FIFA’s flimsy house of cards: referees forget to pack their yellows and reds for Brazil 2014

It must be part of an unwritten FIFA directive but one of the big questions at this year’s World Cup is have the referees left their cards at home?

“The referee has seemed to keep his hands out of his pocket once more,” has been a common refrain which one BBC play-by-play man also exclaimed during Tuesday’s late match between Korea Republic and Russia.

Through 17 matches in Brazil, the men in black have issued just three red cards in the tournament but more importantly the cautions have been kept to a minimum with just 44 yellow cards for an average of 2.58 per match.

By comparison at the 2010 tournament in South Africa we saw 56 yellow cards issued in the first 17 matches and 2 red cards. 2010 tournament totals registered at 241 yellow cards for an average of 3.7 per match and a total of 17 red cards (0.27 per match)..

In this year’s World Cup, fouls which normally would be considered cautions or ejections have gone virtually unpunished.

In some cases this approach has allowed the game to flow as we saw with referee Noumandez Doue of Ivory Coast and his masterful performance when he took charge of Chile’s 3-1 victory over Australia. On Day 2 El Salvador’s Joel Aguilar also had a gem when he officiated Argentina’s 2-1 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday.

Other times this approach has backfired horribly, and threatened to send some of this year’s matches over the edge into a series of violent retaliatory fouls.

Sure the average fan groans when they see players awarded free kicks for seemingly innocent challenges, but the referees are gambling with player safety by using this approach. Ronaldo, Rooney and Messi brace yourselves for some rough play as we hope you have eyes in the back of your head.

While this leniency will take the threat of suspension off the shoulders of many players, it will no doubt eventually give the game a black eye as the threat of a serious injury mounts.

Speaking of which, we can’t figure out why Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson and his assistants had a full view of Ghana defender’s John Boye’s raised boot and leg which broke the nose of American American striker Clint Dempsey but chose to do nothing about it in Match 14 on Monday.

Eriksson also failed to administer any sort of caution to Sully Muntari for his two footed and late clear out on American Kyle Beckerman.
Thankfully for the sake of an otherwise sparkling match, Eriksson seemed to come to his senses and recover in the second half of the match.

Others felt that Uruguay’s Diego Lugano would be headed to the showers early and seeing his team reduced to ten men after he decided to play handball in his own penalty area and clearly prevented his opponents a clear-cut scoring opportunity in the opening moments of his team’s match against Costa Rica.

But somehow Lugano miraculously escaped any sort of caution from German referee Felix Brych on the play.

Finally in injury time, after a foul-filled match, Brych just couldn’t resist punishing Maxi Pereira for his horror-tackle on Costa Rica’s Joel Campbell in the final moments of the South American’s 3-1 defeat and flashed the tournament’s first red card.

Aside from rare moments where the expected level of discipline, The liberal Laissez Faire approach to World Cup refereeing is becoming a big talking point of the tournament.

Dutch fans were also crying foul on Match Day 2 early on in their when referee Nicola Rizzola of Italy failed to punish Spain’s Diego Costa for a blatant headbutt to the face of Holland’s Bruno Martin.

Thus it really seemed a little perplexing to some of us when Portugal’s Pepe was given his marching orders for slightly brushing his head against German opponent Tomas Mueller by Serbian referee Milorad Mazic in Monday’s match. Most said the decision warranted a red card, but given the force of Costa’s headbutt others were left scratching their own heads. Aside from a lack of consistency, the game-changing call also sucked the life out of the match as Germany went on to record a lop-sided 4-0 victory.

So 2014 couch potatoes, where do we go from here?

As team’s begin their second matches of the tournament on Wednesday, logically we should expect to a see a more common sense from our 25 referees. Right?

We are hoping for the sake of the fans, match officials realize the risks of matches boiling over completely into tit-for-tat fouls.

This scenario should be considered greater than the need to get FIFA’s disciplinary committee off the beaches and out of the cafes and back to work or the spectre of alienating the average sports fan who loathes diving and annoying stoppages in play in soccer.

Enforcers and midfield strong men beware! If you decide to go with the studs up, a subtle elbow, toe stomp or clipping of the heels…  you could soon find yourselves watching matches of World Cup 2014 from your hotel rooms.

Clearly for the sake of player safety, star power and maintaining order, the referees at this year’s tournament will soon have no choice but to take more drastic measures.


Who is the worst referee at the FIFA 2014 World Cup?

  • Enrique Osses, Chile (0%, 62 Votes)
  • Nawaf Shukralla, Bahrain (0%, 66 Votes)
  • Mark Geiger, United States (0%, 88 Votes)
  • Noumandiez Desire Doue, Ivory Coast (0%, 88 Votes)
  • Jonas Eriksson, Sweden (0%, 91 Votes)
  • Joel Aguilar, El Salvador (0%, 95 Votes)
  • Bakary Papa Gassama, Gambia (0%, 127 Votes)
  • Meira Sandro Ricci, Brazil (0%, 134 Votes)
  • Carlos Vera, Ecuador (0%, 140 Votes)
  • Felix Brych, Germany (0%, 146 Votes)
  • Bjorn Kuipers, Netherlands (0%, 146 Votes)
  • Cuneyt Cakir, Turkey (0%, 147 Votes)
  • Nestor Pitana, Argentina (0%, 152 Votes)
  • Ravshan Irmatov, Uzbeckistan (0%, 155 Votes)
  • Ben Williams, Australia (0%, 169 Votes)
  • Nicola Rizzoli, Italy (0%, 266 Votes)
  • Howard Webb, England (0%, 276 Votes)
  • Djamel Haimoudi, Ivory Coast (0%, 301 Votes)
  • Wilmar Roldan, Colombia (0%, 411 Votes)
  • Marco Antonio Rodriguez, Mexico (0%, 491 Votes)
  • Pedro Proenca, Portugal (1%, 624 Votes)
  • Carlos Velasco Carballo, Spain (1%, 686 Votes)
  • Yuichi Nishimura, Japan (2%, 2,067 Votes)
  • Peter O'Leary, New Zealand (15%, 16,075 Votes)
  • Milorad Mazic, Serbia (79%, 87,362 Votes)

Total Voters: 110,365

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