Group Hex: A six pack of World Cup referee bloopers

Six memorable refereeing blunders at the 2014 FIFA World Cup after completion of the group stage:



JUNE 21, MATCH 27, MILORAD MAZIC (SERBIA), ARGENTINA 1, IRAN 0:  Iran’s manager Carlos Queiroz couldn’t believe it, neither could striker Ashkan Dejagah after he was tripped in the penalty area by Pablo Zabaleta. Iinexplicably no call was forthcoming from referee Milorad Mazic of Serbia during Iran’s tainted clash with heavily-favoured Argentina on June 21st. Iran went on to lose the match 1-0 but Mazic’ and his 64th minute no-call decision changed the outcome of Group F and further scarred the reputation of FIFA and the integrity of the tournament. After the foul, Dejagah ran towards, yelled, screamed and even bumped referee Mazic in wild protest of the foul but to no avail, Mazic was not changing his mind on this one. Meanwhile coach Queiroz lamented about the decision following the conclusion of the match complaining “There is no was that decision can escape him”. Meanwhile the traffic at RedCardTheRef began to surge as over the next few days a whopping 83,000 votes flooded in for Mazic in our poll for worst referee at the World Cup. We think referee Mazic thought that Zabaleta somehow made contact with the ball making it change direction. However the video evidence below clearly shows that the ball changed direction because it hit the ground and not the outstretched leg of  Zabaleta, clearly proving Iran were robbed of a clear penalty kick.



JUNE 21, MATCH 29, PETER O’LEARY (NEW ZEALAND), NIGERIA 1, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA 0: Lets hope their flight home isn’t rerouted to Sarajevo. New Zealand referee Peter O’Leary and his linesman Jan Hendrik Heinz clearly got this one wrong, changing the outcome of the match and the World Cup when they ruled Bosnia-Herzegovina striker Edin Dzeko’s 21st minute goal offside. Television replays show Dzeko was in an onside position when he received the ball and the goal should have stood. That in itself was bad enough to permanently tarnish the reputation of O’Leary and his crew in the minds of irate Bosnian fans…that is if it wasn’t for his next error of judgement. The outpouring of anger and even death threats from Bosnian fans may never have come if O’Leary had called back an obvious foul just eight minutes later by Emmanuel Eminike on Bosnia defender Emir Spahic. Spahic had his legs clipped out from under him but O’Leary waved play on. Eminike then raced into the penalty area and sent a cross to Super Eagles’ Peter Odemwingie for the game-winning goal. RedCardTheRef was flooded with over 15,000 votes against O’Leary and an online petition was started that has gained 23,000 signatures to have him removed as a referee.  To add insult to injury a highly publicized photo of O’Leary began circulating after the match which appears to show O’Leary celebrating with Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.


June 12, Match 1, YUICHI NISHIMURA (Japan), Brazil 3, Croatia 1: He may have been the first Japanese referee to take charge of an opening match at the World Cup but his controversial penalty kick call turned the tide of a tight match, gave Brazil victory and overshadowed what should have been a celebration of the beautiful game. It was clear that the Brazilian striker was looking for the call the whole way and after the slightest of touches from Croatian defender Dejan Lovren and a roar from the home crowd he fell to the ground all too quickly and unconvincingly. While fans of Brazil celebrated, Croatia was outraged at the outrageous decision by Nishimura.  Croatian manager Niko Kovac summed up the frustration oh his fans and other neutral observers of the farcical decision “If that’s a penalty, then we can just stop playing football right now,” he said. “It’s shameful we talk about respect but there wasn’t any respect for Croatia. If that’s how we start the World Cup, then we might as well give up and go home now.” Nishimura is not new to controversy and was once blamed by some observers for touching off a riot in the aftermath of a FIFA World Club Cup match between TP Mazembe and Inter Milan in 2010. Nishimura awarded 21 fouls against the Congolese team and only 9 fouls against the Serie A side which helped precipitate a spread of vandalism spree by angry TP Mazembe fans who had watched the match on television.  



June 24, Match 40, CARLOS VERA (Ecuador), Greece 2, Ivory Coast 1Judge for yourself with the video (above) as there is absolutely no way in the world Ecuadorian referee Carlos Vera was justified in awarding an injury-time penalty kick to Greece which gave the former European champions a 2-1 win and eliminated Ivory Coast in final Group C action on June 24. The evidence in the video is clear that it wasn’t second-half substitute Giovani Sio who made Georgios Samaras fly through the air and hit the ground, the striker clearly tripped over his own feet. We were surprised there wasn’t a greater outcry from the Ivory Coast players and staff over the decision. “The outcome is a cruel one but the Greeks did not steal this victory,” said Manager Sabri Lamouchi. “I am very disappointed and sad and also for the players and the Ivorian people.”  Lamouchi resigned immediately after the match and the mainstream press never thoroughly reported on the controversy surrounding the call.


Match 2, WILMAR ROLDAN (Colombia), Mexico 1, Cameroon 0: It’s a good thing El-Tri prevailed against the Indomitable Lions or we may never have heard the end of it from Mexico’s millions of passionate football fans over two wrongly disallowed first half goal by referee Wilmar Roldan of Colombia. The first incident occurred in the 12th minute when Mexico forward Giovani Dos Santos thumped home a cross from Hector Herrera. A late flag from Roldan’s linesman, a late decision from Roldan and the goal was disallowed. But how could this be? The player was clearly in an onside position on the play. In the 30th minute Dos Santos finally knocked home the opening goal in an onside position from a corner kick… right? Nope. Another raised flag and thus Mexico’s second goal was again rubbed out for offside by Roldan and his crew.  “Human error exists. We have to learn to put up with whatever comes our way,” said Mexico coach Miguel Herrera. “We didn’t think about the referee when we went back to the dressing room (at halftime).  To his credit in the moments between the two botched offside calls, Roldan did manage to correctly disallow a Cameroon goal for offside.


A KICK IN THE HEAD = RED CARD OR BACK TO CONCUSSION BOOT CAMP MR.REFEREE: Apparently Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers and Sweden’s Jonas Eriksson have missed the last 20 years of rule changes and what most of us have learned concerning the seriousness of head injuries in football and other sports. FIFA’s laws about dangerous play are very specific about high boots, but apparently all of that knowledge has been thrown out the window at this year’s tournament.  On June 20th in Match 25, Friday’s Switzerland’s Steve Von Bergen was kicked in the head by opponent Olivier Giroud of France but Kuipers took no action on the play and refused to punish Giroud for his actions. Meanwhile, Sweden’s millionaire referee appeared mentally bankrupt for not punishing Ghana’s John Boye who broke the nose of Clint Dempsey with his own high boot just before halftime of Match 14 on June 16. We need to wonder whether Eriksson may himself have been kicked in the head. As most soccer players know from experience, these actions cannot be tolerated. While FIFA have been quick to stamp out players stepping on each other at this year’s tournament judging by the sending off of Antonio Valencia and Steven Dufour, apparently a kick to the head isn’t a bookable offence even when the evidence in the form of broken noses and blood is plain to see.

A RED CARD FOR INTENT TO INJURE? SORRY BUT THAT CALL WAS DOUE DOUE: Though most backed him up on his Red Card, we felt differently about the ejection of Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia in their 0-0 stalemate against France on June 25th. As Valencia burst down the right wing and stepped over the ball, France defender Lucas Digne came lunging in with a cleats-up slide tackle on Valencia. As a result of Digne’s challenge, Valencia’s cleats rode up over top of Digne’s leg. After a brief conversation with his assistants, referee Noumandiez Doue of Ivory Coast produced a red card.  Digne was in the wrong for sliding in and Valencia had control of the ball.  There didn’t appear to be intent to injure but others felt differently about the situation. Some even wrongly described Valencia stepping over the ball as “a challenge”. Lets be realistic here,  when a player has possession of the ball he is clearly not making a challenge. An example of a correct application of this law would definitely be in the case of Australian referee Ben Williams who rightly ejected an out-of-control Steven Dufour of Belgium for his dangerous challenge on opponent Kim Shin-Wook on June 26. In this case, Dufour clearly did not have possession of the ball and was in the wrong. Thus the correct call for Doue on the Valencia-Digne incident should have been a yellow card for both players for dangerous play or nothing at all given the recent trend of referees ignoring slide tackles and high boots many of the other matches at this year’s tournament.

WHEN REFEREES BECOME PLAYERS WE HAVE A BIG PROBLEM ON OUR HANDS: A few times in the first round, the referees have unwittingly become part of the action as Ravshan Irmatov of Uzekistan inadvertently (we hope) tripped up United States attacker Jermaine Jones to thwart a U.S. breakaway in the 28th minute of their 1-0 loss to Germany on June 25….Earlier on Match Day 15 Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir showed of his skills as a fullback when he charged into Victor Fayzulin in the 59th minute of Russia’s 1-1 draw with Alrgeria…Meanwhile if once wasn’t good enough Milorad Mazic of Serbia broke up two Iran rushes in their clash with Argentina on June 21. On by standing in the path of a ball pushed ahead by Ashkan Dejagah in the 18th minute and then again in the 74th minute when he thwarted a clearance by Iran’s Javad Nekounam’s helping Argentina regain possession. These instances surely aren’t the last such cases we will see at this year’s World Cup but hopefully for the real competitors they won’t result in any shots on goal. It’s a sad reality referees, we all wanted to be football stars growing up but not everyone can play in the World Cup!



MOST FOULS IN A MATCH: 43, Djamel Haimoudi (Algeria), Netherlands 3, Australia 2, Match 18, June 18
HIGHEST FOULS TOTAL: 82 in three matches, Nestor Pitana Argentina
MOST YELLOW CARDS IN A MATCH: 6, Marco Ricci (Brazil), France 3, Honduras 0, Match 10, June 15
HIGHEST YELLOW CARD TOTAL: 2 with 8, Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey), Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)


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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