July 6, 2014

Some Thoughts About Referees for the last 4 Matches

We have left 60 matches behind us and are facing the last 4 knockout stage matches. Brazil, Germany, Argentina and the Netherlands will fight for getting the ticket to Rio de Janeiro's Estádio Maracanã and win the trophy of the 20th World Cup. Who is able to referee these matches? A short overview on all officials and the chances they have in my opinion.

What will Busacca's cubes say? Who will referee the last 4 matches?

Going ref-by-ref makes most sense here, as this easily allows us to rule some names and include others into the pool of candidates for Matches 61-64. Before analyzing something it must be highlighted that the basic factor for my predictions is whether a certain referee is politically strong enough and whether the national associations, who have the basic word when it comes to referee designations, would accept these officials.


Ravshan Irmatov: The Uzbek has become a part of World Cup's history. He broke the record established by Joël Quiniou, Benito Archundia and Jorge Larrionda who handled eight matches at FIFA World Cups. For Irmatov, his overall solid performance in Netherlands - Costa Rica yesterday evening has been his ninth match after his star had risen with 5 matches including the opener and a semifinal in South Africa back in 2010. Though he was lucky to proceed that far at all. Clear crucial mistakes in Switzerland-Ecuador and Croatia-Mexico plus a weak performance in USA-Germany did not hinder FIFA to select him for a quarterfinal - mostly because these mistakes had no decisive impact on the final result. That's why he is a hot candidate for more, probably even for the final. An alternative would be Brazil-Germany in the semifinals.

Yuichi Nishimura: No option at all. After his opener match and wrong penalty kick for the home nation, he only appeared once as the fourth official in Honduras-Ecuador. Politically and medially, you cannot appoint this referee anymore and the same actually counts considering the performance principle - even though latter has apparently played close to 0 role in Brazil so far.

Nawaf Shukralla: An underrated referee. He was appointed very late in the group stage and got only two less relevant matches: Australia-Spain and Portugal-Ghana. In both matches his team did really well; Shukralla was unlucky to have interfered with play leading to Portugal's 1-0 goal against the African team. Maybe FIFA consideres him as too inexperienced - the political acceptance might be rather low among the four national associations and specially the Brazilian FA.

Benjamin Williams: Overall good performances in the group stage, but disappointing in Greece-Costa Rica. He missed a very blatant deliberate handball in the penalty area which cost Costa Rica the probable 2-0 in the regular time. During the extra-time and penalty shoot-out, he made Greece's coach and team officials upset by showing too little match feeling and common sense. Requesting that all team officials stay behind the sideline and do not enter the field of play during the break between the halves of extra-time seemed to be more important for him than handling this match with personality. I cannot imagine that FIFA will appoint him for more matches.


Noumandiez Doue: After a good first performance, he showed huge weaknesses and inconsistencies in the second match between Ecuador and France. He was originally planned to control USA-Germany but the German FA rejected him. Against this background, it is very unprobable to believe that Doue has a chance to handle any of the four pending matches.

Bakary Gassama: A pity that the young and talented Gambian only managed one match during the whole tournament. He showed a very attentive and good performance in Netherlands-Chile with only smaller technical weaknesses. Gassama correctly rejected many and partly difficult penalty appeals by the Chileans and clearly showed his potential. Only Busacca and his team know why they did not optimally deploy the resources they had. Only they know why Gassama appeared first on matchday 2 as fourth official and oversaw a matchday 3 match only. I strongly hope and tend to think they plan him for the 3rd Place Final to allow him to collect experience and satisfy the African Confederation. Never forget: In 2015, Sepp Blatter wants to be re-elected once again. He needs as many votes as he can get. Satisfying the football confederation with the highest number of member associations is one tool to achieve that.

Djamel Haimoudi: Poor performance in Australia-Netherlands, solid work in Costa Rica-England and really good performance in USA-Belgium. He clearly increased the quality of his performances, although his Round of 16 match was not challenging the referee team at all. Also he is an option for the 3rd Place final, but a semifinal seems to be impossible.


Joel Aguilar: It seems as if Salvadorian Joel Aguilar stays with 2 group stage matches. Both performances were overall okay and had many positive aspects. However, in Greece-Japan he was a bit too much in the spotlight right from the start and, in Busacca's eyes, could have been more invisible maybe, applying the instructions in a more careful manner (= showing less cards). That's why I could imagine the Referee Department was not totally satisfied with Aguilar's second performance. But in theory he would solve the problem of confederation neutrality that could await FIFA in all four matches.

Mark Geiger: The probably most positive surprise was US American Mark Geiger in the group stage. Both performances were really good and appointing him for Spain-Chile was an expression of trust FIFA and Busacca have (had?) in him. France-Nigeria was his K.O. stage test and unfortunately he failed. He missed a clear penalty kick for a blatant holding in favour of Nigeria and did not send off a French player (Matuidi) for serious foul play. This must have aroused doubts on his reliability in important matches among the committee members. But an appointment would be no complete surprise considering the political strength of the US American federation inside FIFA, also keeping in mind that actually he was in full control over all his 3 matches..

Marco Rodríguez: You actually cannot appoint the Mexican trio again after what happened in Uruguay-Italy. Busacca certainly must avoid headlines like "Referee who allowed Suarez' biting will take charge of Brazil's semifinal!". 


Here it goes quite quickly. Enrique Osses and Wilmar Roldán should have no chances after the too many and too blatant crucial mistakes which were widely discussed by the media. 

Néstor Pitana: Contrary to what I personally expected, Pitana has proven himself at this tournament. He is a reliable referee with strong basics such as body language and match control. He is able to handle matches with few cards and always found the right balance to deal with the instructions concerning yellow cards. France-Germany was overall good. However, you cannot appoint an Argentine for a match of this nation's rivals Brazil. And if it is like in 2010 or 2006, referees whose nation's teams have proceeded into the semifinals are automatically sent home. So no chance for Pitana, I guess.

Sandro Ricci: Same for Ricci. Good performances and maybe he would have been a candidate even for the final if Brazil had gone out. But they did not and that's why I find it hard to see him appointed again.

Carlos Vera: FIFA was very happy with his performances in the group stage. Only political influences avoided that he received a call-up for Netherlands-Costa Rica. His late penalty decision in Greece-Côte d'Ivoire, which decided the qualification in the last minute, was brave and correct - one of only a few positive moments of this World Cup's refereeing. So I assume he will definitely stay and is a candidate to handle the 3rd Place match, if Germany and the Netherlands lose their semifinals.

OFC: No option.


Felix Brych: The German official performed well in his first match Uruguay-Costa Rica. The match was partly tense and the level of control was amazing; his penalty decision set a signal for the tournament but was unfortunately not followed consistently by other referees (and even himself in the same match). He correctly issued the first red card of the tournament in the additional time but should have already done so 10 minutes earlier. Moreover Costa Rica's 1:2 goal should not have counted, it was a slight offside position. In Belgium-Russia, he was never really challenged. A poor match and as every referee knows, these games are the most difficult ones. Suddenly something unexpected happens and so it happened in Rio de Janeiro: Felix Brych missed a penalty kick in favour of Russia, who later lost and did not qualify for the K.O. stage. The second or third replay showed that the contact was punishable. Learn: You are allowed to make crucial mistakes if the team at disadvantage wins the match nonetheless. But if this team lose, you are out. And apart from that, I was a bit disappointed by his performances for another reason: he seemed a bit uninspiring and not giving his best - at least I had this impression. No further match for the German.

Cüneyt Çakır: Turkey's only World Cup representatives performed decently in Brazil-Mexico and managed to keep the difficult and medially powerful match under good control being under high pressure. Algeria-Russia was like Group H's final match and he performed very well. A penalty appeal could not be dealt adequately with since he was unable to spot a clear holding from his correct and very good position; the attacker's body obstructed it. No complaint into his direction for this reason. It is therefore 100% clear that we will see Cüneyt Çakır again. The question is: in which game? I prefer the final, but could imagine that politics will make this impossible. 
Argentina-Netherlands could be a solution, but I really would like to see this referee in the final. He is, in my opinion, the only one who would deserve it by performance principle.

Jonas Eriksson: Solid but no really great performances in the group stage, but a very good job in Argentina-Switzerland. His team really convinced in their Round of 16 clash and kept it under excellent control throughout the whole 120+X minutes. Given that Brazil already made "good experiences" with him in their 4:1 win over Cameroon, I could imagine that he would be accepted by both DFB and the Brazilian FA to take charge of Brazil-Germany. But I don't see any other match for him, his performances were good but not on "final-level" from my point of view.

Björn Kuipers: Kuipers performed well in all his matches and kept a good level of control, expressed calmness and did not make any big mistake. However, he is certainly no option given the presence of the Dutch national team in the semifinals - and besides, his performances were surely good, but not on a standard that impressed me.

Milorad Mažić: To make it short - the World Cup was a totally disappointing tournament for the Serbian. All his strengths that made him rise up inside UEFA did not work in Brazil and honestly I don't know why. But it is like that, he is no option for any further game and was rated as the worst of all UEFA referees at this competition. Hopefully he is able to recover and regain his reputation, that has definitely suffered, in future.

Pedro Proença: Even though his group stage performances were overall all right and solid, Netherlands-Mexico was a complete disappointment. He never found enough grip to the match, took many crucial penalty area decisions wrongly and, in my opinion (not the opinion of the majority of our observers), was fooled by Arjen Robben in the additional time resulting in the decisive penalty for the Dutch team. He made a tired, exhausted and demotivated impression on me. Maybe it is time to retire and I have the feeling that he will take this decision after the World Cup, as indicated in an interview some weeks ago.

Nicola Rizzoli: After a very good performance in Netherlands-Spain, which was - among others - spoilt by a missed foul on Spanish goalie Casillas, he convinced in Nigeria-Argentina and Argentina-Belgium. His quarterfinal performance has been really good. I think he is the most accepted and approved UEFA referee in terms of political acceptance among the national associations; and this could make him a possible solution for Brazil-Germany or even the final. If I had to decide, I would not appoint him for a further match though - maybe as the fourth official at Çakır's side then.

Carlos Velasco Carballo: No comment needed. The 24th minute of Brazil-Colombia has said it all. And hopefully our reports are enough input to reason why this referee should definitely not be unleashed on any further World Cup match.

Howard Webb: After a missed penalty in Colombia-Côte d'Ivoire (which actually cost Côte d'Ivoire the match as well, but obviously Webb had more arguments than e.g. Brych), he showed the best performance of the entire tournament taking our reports and marks as the basis. He controlled and managed Brazil-Chile with a cool mind and took accurate crucial decisions. Chapeau. His problem: Brazil and Netherlands will hardly accept him. I think the World Cup could be over for Webb, even though this would be a great loss of quality and unused resource.

In a nutshell: I refuse to make predictions as I would be too stunned and frustrated by FIFA's political appointments. The only thing I can say is that you should not be surprised to read the names Irmatov, Çakır, Eriksson or Rizzoli in the next days. And, who knows, maybe Busacca surprises us and we see Vera, Gassama, Geiger or even Webb again.

Try to enjoy Matches 61-64!


  1. Very very interesting post! With BRA-GER's appointment we could probably understand.
    One question: I'm wondering if we will have the reports of every torunament's match, or only ref's marks for same matches (e.g. COL-CIV, ARG-IRN.) Thank you very much.

    1. There will be reports for every match. But as we are all lacking in time for that at the moment, they will come with delay, maybe even in the days after the tournament only. No optimum WC coverage, but we cannot afford more, sorry.

    2. Thank you so much. However, I've done my predictions in another post. I think it's really difficult, every referee's appointment could have positive and negative aspects. Will we know who will be sent home?

    3. Report for Geiger is now ready. It will be uploaded soon. We are trying to do our best, but the number of matches was really high.

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  3. Seriously: A national FA can reject a referee? Shocking.....
    Good article, my predictions:
    BRA - GER: Irmatov (UZB)
    ARG-NED: Eriksson (SWE)
    3rd Place (GER-NED?): Gassama (GAM)
    Finale (BRA-ARG?): Çakır (TUR)

    1. It seems the most probable predictions and for this reason, following Busacca's appointments it's unprobable! ;)
      However, only one thing could be problematical: UEFA's referee in final again 4 years later.

    2. I am disgusted, too by FIFA's double standards:

      They permanently claim respect for the officials, condemn homophobia, racism etc. but accept the rejection of a black African referee who never handled a match with the German national team before (and therefore had no incidents with Germany so far) and who had a really good performance in Chile - Australia by the German FA.

    3. It would be interesting to know something more about that.
      Why DFB doesn't like Doue?

    4. The same counts for Carlos Vera and the "political influences that avoided that he received a call-up for Netherlands - Costa Rica".

  4. I, personally, would be shocked to see Irmatov for a FIFTH time in this tournament, when other - better - referees would be passed over. I agree that his many mistakes didn't make huge differences. But what bothered me yesterday was his fitness. Good Lord. The man can barely keep up, and when he was running in the second half, he'd have to put his head down because he was so laboured. Why give him a fifth game? It makes no sense...

    But then, not much FIFA have done makes sense to me. :)

    I did a similar approach a few days ago, and I'm glad to see you guys feel the same on many of the referees. I, too, am shocked that we're not seeing more of Gassama (but again, they choose Irmatov over and over and over). There's got to be some reason.

  5. Do You think that Skomina and Kassai would not be the last referees at this WC?

    1. YES. But we never know how they would have performed. I however could imagine that they were in front of the TV, watching BRA-COL or ARG-IRN and thought "I would have done that better.".

      Nonetheless I am convinced that the choice to leave both at home was actually correct and based on the performance principle in January.

    2. However it was proved that the decision is a mistake now.

    3. Given the exceptionally high number of crucial mistakes on offsides in this tournament, appointing Skomina's team could have led to a disaster :)

      But you bring in a good point: although both Kassai and Skomina had moments of poor form last season and problems with their assistants, they are two of the UEFA referees with the strongest personalities. Skomina, in particular, is very assertive, strong, and not afraid to stand his ground. Referees with better teams and generally good technical abilities (Velasco) were selected before Skomina/Kassai, but proved inadequate when put in a situation where personality, not only precision, was required. Why select referees with weak personalities (Velasco, Proença) if you expect them to manage games without cards? Skomina and Kassai might have proven far better fits for the task Busacca et al. designed for them.

  6. My predictions:
    - both semifinals European Zone
    - 3rd place African Zone
    - final Irmatov

    Some statistics in last 6 WC:
    - in semifinals games, in 3 WC there was at least one referee who didn't officiate in KO stage before semifinal (in 2002 both),
    - in 3rd place games: only one referee who officiated before that game in KO phase (1990)

  7. Please no more Eriksson. In the whole game I hardly saw him deviate off the line penalty spot to penalty spot. He was hardly ever closer than 30 metres when he blew his whistle. I wanted to comment earlier but your login options make it difficult. Anyway at the end he couldn't even get out of Shaqiri's way and made a great job taking the ball from him. Please why do people like him? He was never in TV camera shot when trying to make tight decisions. I can't remember much more but it was difficult to watch.

  8. I totaly disagree with Mazic on you. Its shame on you that you are making coments like that! Why is his performance disapointing I ask you? Maybe you are not use to brave decisions on this world cup? All hard decisions on Germany - Portugal are taken correctly, in Argentina-Iran Mascherano clearly hit the ball first. His only fault is that ball hit him in both games, but everyone ho is refeereing knows that this kind of thing happens. Stop with crucifixion, his performance was solid not disappointing! His style is that he doesnt forgive and accumulates YC, standard on this WC didn t correspond Mažić at all!

    1. Dear Milos, I don't want to use your choice of words but you should think about whether your way of communication is more shameful than criticism on a referee. Mazic pushed players and was pushed by players, was never respected as an authority and partly lost control. That's why his performances were disappointing and UEFA / FIFA are aware of that. You should consider to accept that.

    2. Just a question for you, Miloš. According to your words (solid performance by Mazic in both matches) then why no further appointments for him?
      I think one must try to be honest, Mazic was not at his best in this world cup. This of course can happen and I don't see this big problem...

    3. Milos / Niclas, I think that both of you are right. I know that Mazic could do much, much better. In my opinion, he didn't make any crucial errors (1st game: PK, Send-off, no Pk) and (2nd game: no PK was 50%-50% decision). But there was something missing in his performance and I really want to know what happened in the first 10 minutes and why he lost Portuguese respect after the first PK. Also I've noticed that he wanted to run in front of the ball and that is not his style. He likes to run the channel system and to use his sprint to go deep into the penalty box when needed. In my opinion, new positioning instructions are responsible for his non-standard performance. Too bad that they did not have the third game, where they wouldn't have to prove anything to anyone, just to themselves.
      One more thing - AR's were better part of his team, which is an improvement if we compare it with a previous season.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. His first performance was put on a serious pressure after an unpopular decision to sent of Pepe (Like Cakir did in Man Utd - Real Madrid). Second game a ridiculous letter of complainment was issued by Iranian football association (?) making themselves victims, of a conspiracy theory.It is sad that politics is interfering in football. We forgot on this WC that, it is our job to protect the game and the players, i agree with you Mazic was not respected by the players but that is combination of their sport manners and instructions given to wait until is possible to issue YC. I am not saying that his performance was brilliant, or that hi should get an another game, just that he was not so ,,disappointing" as you say.

    6. Milos,

      I agree with this 100% "that is combination of their sport manners and instructions given to wait until is possible to issue YC". I've watched again Germany-Portugal yesterday, and I've noticed Pepe's behavior in 6th, 10th, 18th minute, he was asking for a trouble.

  9. I really would like to see Mr. Webb in the final. He's the person who deserves to put his name in history. His charisma, character, fitness and management-skills would be nice for the final (it's not his fault that Netherlands and Spain didn't want to play football four years ago). Cakir for Argentina - Netherlands and Rizzoli/Irmatov/Eriksson for Brazil - Germany. I'm so sorry with Mr. Vera... I would appoint him for mini-final or as fourth official for the final then.

    Nonetheless, I would be satisfied with both Webb and Cakir for the final clash. I would write such names as Pitana or Ricci, but their teams are in the semi-finals.

  10. http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/jul/06/brazil-appeal-thiago-silva-suspension-fifa-world-cup-2014

    Who do they think they are? Silva was stupid; that caution was correct.

    1. I think he should be lucky that he didn't see his 2YC for this, as an earlier reckless tackle escaped unpunished.
      FIFA's investigating Krul's behaviour in the penalty shoot out.

    2. Why is FIFA bothering to investigate Krul? It was their referee who let it - and David Luiz on James - go unpunished. Hardly fair to go back now on behavior they observed and let go.

    3. Any link to confirm this investigation?

    4. It hurts that you don't trust me. ;)
      FIFA-Speaker Delia Fischer said that they are waiting for the official match Report and that they are focused on "fair play"....

    5. It hurts me that you quote the KICKER. ;-)

      That's the guy this trade journal assumes to be Joel Aguilar:


    6. ... born in 1979 (?!). ;-)

    7. Not everything is always wrong. But, yeah, the number of errors I reported for them is certainly close to 100.

    8. Thanks, Howard. I trust you, but I need a source to an article on my website.

      You/Kicker made my day with Kochkarov photo at Aguilar profile. :D

    9. To be honest, I find strange that FIFA starts an investigation about a matter for which the referee is there just to check that.

    10. It's almost sure that no steps will be taken against Krul and Zuniga. The referees were there, saw incidents well and simply didn't react on them. Geiger showed Matuidi a yellow card for broking an opponent's leg while he should've definitely issued a red one and FIFA had tied hands. It will be a case now, too. The strangest thing is the lack of Irmatov's reaction. Unacceptable...

    11. Hubert, who will you appoint and who do you think Busacca will appoint for the last 4 matches?

    12. I would appoint Eriksson for BRA-GER and Cakir for ARG-NED. Vera for the third place match with all-South American or all-European game. In case of two contintents present in the mini-final, I would assign Haimoudi. Webb for the final.

      As for Busacca, I think it will be Cakir and Webb for semi-finals and Rizzoli for the final with Gassama for the third-place match.

  11. "But Fifa is also to blame for deciding to turn a blind eye to a lot of fouling in this tournament. I have observed in many matches that professional fouls are being ignored by referees and that there’s a lot of grabbing going on. I had the chance to meet the Fifa referee commission’s director, Massimo Busacca, and he told me the aim was to avoid being too harsh in punishments in order to not spoil the spectacle. Players, however, have seized the opportunity and they are getting away with it."


  12. Wkich referees leave from brazil? Do you have any information?
    My prediction
    Bra-ger : webb
    Arg-ned: cakir

    1. 4 years ago they left 10 ref's team after the quarterfinals. My predictions:
      UEFA: Cakir, Eriksson, Proenca, Rizzoli, Webb
      AFC: Irmatov
      CAF: Gassama, Haimoudi
      CONMEBOL: Geiger
      CONCACAF: Vera
      OFC: None

    2. thanks for sharing mr.. good post

  13. I think that FIFA, for political reasons, will appoint neither a UEFA nor a CONMEBOL referee for the final.

    It never happened
    - since 1974 that the final referee was selected from the host confederation;
    - since 1986 that the final referee was selected from the same confederation than four years before.

    Joseph Blatter has to satisfy all confederations and as many associations as possible in order to be reelected next year and I am convinced that each assignment during the whole tournament was proposed by Massimo Busacca but finally approved (or maybe rejected) by him.

    1. That would mean only one thing: Irmatov for final.

    2. Yes but in case of Argentina?

    3. This would be a big problem...

  14. Mexican Referee Marco Rodriguez whistles Brazil against Germany.

    Mark Geiger is fourth official

  15. Long shot: Vera for an ARG-BRA final. Not a politically sound appointment, but having a South American referee for two South American teams is the best option.

  16. Rodriguez for BRA-GER........


    Incredible. Just incredible.

  17. http://resources.fifa.com/mm/document/tournament/competition/02/40/12/75/listrelease_07.07.14_neutral.pdf

    These are the remaining referees for the last 4 matches!

  18. Rizzoli is very likely for a final with either or both BRA and ARG.
    Webb can make history in case BRA and ARG are not there


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