June 11, 2016

Refereeing Analysis - Match 1: Viktor Kassai in France vs Romania

EURO 2016 has finally started! With their late 2:1 goal, hosts France have managed to start well into this tournament. Does the same count for Viktor Kassai's team and UEFA's Refereeing as a whole? 


The Big Picture

First of all, one of a referee's key tasks has been fulfilled well by the Hungarian: Keeping the match under full control. Kassai never lost the grip to the players and maintained a high level of authority as well as fairness in the match. Surely, the players helped him in that a bit. Both teams played fairly and focussed on playing football. An impression which will hopefully endure during the whole competition.

He applied a stepwise disciplinary approach which fully worked: discreet warning in 17' (Griezmann), more public warning in 22' (Sapunaru). It was good that he saved some munition there, but fired it quite radically in 32': Yellow Card against Chiriches for unsporting behaviour (tackle, at least according to UEFA). In general, Kassai was pleasant unremarkable and calm for most of the time. Also good that he took unsporting behaviour out of the game (reckless elbow by Giroud for example).

Nonetheless, one cannot say that there is no talk about the referee in the media. And yes, this is also a key characteristic of a smooth referee performance at the highest international level, one which referees can hardly influence though. The 1:0 goal scored by France dominated the post match analyses for sure and unfortunately, the replays are rather suggesting that Kassai's team took a wrong decision there.

In detail

Check the following video.


> Alternative video

Due to its high importance and medial echo, let's first focus on the goal scored by Olivier Giroud.

This kind of aeriel duels between attackers and goalkeepers are belonging to the most difficult and most unclear decisions referees have to take. Most unwritten guidelines underline the need to protect goalkeepers in their goal area - a guideline which makes sense as goalkeepers often have to jump highly to save and catch balls. During high jumps, players are generally more sensitive to any form of body contact so that even the lightest contacts can make them lose their balance. So: there is some sense behind it.

However, that's not the point here. First, the goalkeeper was outside his goal area. He therefore actually does not savour any bonus, neither officially by the law book, nor semi-officially by guidelines. Second, the offence Giroud has to be reproached for is of a nature that makes the entire goal area debate irrelevant: He illegally used his arm in the view of many.

For a long time, his jump was absolutely normal. It is natural to have both arms a bit outstretched to hold balance. In the very last moment - we can speculate that he saw or felt the goalkeeper coming - his arm is becoming a bit more stiff and is carting a bit more out, making contact with the goalkeeepers' outstretched arms. Thus, the latter is impeded in his saving action. But again, this is not relevant. The crucial point is that Giroud used his arm (by the way: Giroud is known for that, see WC 2010 and minute 68 in yesterday's match). The arm going out a bit can and actually should be deemed as illegal. Maybe he even did so deliberately: Immediately after the goal, he looked into Kassai's direction and only then started to celebrate. Coincidence? Speculation.

However, this contact was extremely light (even though effective). Many people justifiably argue that such small contacts cannot be enough to disallow a goal. In game reality, I understand that. From Kassai's position, attempting to imagine what kind of visual angle he had, it is comprehensible that he did not have the best chances to see it. Replays suggest that AR2 Vencel Tóth and maybe also AAR2 Ádám Farkas had better chances to see the contact with the arm as they had a sidewise visual insight into the situation. The biggest argument in favour of no foul is, in my view, that the whole action by the goalkeeper seems to be mistimed and simply badly executed, something which also Kenn Hansen underlines in a short statement given to us:

"Yes, there is a contact, but I think it is not intentional, and I think that the goalkeeper mistimes his catch more than it is a foul from Girouds side. Even if there is a contact, looking at the general level of the match, the contact is far too little to a foul in my opinion."  


In conclusion: For me, based on many replays, the situation is not clear but if I had to decide, I would rather opt for a foul. Can Kassai be blamed? In my opinion, clearly not.

A debate developed in this blog yesterday evening which I cannot fully understand. Stuart's comment is exemplary:  

Stuart 10/6/16 22:48

I see some comments here based too much on the Laws and less on football understanding. Refereeing is not always black and white or by the book. Referees acting on higher levels will understand this. Sometimes it's better to make decisions in favor of the spirit of the Game. It's all about the bigger picture. 

He is right: The poles applying the Laws of the Game vs Understanding Football and Managing the Game are probably the pattern that unites all major finals of the past seasons and refereeing at the highest level in general.

Understanding the game and deciding in favour of common sense or the spirit of the game may apply in grey area decisions. And it can and should be the main attitude of a referee facing a football match.

But: Ignoring clear offences and thus not protecting fairplay is however a relatively exclusive understanding of football as a game. And, even more important: This demands that a referee knows what he does. You can do everything you want if you know what you do. I however do have some doubts that the Hungarian always knew what he did yesterday:

Viktor Kassai's foul detection did definitely not meet the requirements of a European Championship, let alone a EURO opening game - but opinions can differ here and even in our observer team the views are mixed in this regard. One might argue that Kassai has his own style and was consistently lenient which makes all that quite acceptable. 

As said in the predictions post, opening matches are also there to send clear signals about what line and refereeing style can be expected during the tournament. I cannot imagine that UEFA wanted to send the signal that deeming careless or reckless tackles as fouls will be sacrificed for leniency (if we talked about FIFA and Busacca, this would be different).

Kassai missed clear - partly really blatant - fouls in 7' (aeriel jump into the opponent's back), almost in 8' (very delayed free-kick decision for a stonewall foul, no need to wait that long), in 53' (missed stretched foot with studs shown, 2nd YC possible, but not mandatory) and in 73' (missed careless or even reckless elbow in the midfield, 2nd YC possible, probably not mandatory). In all these incidents, Kassai missed the offences completely. Same counts for a more decisive missed foul in 64':

Before the absolutely correct penalty kick (clear careless contact at the knee), a clear case of undermining the opponent was missed. A free-kick should have been given in favour of France there. In my understanding, this is a crucial mistake.

So: There really were numerous situations where e.g. a 2nd Yellow Card was possible, where one could have debated about a last warning, where a penalty would have been nullified etc. The bigger problem is that all these incidents were missed. Probably because of lacks of awareness or alertness, but partly (e.g. in 7') also due to a weak anticipative positioning creating 0° angles at times).

Same goes for 38' (foul by Koscielny), where a direct free-kick (contact outside the penalty area) and a Yellow Card for Stopping a Promising Attack should have been awarded - this was AAR2' responsibility though. Kassai cannot really be blamed for that. What he must be blamed for in this partciular situation is his - sorry - slightly arrogant behaviour in terms of caring for the player's safety. You can ignore a player asking for or obviously needing medical treatment if you are sure that he is making more of it than necessary. Kassai actually could not be sure there though. Only after 5-10 seconds, he finally walked back to check the condition of the player. Personally, I perceive this as a no-go, but opinions might differ here again.

Another situation which showed Kassai's relaxed approach in terms of applying the Laws of the Game can be seen at 2:20 in the video. Griezmann disrespected the 9.15 at a defensive free-kick, blocked the indirect free-kick after an offside. No reaction from the referee team.

All in all, the match was refereed in a way which can be described as solid in the big picture: match control and acceptance were both given, football was in the foreground, the match officials in the background. Therefore, the match as a medial and social spectacle was faciltated by the referee.  
This is a main goal of a referee performance and Kassai succeeded in it!

But, he definitely has to work on his level of foul detection which was relatively weak from minute 7 to the end. Perhaps this was due to lacks of concentration or general weaknesses in identifying infringements. Perhaps he knew what he did and deliberately ignored clear fouls. And I repeat: I do not mean the 1:0 goal, which can be seen either way.

Taking this into consideration and integrating the circumstance that we can expect the crème de la crème of UEFA officiating at such a tournament, the performance did not meet all requirements due to the significant point for improvement in terms of foul detection - a weakness which indeed resulted in a few wrong decisions of relatively big nature. However, I think the 1:0 is a 50:50 decision and nothing else. The more problematic decision was, from my point of view, the missed foul prior to the penalty kick which can be deemed as a crucial mistake or at least as a significant point for improvement which costs some tenths in the mark.

Positive Points:

1) Match Control and Calmness.
2) Stepwise Disciplinary Approach.
3) Co-operation in the key decision (penalty).

Points for Improvement:

1) Accuracy in Foul Detection (Concentration, Awareness, Positioning).
2) Ensure re-start with 9.15m, react to players disrespecting the distance.
3) Fulfilling a referee's duty to care for the safety and condition of the players.


Our Observers' Mark Proposals:



Ø
Artur (SUI)
Carter (AUS)
Chefren (ITA)
Detelin (BUL)
Edward (GRE)
Harry
(ENG)
Niclas
(GER)
RayHD (POL)
Rik (NED)
Ref: Kassai
8.23
n.a.
7.8
 8.1
 8.4
8.3
8.3
 8.1
8.2
 8.4
AR1: Ring
8.40
 n.a.
---
 8.4
 8.4
---
---
 ---
 ---
 ---
AR2: Tóth
8.35
 n.a.
---
 8.3
 8.4
---
---
 ---
 ---
 ---
AAR1: Bognar
8.45
 n.a.
---
 8.4
 8.5
---
---
 ---
 ---
---
AAR2: Farkas
8.40
 n.a.
---
 8.4
 8.4
---
---
 ---
 ---
 ---
4OF: Kuipers
8.40
 ---
 ---
 8.4
 8.4
 ---
---
 ---
 ---
 ---











TEAM AVERAGE*
8.32










* Team Average: Referee's Average Mark 50% + Marks of AR1, AR2, AAR1 and AAR2 50%
** The highest and lowest average marks are eliminated to control deviations (statistical reasons).

3 Comments:

  1. Well done. Wonderful analysis.

    PS Carter (Aus) mark: 7.5 ...

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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