July 1, 2016

An unpunished wrestling tackle tarnishes Team Brych's performance

Following two very good performances in the group stage, it was surely no coincidence that Pierluigi Collina observed Felix Brych and his teammates in yesterday's Poland vs Portugal game. What the Italian UEFA Referee Officer saw from his surely comfortable VIP seat was positive in many aspects: Full control, good leadership, complete acceptance. But unfortunately, one bigger and some smaller mistakes turn the overall positive impression into a rather negative one.

An unpunished wrestling tackle tarnishes the performance of Team Brych

The most important situation occurred in the 30th minute of the game. Polish defender Pazdan and Portuguese super-star CR7 collided. Well, colliding is definitely the wrong term. What Pazdan did there was actually a wrestling tackle which should be classified as holding or pushing most likely.

The referee and his additional assistant referee 1 Dankert both deemed the incident as fair or at least as not enough for a penalty kick. Not only considering the general line the referees have shown in terms of such situations so far, this decision has to be deemed as a mistake.

A penalty kick should have been awarded in favour of Portugal. Brych's major refereeing weakness is his positioning in most of his games. Often times, he is too centrally positioned and does not produce the best visual angles possible. This also counts for this situation:

By standing quite "highly" in the field of play - almost at the penalty area line - he slightly turns away from the penalty area to visually control the ball and the player who is about to make a high pass into the penalty area. You can clearly see that at the moment of the initiating contact between Pazdan and CR7, Brych was still moving his head towards the penalty area. Most likely, he thus only saw the last 2/3 or so of the whole duel. And therefore he probably also missed that Pazdan clearly ran towards CR7 only for the purpose to wrestle him down even a moment before there was a real collision or contact. The information "Defender clearly runs towards / into the attacker" is quite important for the decision-taking process.

If Brych had been positioned 5 metres more to the midfield line and thus farther away from the goalline and penalty area, his visual angle would have been much bigger. He would not have had to turn around his head that much and very likely he would have caught the entire incident.

You can argue that it would be the task of additional assistant referee 1 to provide the referee with accurate information on the duel. However, I think that his line of sight was pretty obstructed. You can judge this type of offence best from the side or even from the front. Dankert had a 0° angle more or less (see above).

So: Unfortunately, a clear penalty was missed. It can be easily said "I even saw that live from the TV" - this might be right, but referee Brych simply did not have the best view possible. For a part, this might be bad luck as also his AAR1 had no real chance to spot it. For another part, it is the result of a slightly suboptimum positioning.

In the course of the 2nd half, there was another collision in the penalty area. This time, it was clearly nothing. Pepe just stood there and wanted nothing else than blocking the defender, who made him fall. If someone like Pepe does not protest, that practically says everything.

The following video shows other decisions taken by Brych.

0:00-0:28: POL #10 recklessly tackles POR #7. The foot is slightly stretched and he makes full, reckless contact with #7's foot quite high above the turf. This situation would have been the ideal moment for the first yellow card in the game on a tactical side...and apart from that, this card simply has to be given (similar to the one Clatts did not show in BEL-ITA). Protect the players!

0:29-0:45: POL #11 tackles POR #3. He makes unfair contact with studs shown lightly hitting the opponent's shinbone. For my taste, the replay makes it look much worse than it really was. The contact itself is awful and if the intensity had been higher, we would be in an orange area to say the least. However, both players went for the ball, did not see the other player coming. For me, there is a lot of "bad luck" in this contact which looks like a stonewall yellow card - and the latter could have been justified for sure. Refraining from issuing it is still OK for me due to the very light intensity and undeliberate character of the offence which are arguments in favour of deeming it as careless.

0:46-1:09: A corner-kick is taken up by the goalkeeper. Referees are reminded to move and think anticipatively in such scenarios, as it is very likely that quick counterattacks are initiated by teams like Poland. And so they do here. POR #23 blatantly grabs and pulls his opponent POL #11 down during the quick counterattack. Clear, blatant unsporting behavior. This off-the-ball-incident was most likely spotted by the 4th official Milorad Mažić - if so, good teamwork. The referee lets play flow and applies the advantage rule as POL #9 still shows the will to continue the attack. At the next stoppage, he correctly cautions the offender. That's how it should be done. Only point of criticism: Better make an advantage gesture. Probably Brych did not do it as Mažić informed him about what happened with short delay - but if you face such situations, signal that you have seen the offence and even communicate that you are about to caution the offender at the next stoppage verbally so that it is heard by everybody (reduces surprises and prevents irritation).

1:10-1:26: This is an example where a direct free-kick would have been the better solution. Portugal are still in their own half with many defenders waiting for them. No need to play an advantage, specially considering the type of offence. Reckless stud-tackles should be immediately cautioned - this makes you keep immediate control over what happened. Otherwise the players and the audience might forget the offence - your caution thus loses its signal effect.

1:27-end: Directly after that, the ball is bouncing back from a defender. The high ball leads to an aeriel duel with...an elbow. POL #10 clearly uses his arm as a tool against POR #8 and makes a strong, reckless contact with his facial area. Brych sees the incident for a small part of a second, but does not have the best view - but still, he sees it. Not having the best view possible is not his fault here - anticipative movement is not really possible in this concrete situation as the ball is moving towards the midfield line quite suddenly. It is good that he cautions the offender of the previous stud-tackle - but a yellow card should have clearly been given for the elbow, too. How to classify the illegal use of arm in general? Check our educational videos.


Positive Points:

1| Very high level of match control in 120 minutes + penalty shoot out.

2| Full acceptance even in situations where mistakes were made. Hardly any protests. Good decision-selling.

3| Basically very good procedure to apply the advantage rule where possible and wanted and caution clearly "cautionable" offences at the next stoppage. But be aware that some offences should be immediately sanctioned, specially if there is no real game advantage.

Points for Improvement:

1| Positioning, specially in penalty area proximity. Create wider, better visual angles and corridors to be prepared for duels inside the penalty area. Don't lose parts of a second by turning your head around by 90°.

2| Identifying and punishing stud-tackles. Be aware of the need to protect the players and step in at such occasions to send clear signals and messages.

3| Identifying and punishing cases of the illegal use of arms.

Our Observers' Mark Proposals

Artur (SUI)
Carter (AUS)
Chefren (ITA)
Detelin (BUL)
Edward (GRE)
Rik (NED)
Maxi (GER)
Ref: Brych

AR1: Borsch



AR2: Lupp


AAR1: Dankert



AAR2: Fritz


4OF: Mažić



* 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), but only if 5 or more observers have submitted their marks.


  1. Niclas, why marks were given to Clattenburg team?

  2. Thank You and Your team for informative news and interesting info!

  3. This might be a consequence of FIFA positioning instructions, which emphasise referees being "there" at the action to see precisely what goes on, at the peril of large-field vision. Mazic is a prime example of that style of refereeing.

    1. I agree - although, let me say, Brych is having a rather unusual positioning play for many many years. At any rate, if this is part of the instructions, it is creating fatal results (see WC 2014).


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