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!