.
However, there also have been doubtful or even wrong calls. Greek Ilias Spathas recommended Croatian Ivan Bebek to award a controversial penalty to Norway in their Group A match against Italy in the 90th minute of play. The replays revealed that this decision was more than soft. A real contact that should be punished with a penalty did not really exist. Estonian Kristo Tohver created a bit irritation in Bebek's first match between the Netherlands and Germany. Bebek showed no hesitation when going to caution a German forward for simulation. Tohver summoned Bebek towards himself and had a talk with him - the decision to issue a yellow card for diving did not change though. Finnish Antti Munukka was additionally sent home after only two matches (Slovakian Ivan Kružliak had to take his place on matchday 3). The reasons for that can only be guessed. In both matches he had, he failed to take a crucial decision correctly. In England - Italy headed by Antony Gautier of France, the officiating team and specially AAR2 Munukka missed a clear penalty to the Italian side. Gautier was far away so that it is unlikely he was able to shift responsibility on Munukka's shoulders. After a corner kick in the second half, a goal was scored by the English side and first allowed by Gautier. However, Munukka overruled him and Gautier decided on offensive foul. No mistake, but a debatable call. It must be questioned why he did not consult his teammate via micro before awarding the goal, too. Finally, Munukka was no help for Gautier in their second game either when the French official missed a clear handball penalty to Russia at the start of half two. This time, Munukka could not really detect it, but still, he was at least no real support.
In a nutshell that means that a) additional assistant referees have, as usually, conveyed ambivalent impressions but could help in some crucial moments and that b) there have been severe communication problems within some refereeing teams. It is unclear whether the reasons for that either lie in the inexperience of some AARs having worked there or in the fact that six match officials coming from different countries had to consult each other on their foreign language English in an understandable manner. Probably, it was a mixture of both.
Instructions to combat unsporting behaviour
As outlined several times also by Pierluigi Collina or FIFA referees, one main goal at such mini-tournaments, where you - in a way - teach young players on the pitch, is to combat unsporting behaviour such as simulation. And that was done successfully.
The referees in Israel issued five yellow cards for simulation in 15 matches. This high average is certainly no coincidence. It is likely they received clear instructions by the advisors in Israel (Marc Batta, Hugh Dallas and Vlado Sajn). Pawel Gil and Ivan Bebek took such decisions in their first match each - these decisions appeared to be a bit harsh. But you must be prepared that some decisions could be too harsh or even wrong if you want to pay more attention to simulation. Matej Jug took a very good and correct decision to book a German forward in Russia-Germany and Ukraine's Serhiy Boiko even did so twice (1, ESP-NOR). In England - Norway as well as Spain - Norway, he correctly penalized players for diving.
Furthermore, Pawel Gil cautioned an Israeli player for demanding a red card to his opponent in the opener game. A strict and good fashion to deal with it which was however only observed once at this tournament.
At this tournament, the referees issued 59 yellow cards in 15 matches, equating an average of 3,93 yellow cards per match, a value that lies below the averages of last season's Champions League and Europa League but which is a bit higher than 2012 European Championship's average. Serhiy Boiko managed to finish the match between Israel and England without cards, while Ovidiu Hategan and Matej Jug had to sort out seven yellows in one of their respective matches each.
Four sending-offs occurred in those 15 matches, all of them were direct red cards. One for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity (dogso) given by Pawel Gil in Israel-Norway, one for serious foul play in Italy-Israel (Ovidiu Hategan), one was given by Matej Jug following serious foul play in Russia-Germany. Antony Gautier's red card in Netherlands-Russia was exaggerated and more than doubtful.
A good refereeing team also needs very good assistant referees. UEFA obviously did a good job in selecting the eight assistant referees to run the lines in those matches and to fulfill duties as fourth officials. It would be unfair to only point out a few names. Basically, all of them have convinced and have definitely shown very good performances. There was no crucial mistake made by an assistant. Very good work. At the same time, one can imagine how hard the decision was for UEFA to choose the two assistants, Johann Gudmundsson and Dmitry Zhuk, who had to leave the tournament after group stage.
|Ivan Bebek in NOR-ITA (c) ZIMBIO|
mprove, such as adapting his very lenient line to the requirements of the match. He awarded two penalties, one of them correct,
Serhiy Boiko, Ukraine. For sure, he could be regarded as the "underdog" of the tournament. He had by far the lowest amount of experience on international level but impressed in his first match between England and Norway. In his second match, there were no real challenges. Israel and England both were out almost for sure. No problems in an easy-going game. His semifinal between Spain-Norway was on the whole a deserved appointment and also a good performance with a correct crucial dive decision (see above) and a convincing officiating throughout the whole match. I would bet that UEFA is going to give him a Champions League next season to check whether a fast-track promotion to ED is possible or not. With Collina in his back as Ukrainian refereeing chief officer, this becomes even more realistic.
Antony Gautier, France. Without any doubt, France has a problem. "Their" European Championship is waiting in 2016 and until then, their number 1 Stéphane Lannoy will have retired. Clément Turpin might be one candidate to attend this tournament as the home referee, but he is probably too young. Thus, UEFA focused a lot on Gautier and pushed him in the knockout stage of the last EL season. At this tournament, he missed two penalties (NED-RUS) and issued an exaggerated red card. One can honestly summarize his performances in one word: disappointing.
Pawel Gil, Poland. Born in 1976, this year seems to be his last chance to move up to ED. The fact that he was sent home after group stage surely does not support his position in UEFA refereeing. However, Gil actually showed convincing performances, specially in Germany-Spain. The problem in the opener game was basically a wrong penalty given to the hosting nation Israel in the first half. Apart from that, he had minor problems and minor points to improve. No bad tournament, but compared to the other officials, they just were better.
|Ovidiu Hategan had a lot of work in ITA-NED (c) scoladearbitri|
Ovidiu Hategan, Romania. A great talent from a nation that did not have so many high-profile referees in the last decade. After a good performance in Italy-Israel with a few smaller points of criticism, where he also took a very brave but good decision to send off an Israeli player for a dangerous challenge, he also convinced in Spain-Netherlands. His semifinal performance under the eyes of Dallas was however the weakest of his three matches. He missed a violent conduct that was hard to detect, had a few lacks of control, missed some elbows, even though his basic decision-taking was good. Probably, Italy-Netherlands also was the most difficult match at this U21 tournament. Overall a good or at least very satisfying tournament for the Romanian official.
Matej Jug, Slovenia. Undoubtfully, he was not the favourite to handle the final before the tournament. He is the youngest of the six officials and showed, from my point of view and also reading our reports, the best performances. After a calm start in Spain-Russia where everything went all right, he totally convinced in Russia-Germany having taken three crucial decisions correctly (1, 2, 3). Jug crowned his tournament by a very good performance in yesterday's final including two correct penalty kick decisions (1, 2). One can merely hope that UEFA is aware of his skills, abilities and prospect for the future, meaning that a promotion to ED would be very much deserved.