January 17, 2014

World Cup Refereeing Telegram - Team 33 is ready

Wednesday was the day. Massimo Busacca and his colleagues in FIFA's referee committee have defined the match officials who will take charge of the 64 matches in Brazil. Not only we but specially the 52 pre-selected World Cup referees have excitedly awaited that list for months - their hopes and dreams have partly come true, but have partly been disappointed as well - the mere sharpness of professional sports.

The nominations for the World Cup have surely aroused a mixed echo by meeting joy, approval, astonishment and maybe also disapproval. It is undoubtfully certain though that all officials are very good referees and assistant referees in their respective leagues and confederations, counting to the best of the best, as Busacca tends to repeat. For the Suisse, I have to express all my respect: I would not have liked to change with him and his colleagues. The choice has been tremendous difficult; the differences between the officials have been marginally thin. And like for every football coach, such a vital decision is the toughest and most far-reaching one to take, leaving at home some of his protégés. Inspite of my joy for the referees and assistant referees nominated, some things should be said after this selection though.

First of all, the number of referees is surely surprising. The previous news about 10+1 referee teams for UEFA and 6+1 teams for CONMEBOL have proven to be wrong. Or they were subject to a change at the meeting and because of the World Cup drawing made last December. The committee might have been confronted with political pressure from the minor confederations who maybe demanded five referees. Thus, AFC got 4+1 which reflects the great development in referee education in this zone and is a logical consequence after World Cup 2010. CAF and CONCACAF only got three main referee trios, but also two support duos. Actually nobody thought of the idea of "3+2" before. It is surely a tactically sensible decision taken by Busacca. While it satisfies the political necessities, it still mirrors the quality of refereeing in a decent manner. However, this also meant that UEFA and CONMEBOL got one place less than expected respectively (9+1 and 5+1). In UEFA's case, FIFA might have drawn this conclusion due to the drawing: in the group stage, there are only 19 matches where UEFA referees are possible without breaking the confederation neutrality rule. Appointing ten referees would have meant that not every official could have got two matches and, in case of nine referees with two matches and one referee with only one match, that referees from other confederations could not take charge of some of these 19 matches. With only nine UEFA referees, FIFA can be a bit more flexible.

As already mentioned, FIFA has appointed eight support duos mostly consisting of a pre-selected referee and his pre-selected AR1. Practically, this is sensible, too. These duos can travel to the matches and support the referee teams as fourth and fifth officials. Because of Brazil's size and climate conditions, it is very useful to have a big pool of standby officials who can do this job. The distances between the cities are partly very large, so that appointing referees, who are heading active trios, could be inefficient and leading to bad performances. The eight support duos could attend six matches in the group stage. 
There are only two problems. First, Busacca and co. have frequently emphasized that 52 referee teams were pre-selected and underwent all the seminars, tests and matches ahead the final tournament together. For example, Svein Moen, Kim Haglund and Frank Andås are forming a team for several years. While Moen and Haglund have been appointed, Andås has to stay at home - just because he is formally the AR2. For my taste, that's unfair. And second, FIFA made plenty of political moves in these support duos to be dealt with later.

Concerning the names, most of them were surely expected and deserve to be in Brazil. Specially in Asia, FIFA has in my opinion proven a good feeling and made sensible choices. 
In the CONCACAF zone, the biggest surprise certainly is that Mexican Roberto García has to stay at home. His performances at FIFA tournaments have shown that he is actually a good referee, maybe even the best Mexican referee. Nonetheless, his countryman Rodríguez received a World Cup call-up, probably due to his experience. Both officials had fitness problems in the past, so that cannot be the basic reason. García's assistant referees Camargo and Morín count to the best of North- and Central America, but have not been selected either. That's a loss of quality. I am happy for Roberto Moreno though whose good performances over many years have been finally rewarded. World Cup 2014 will finish his career, as he had already announced before the names was announced. Walter López' very likely benefitted from Carlos Batres, who was able to make some pressure in the committee. My feeling is that Batres could have formed a stronger CONCACAF team than he has done.
Personally, I believe that Noumandiez Doue's selection is very risky and de facto wrong. I hope he will disabuse me. 
The five South American referees were sensibly chosen as well. Néstor Pitana has been the safer Argentine candidate compared to Diego Abal. It is quite remarkable that Antonio Arias has to stay at home and that he did not profit from his countryman Carlos Alarcón who is one of the responsible officers in FIFA's committee. They splitted the support duo in a Peruvian part (Carrillo) and a Paraguayan part (Aquino) - of course a (geo-)political move and nothing else.
But now to Europe. The UEFA selection is clearly Pierluigi Collina's handwriting. Carlos Velasco Carballo has prevailed over Alberto Undiano Mallenco which reflects the trend within UEFA since Collina is heading the committee. Serbian Milorad Mažić has been nominated after his extremely positive development in UEFA, while his FIFA performances have not been great. After only six months in UEFA's Elite Group, he is a main referee. I have rarely seen such a high flyer. Surely, Collina has lobbied for him being impressed by the Serbian's performances. The referee teams who were subject to interferences by Collina (Thomson's, Skomina's, Kassai's) have not been appointed. It is also remarkable that France does not have a referee at the World Cup, which last happened in 1974 and is again a device of the poor development in French refereeing. At least here, there were no politics.
When reading the list, the biggest surprise was surely the absence of Viktor Kassai of Hungary. Having been very good at World Cup 2010 and having well performed in Champions League final 2011 as a very young referee, there was a certain decrease in his performances. He and specially his team-mates made way too many mistakes and are now paying for that. However, Kassai's current shape is actually quite good. FIFA stated: "The referees selected for the World Cup in Brazil have been chosen based especially on their personality and their quality in football understanding by being able to read the game and the teams’ tactical approaches towards each game." Well. Why has Kassai to stay at home then? It is actually unbelievable how UEFA and FIFA have managed to burn the probably most talented young European referee. He got too much too early and is now not receiving the needed trust in his abilities. Kassai at his best is miles better than several other officials who have been selected. At the end leaving him at home is of course justified if you argue with the performance principle based on the last months and on the circumstance that the entire team have to function properly, what the Hungarian team did not do. Therefore I can understand the decision, but am quite wistful knowing that with Kassai, a real match manager has got lost. Another approach might be that Eastern Europe was only able to send one referee to the World Cup, knowing that geopolitics still exist in FIFA officiating, even if Scandinavia having got two referees contradicts that a bit. As said in the prediction posts, Skomina stumbled over his play-off. But even in case of a good performance, I believe he would not have been selected - if the theory with regard to geopolitics is true, his chances against Kassai and Mažić were quite small. 

Politics still prevail over the performance principle, even if not everywhere. UEFA is maybe one exception with some limitations. But concentrating on CAF and CONCACAF, it becomes clear that politics have not been totally abandoned when selecting the referees and assistant referees. 
Néant Alioum did not manage to attend the World Cup as main referee. He is very young and can learn from his first World Cup experiences with regard to 2018. But his assistant referee 1, Evarist Menkouande, actually counts as the best African assistant referee. Therefore, based on performance principle and quality, he replaced Angesom Ogbamariam of Eritrea (a very good assistant, too) in Bakary Gassama's team. He could have also replaced the AR2, Felicien Kabanda, who was recently injured. But no, he replaced Ogbamariam. Knowing that Kabanda is from Rwanda and that former Rwandan World Cup assistant referee Celestin Ntagungira is in FIFA's referee committee, it should become clear why Kabanda stays in Gassama's team. Removing Menkouande from Alioum's side could have meant that Peter Edibi, Alioum's AR2, will complete the support duo headed by Alioum. But no. Neither Edibi, nor Ogbamariam do so. But Djibril Camara does. The young Senegalese is very talented and can look forward to further World Cups in 2018 etc. Since Badara Diatta has not been chosen, Camara would have had to stay at home. In the committee, Badara Sene from Senegal has also something to say. One does not have to see relations between some committee members and those moves on the list, if one does not want to. You can surely also argue that Edibi and Ogbamariam are quite old and would not have any prospect for 2018 so that their presence in the support duos would not have benefits in the future.
In Brazil, AR1 Alessandro Rocha De Matos was replaced for political reasons. Marcelo Van Gasse has been appointed instead. A hard decision for Rocha, who has mostly performed flawlessly and assisted in many FIFA matches.
Another example for politics is visible in one CONCACAF support duo. Roberto Moreno will be accompanied by assistant referee Eric Boria of the United States. Originally, Boria was pre-selected in Jair Marrufo's team along with Jamaican Ricardo Morgan. Moreno was accompanied by Daniel Williamson of Panama and Keytzel Corrales of Nicaragua. So why was Boria chosen and not one of them? ...

You see, this long awaited World Cup list of team 33 was created following a decision process that was surely hard to conduct for the committee and Busacca. Besides, it seems as if the performance principle had played a bigger role for the selection than in previous World Cups. But this cannot belie that politics have still existed.
We should keep the fingers crossed for good performances and a low ratio of mistakes, knowing that mistakes will be made. Personally I cannot wait until the 20th World Cup will commence!


  1. As always, a very good text and I share most of your opinions.
    Collina influence in UEFA choices has been really clear, andI think this was the reason for which Velasco was selected., despite of the fact that he didn't get a play off appointment.
    About Skomina: I think that in case of good performance in France-Ukraine, his selection was going to be sure, probably taking the place of Mazic.
    But this is only my opinion.
    The confederation with more political choices than the other ones, it's surely CAF. They arranged the situation according to the need...

    1. Anonymous17/1/14 12:40

      It´s a true pity the great influence of Collina in UEFA. I think that Collina is one man shortly rigorous and very obstinate.

  2. I agree re Collina's infuence - Carballo's nomination was surprising, although, not as surprising when you consider Carballo's sudden rise to higher echelons, which coincided with the start of the Collina administration. The Italian obviously rates him very highly. Didn't PLC observe him twice, in two major games? Europa League Final 2011 and opening game of the Euro 2012 if I recall correctly. Undiano on the other hand hasn't had a 1/2 fianl or beyond appointment in both of UEFA's club competitions. His highest-profile game was a 1/4 fianl tie between Chelsea - Manchester United in 10/11, I believe. Its obvious Collina and co. do not trust him with the top fixtures.
    BTW - did the departure of Ángel Villar Llona play a significant role in Undiano not being picked? If so, Undiano lost a very significant ally, and the pendulum swung in Carballo's favour.

  3. It appears that there was much more local politics (within country) then on a global level.
    I can't find any reason for Carballo instead Mallenco and Rodriguez over Garcia. Mallenco was not perfect at WC 2010 but Carballo even worse in EURO 2012. Mallenco also performed much better in domestic league and in "classicos" which should have been considered too. (as for other referees from England, Germany and Italy)
    Also, Irmatov's appointment after unacceptable mistake is unacceptable.If there are red cards for players there have to be "red cards" for referes.
    Collina's influence is normal and logical and I don't think that Bussaca and him had many disagrements.
    "He got too much too early" is nice centence and I understand it, but I think he absolutley deserved all 2010-11 appointments being among best referees.
    Since 2011 "something" happened: not good performnces in the row ( 2 yaers), some of them by team some of them only by him. Too many. I do believe that Victor will rise again, and catch EURO 2016 and WC 2018.
    IMO, if there was 10th place for UEFA it should be Skomina. He performed at consistent level 'till most important match.I really appreciate his style and personality and even his maybe not among top 3 his always 4h or 5th. Very good referee and most unfortunate. But as for Victor, I expect him in 2016 and 2018.

    1. Concerning Skomina, I could imagine that he is now candidate no.1 for CL final 2014. His marks in UEFA are very likely good and if Zunic recovers and returns into his team, there might be some hopes. Usually UEFA tends to appoint referees for the two finals in the year of a World Cup who have not been selected for this tournament (Hauge and Fandel in 2006, Rizzoli in 2010, Webb was a safe name for South Africa). Lannoy could be therefore a candidate for EL final (or even CL..).

    2. Yes, Niclas I agree with You, but I'm not that sure. If he's fit enough and considering age my favourite is Lannoy.
      My prediction:
      CL. Lannoy
      EL: Skomina

    3. We can't know a thing.
      Since we are allowed to think politically, it is possible that there was an agreement in the final meeting of FIFA committee: no Lannoy at WC, but please CL final for him.
      I still can't see Skomina for a final now since his assistant referee 1 is not reliable. Nevertheless, I'm almost sure he will re-join Skomina team, otherwise the Slovenian official would be in trouble.

    4. Strongly agree on the fact that Skomina should be recognized with CL final; even Lannoy deserve a final match but PSG is a potential candidate for final, so lannoy could be booked for EL final match. But we are forgetting Undiano; he also deserve a recognition after have lost WC

    5. For me the difference is that Undiano is not trusted at all inside UEFA, judging from appointments. Also Lannoy has not always had the biggest matches in UEFA (as Profesor Taltomar helpfully reminded me). However it is his final chance and I could see him as EL final referee.
      Skomina is a whole other story, his candidature ended at the play-off and I haven't written him off for the CL and EL. He must show his best in the second half of the season and I can see him at the final, at least he is a big candidate. Remember we also have a certain Turkish referee who seemed a lock for the CL final last year until, well we all know what happened.

    6. Don't forget that Marc Batta is still vice-officer in the referee committee. France did not have a referee in a final for many years and now there would be some opportunity. Lannoy did well at EURO 2012 and could get this small gift (EL final) before finishing his international career.

    7. My prediction:
      CL Final - Eriksson
      EL Final - Skomina

    8. Anonymous21/1/14 08:33

      I don't like the theory: he wasn't nominated for World Cup so he gets a final.
      I see the final as a very Special and important match which should be officated by a strong referee who gives the guarantee for doing a superb performamce. IMO Lannoy doesn't fullfill this.
      There should be two indicators: Performance principle and no final match in the competition before.
      So, i could agree with nurs prediction.
      My prediction for cl: kuipers
      Prediction for el is much more difficult: I expect one of cakir, Brych, kassai

      Best regards

  4. Anonymous17/1/14 14:57

    But in UEFA, I think that politics is not so important. The CL and EL finals should go to the most merited referees, regardless of whether they will go to Brazil or not. That is my view, anyway. But it is a long time to May...but I must admit that I have difficulties seeing Lannoy refereing a final, unless he makes a very, very, very impressive Spring season this year.

    /Swedish observer

  5. Anonymous17/1/14 15:04

    UEFA has by far the largest talent pool of referees to choose from, 9+1 places for UEFA is not a true reflection of their large talent pool, because of that UEFA referee trios had to be judged more harshly for their mistakes, Skomina and Kassai were disqualified as the result. By contrast, Irmatov from AFC was still selected after his shocking error in the Confederation Cup, simply because FIFA can not afford to lose an experienced AFC referee if confederation neutrality rule will be applied in the WC, I think Irmatov would have been dropped if he's from UEFA.

  6. Anonymous17/1/14 15:26

    I think FIFA still prefers to apply the confederation neutrality rule in appointing match officials at all FIFA tournaments whenever possible. So my guess is FIFA will try to stick with this rule in the WC at least in the group stage, and maybe in the first knock out round. Then they might consider to scrap it when comes to the semi-finals and final match. As pointed out in analysis above, during the group stage at WC, there are only 20 matches where UEFA referees are possible without breaking the confederation neutrality rule, hence FIFA will certainly needs the experience of Irmatov and Nishimura, even they will have to rely on someone like Geiger, Shukralla and Williams for some important matches.

    1. Anonymous17/1/14 18:13

      In my opinion, UEFA referees can handle only 19 matches without breaking the confederation neutrality rule (Group A, C and F: 3 matches each, Group B, D, E, G and H: 2 matches each).

      Also remarkable: If all 9 UEFA referees are considered for the first 9 confederationally neutral matches, the 10th match for them (BRA - MEX) would most probably be handled by one who was appointed in group B on MD1 meaning that two top clashes (ESP - NED and BRA - MEX) could be whistled by the same European.


    2. Anonymous18/1/14 12:13

      Very astute judgement Peter - I have just done the same thing myself. I think you will find a European referee having 2 matches in the first 4 or 5 match days. If Webb does not get 'reappointed' to the Spa/Hol match I think you will see him take charge of Bra/Mex

    3. I expect Rizzoli in NED-ESP. I thought of Brych or Cakir in CHI-AUS and BRA-MEX then. Good observation Peter, I have also updated the number (19 instead of 20).

    4. Anonymous18/1/14 14:49

      Given the number of 9 UEFA referees out of a total amount of 25, one could expect only 9/25*48 = 17 matches during the group stage (out of the 19 confederationally neutral matches) to be officiated by UEFA referees which offers FIFA some scope for their appointments.

      Regarding the asymmetric distribution of the continentally neutral matches for the UEFA referees (the first 9 all on matchday 1), I suspect that FIFA could entrust a team from another confederation with ESP - NED which would also widen their leeway for BRA - MEX (presumably with a UEFA referee).


    5. That's the problem of mathematics. It does not consider that O'Leary will very likely only get one match. Same goes for referees who make blatant mistakes with much medial attention. So the value 9/25 is only partly adequate.

    6. Anonymous18/1/14 15:25

      9/(25-1)*(48-1) = 17,625 ;-)

      Nevertheless, I think that FIFA could rely on a high-profile Non-European in ESP - NED.


    7. As I predicted a few weeks ago, I think Wilmar Roldan will handle this game...

    8. I definitely cannot imagine that. Roldán is very young and in his first World Cup. That's what I mean with burning young and talented referees by putting more on their shoulders than necessary and possible. I could imagine Nishimura as a non-European, but apart from that, I am sure that it will be a European, preferably Rizzoli.

    9. Although he is quite young (a couple days off his 34th birthday). I still think he has the necessary ability, authority and enough experience to adequately handle this game. Although, as you say, FIFA would probably assign a more experienced official due to past history these two have.
      Rizzoli would be a good choice if indeed FIFA designate a European. I would also endorse the appointment of Nishimura.

    10. Anonymous18/1/14 16:43

      Do you think that all CONMEBOL referees are not a t good level to handle this match'

    11. Some early predictions.

    12. One match for Doue and O'Leary?

    13. Anonymous18/1/14 17:33

      Also one for Webb and three for Nishimura?

    14. @Chefren One match is enough fun with Doue ;-)

    15. Yes, as you can read. Webb can have a K.O. match as match no.2 like Rosetti in 2010.

      And English referees go on to miss serious foul play...really unbelievable.

    16. That is really a disgraceful tackle from Wes Brown. Chris Foy has been arguably the best Select Group official this season, surprised he missed that...

    17. BTW - retrospective action is required here...

    18. Emil Archambault19/1/14 02:18

      Why not Eriksson for NED-SPA, given his outstanding player control?

    19. I would like it, why not.

    20. Eriksson would be a great choice. Along with Webb, he has the best man management skills on the continent. He handled the very tricky UEFA Super Cup very well. Probably the most improved official...

  7. Anonymous17/1/14 17:53

    How can we understand the non-selection of Lannoy, which tends to prove, as said in the article, the "poor development in french refereeing" whereas, at the same time, FIFA promotes a tenth french referee at the beginning of the year ? Or was it just a compensation ?

    1. Quantity is very different from quality.

      Also I'm not sure there is a problem with French refereeing development at the moment, with talents like Turpin, Bastien and Rainville. However we can all agree the 2006-2014 generation was very weak for a nation that gave the world referees like Quiniou, Batta and Konrath.

  8. Anonymous17/1/14 20:36

    Leaving Kassai at home is the biggest mistake FIFA Referee Committee ever made in my oppinion. I agree with all Niclas said about Kassai and if that is not enough to appoint him for Brazil, I don't know :/.

  9. I'm agree with you Niclas about CONCACAF; Carlos Batres formed a team for Walter Lopez with Leonel Leal and Gerson, Lopez' brother, Leal is one of the CONCACAF's assistants referees so Batres so that by joining them together could be enough for Lopez to referee in the WC (he's still closed). It was a big surprise to have Garcia out from WC, Rodriguez is good referee too, but when he want to do a great job he can, otherwise he do a poor job so you never know what can happen, Morin and Camargo thow of the best mexican referees, they should be joining Rodriguez' group they were doing a good job. Aguilar was for sure in the list; he dis a good job in Confederations Cup even that it was not a smart idea to appoint him to referee Nigeria in both matches. Geiger was ahead his countryman Marrufo the last years, so it is a good choice. I'm glad to see a Roberto Moreno in the list, he had worked so hard; he is one of the best referees in CONCAF. Panama's referee committe has been against him, they tried to leave out Moreno by appoint him in the second division, so they thought that by doing this, Moreno could be out in run for a place a WC.

  10. Brazil FIFA World Cup Football 2014 is the 20th world cup. Can't wait till 12th June. I just wanna say i am a big fan of your blogs. there is plenty of information which i really wanted to read about FIFA World Cup Football Games.


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