Grace under pressure: Referee Rizzoli maintains order as Germany defeats Argentina in feisty World Cup final



Match Day 25, July 13, Match 64

Referee Rizzoli closed out his World Cup campaign with a solid performance in Sunday‘s championship match, although both the victors and the vanquished could take issue with many of the Serie A referee’s decisions.

A bloodied and bruised Bastien Schweinsteiger would have the biggest case against Rizzoli after dangerous play by Argentina late in the match, however the battle-hardened German midfielder was also fortunate not to see two yellow cards and a red himself for his physical play.

In the lead up to Sunday’s fins some had criticized the decision by FIFA to let Rizzoli officiate the match since he had already overseen Argentina in two previous matches at the 2014 World Cup. Some claimed that Rizzoli had favoured the South Americans in those matches, but many others fully backed the architect from Bologna including England World Cup referee Howard Webb and former EPL referee, turned columnist, Graham Poll.

For the most part, Rizzoli used the correct balance of discipline and restraint to keep control of a feisty World Cup final which was eventually decided by Mario Gotze’s 113th-minute goal. The physical play would gradually escalate as the match progressed into extra time but Rizzoli managed to keep tempers from completely boiling over throughout the match:


First Half

⇒Rizzoli issued two yellow cards to Germany in the opening half. Schweinsteiger earned the first caution of the match in the 29th minute for his foul on Ezequiel Lavezzi while Benedikt Howedes also saw a yellow for his challenge on Argentina defender Pablo Zabaleta four minutes later.

⇒Rizzoli’s effort definitely wasn’t flawless as he and his crew failed to spot an intentional shoulder to the head of Germany’s Christoph Kramer by defender Ezequiel Garay in the 18th minute of play. The Argentina defender clearly showed intent to injure Kramer on the play as he clearly ran his shoulder squarely into his opponent’s head but the referee and his linesman failed to make a call. Reports surfaced during halftime that Kramer had suffered a head injury on the play.
⇒From the blooper reel, in the sixth minute Rizzoli stepped in the way and blocked a pass by Toni Kroos but Germany managed to recover possession…Controversy to open the second half as Rizzoli denies a penalty-kick appeal by Germany in the 54th minute after Zabaleta caught Andre Schurrle with a late tackle inside the area but the referee waived play on.

Second Half

⇒The match again takes a decidedly physical turn in the 56th minute when Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer punches the ball at the edge of his area but then slams knee first into the head of Gonzalo Higuain. It is a horrific collision and Higuain remained down for several minutes but the keeper was judged by Rizzoli to have challenged for the ball legally. Replays of the incident however seem to indicate clear intent by Neuer to make contact with his opponent after punching away the ball.

⇒Within eight minutes of the Neuer-Higuain collision, Argentina clearly seemed out for retribution and picked up two quick yellow cards less than a minute apart for dangerous challenges.  In the 64th minute Javier Maschereno would go into the books for a deliberately late challenge on Miroslav Klose followed by Sergio Aguero’s yellow card for similar offence on Schweinsteiger only seconds later…


Extra Time

⇒Germany’s midfielder general, Schweinsteiger, would become the target of Argentina in the extra time period. After taking a high boot to the head from substitute Rodrigo Palacio in the 95th minute, he would then be on the receiving end of a late two-footed lunge by Mascherano. Mascherano somehow escaped earning his second yellow card of the match for the brutal challenge.

⇒In the 107th minute Schweinsteiger was the victim of a simultaneous two-player slide tackle by Mascherano and Lucas Biglia. Schweinsteiger suffered a large cut under his right eye after a deliberate smash to the face by Sergio Aguero.

⇒With all of the abuse to Schweinsteiger weighing in his mind, referee Rizzoli likely cut the midfielder a break after his slide tackle on Lionel Messi at the top of the Germany penalty area in the 122nd minute should have been an automatic second yellow card and ejection.

⇒As Argentina pressed for the elusive equalizer, Schweinsteiger was smashed in a wicked collision at midfield with Pablo Zabaleta right as Rizzoli whistled for full time. Yellow Cards: 4, Fouls: 36



Nationality: Italy
Date of Birth: 05/10/1971
 LinesmenRenato Faverani, Italy, 25/11/1969; Andrea Stefani, Italy, 15/10/1969

An architect by profession, Rizzoli has been refereeing in the Serie A since 2002, and listed as a FIFA official since 2002…He was moved to tears after after blowing the final whistle in the 2013 UEFA Champions League final between Bayern and Dortmund. Later in the locker room he was congratulated for his performance in the match by countryman and refereeing legend Pierluigi Collina…In the 2010 UEFA Champions League quarter-final, Rizzoli sent off Red Devils’ right fullback Rafael for a second bookable offence…Drew a scathing criticism by former referee turned Daily Mail columnist Graham Poll for his calls in England`s Euro 2012 clash with France but the criticism revealed more about Poll’s pro-England bias (which surely impacted his calls in the EPL) and less about Rizzoli’s abilities as a referee.

Rizzoli at World Cup 2014


Red Cards: 0
Yellow Cards: 10
Fouls: 105

Previous Matches

June 13, Match 3, Netherlands 5,  Spain 1Rizzoli was forced to contend with physical play in this match but failed to eject or caution Spain’s Diego Costa for a deliberate head butt to Holland’s Bruno Martin’s in the 54th minute. The offence should have also led to a red card but Rizzoli failed to punish Costa… He also awarded a highly questionable 25th-minute penalty kick to Spain ruling that Dutch defender Stefan de Vrij had fouled Costa. But it was clear that Costa dove on the play and went to ground deliberately as Rizzoli awarded the spot kick… Rizzoli also missed a foul on Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas who was body blocked by Holland’s Robin van Persie in the 64th minute as de Vrij got on the end of the cross scoring Holland’s third goal of the match in their 5-1 demolition of the defending champions. Instead Rizzoli awarded Casillas with the only yellow card of the match for protesting the decision. 

June 25, Match 41, Argentina 3, Nigeria 2: Lots of clutch-and-grab and poorly-timed challenges in this one as the referee’s foul and the caution totals should have been much greater … In the 19th minute Emmanuel Emenike complains to Rizzoli that he was held back by Argentina’s Pablo Zabaleta as no foul is called; 37th minute Argentina’s Javier Mascherano is called for a two-handed hold on opponent Emenike; At least Rizzoli gets points for consistency for calling a similar hold by John Obi Mikel on Kenneth Omeruo in the 43rd minute…Nigeria is awarded two quick yellow cards to start the second half. The first coming in the 48th minute for a mistimed challenged by Omeruo on Argentina’s Ezequeil Lavezzi and three minutes later Juwon Oshaniwa is cautioned for his late, lunging foul on Fernando Gago…67th minute Nigeria’s Peter Odemwingie gets a warning and is lucky not to be booked for his follow through on Mascherano…89th minute Argentina’s Ricardo Albarez is cleaned out with a late challenge from Oshaniwa but Rizzoli waves play and fails to issue a caution even after play is halted with both players lying on the ground suffering from the collision.

July 5, Match 59, Argentina 1, Belgium 0Rizzoli did a masterful job of maintaining order throughout the match despite mounting desperation by Belgium to erase Gonzalo Higuain’s 8th minute goal…. Eden Hazard of Belgium earned the first yellow card of the match in the 53rd minute after a wild swing and raised boot at the ankle of opponent Lucas Biglia…Biglia was again the victim of a harsh challenge 14 minutes later, this time by Toby Alderweireld who can consider himself fortunate for not being ejected from the match after raising his boot and making contact with his opponent’s knee…Biglia received his own yellow card in the 74th minute after a late challenge on Jan Vertonghen to the top right of the Argentina penalty area setting up a dangerous free kick by the Red Devils…Belgium defender Vincent Kompany was lucky not to go into Rizzoli’s note book for a late slide tackle on Ezequiel Lavezzi in the 59th minute. Luckily for Kompany, Rizzoli correctly ruled that the defender did make slight contact with the ball before bundling into Lavezzi…The Albicelestes’ patience with the referee from Italy begins to wear thin as Axel Witsel appears to trip up substitute Enzo Perez in the 62nd minute inside the Belgium penalty area but Rizolli waves play on…Argentina star striker Lionel Messi escaped discipline in the 19th minute after kneeing Witsel in the back during a challenge for a high ball…Rizzoli failed to award a free kick to Belgium in the 28th minute for Messi’s late challenge on Vertonghen…As has been the trend at the tournament Rizzoli refused to caution players for dives, simulation and feigning injury. The referee correctly waived play on but failed to caution Belgium’s Daniel van Buyten for his futile attempt to win a free kick – one of the worst at the tournament - in the second minute of injury time. 


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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25 thoughts on “Grace under pressure: Referee Rizzoli maintains order as Germany defeats Argentina in feisty World Cup final

  1. Nicola Rizzoli, what a terrible choice for the World Cup Final, Germany Argentina. Why a referee from Europe or South America? They have so many referees from other continents that I am sure more honest in their judgments.Schweinsteiger tackle Lionel Messi, this should have been a second yellow card and automatic ejection. The intent of Germany goalkeeper Neuer of making brutal contact with Higuain was on purpose, and of course ignored by Referee Rizzoli, plus a few other ignored times. For his bad performance I give a red card to Nicola Rizzoli.

    • 100 % concurr
      He showed his hand early when he refused yo give a red card as the Argentine player was kicked in the knee with clear intent and sealed his bias when he refused to call an obvious penalty against tje German Goalie after Kicking Higuain in the head, also with clear intent.
      The man was a disgrace for anotherwise great world cup!

      • Earlier there was the scene with Kramer (who got a blackout!) which should have been a penalty as well if you say that Neuer’s action (he clearly played the ball btw) was a foul. Also even before Schweinsteiger should have gotten his second yellow, two Argentine players should have been sent off after fouling Schweinsteiger because they were already on a yellow and fouled him pretty badly! The win was absolutely deserved and the ref did not favor Germany in any way!

        • Peter, do you agree with this article which says that “Replays of the incident however seem to indicate clear intent by Neuer to make contact with his opponent after punching away the ball.”?
          I’ve watched and re-watched the incident and I see no intent on Neuer’s part whatsoever. To me, it definitely looks like a legitimate intent to plat the ball. Therefore, no penalty. Please let me know. Thanks

          • Thanks for your response Joshua. I played keeper for 3 or 4 decades and I know how they are trained to be ruthless in such cases of high balls - it is sometimes a case of kill or be killed. I had one Scottish coach tell me to make sure when I came out to “lead with your knee Peter”. I feel the goalkeeper did little to avoid his opponent in this case though - and yes while he got to the ball - there was more interest in clattering into him with his knee than winning the ball in my humble opinion. I do not feel it was a penalty however, as I believe the actual contact by Neuer on his opponent occurred just outside the box. Looking for the contact is a dangerous way to play though as it can often lead to your own injury instead of your opponent’s. Overall I feel that the referees did little to protect player safety throughout the tournament including high boots to the head (which weren’t called or adequately punished, ask Clint Dempsey), slide tackles from behind (ask Costa Rican Joel Campbell), knees to the back (Neymar) and this incident is just one more example. While it made the play more exciting and led to fewer stoppages in play - it ran counter culture to all of FIFA’s changes to the rules in recent years and was completely unexpected. It is almost like they turned back the clock to the 1970s in application of the rules. Having said all of this maybe I misinterpreted this specific play because of all the dirty plays which proceeded it and others might agree more with your opinion - we all see the game differently, come from different generations, parts of the world and football cultures. I appreciate you pointing this out. Also it should be noted that Neuer is clearly one of the most gifted goalkeepers in the world today and should be commended by his overall performance but if he is actually playing with the above mentioned mentality it is a dangerous path to be on.

            • Red, thank you for your explanation. I really appreciate that. You said you feel it was not a penalty as Neuer clattered into Higuain outside of the box. Thank you for telling me that you believe Nicola Rizzoli made the correct judgement by not awarding a penalty. This is good to know. Especially, since you have decades of experience as a goal keeper. That carries a lot of weight in my opinion.

              And even the Buenos Aries Times sports writer agreed that it was not a penalty and he’s an Argie. He said “Rizzoli was probably right in evaluating that Neuer punched the ball away just inside his area…”

              After the match, Rizzoli said “it was not a penalty. Neuer reached the ball first. Gonzalo (Higuaín) complained at the moment but, when the match ended, as well as the other Argentines, he congratulated me for referring the match in a perfect way,”

              Having said this, do you think Rizzoli should have done anything different? Perhaps a yellow card? A red card? Sending Neuer off? Also, was it correct to give the Germans a free kick or should the Argies have gotten a throw in?

              After the match, Rizzoli admitted that he made a mistake conceding a goal kick because Higuaín did not “commit a foul against the German goalkeeper.”

              He said “I realized that when I saw the images of the match. I must admit my mistake.”

              Thanks Red.

              • Thanks for the link to the Buenosairesherald I didn’t know about this publication but will bookmark it and follow. The picture looks pretty damning though, even though Neuer got to the ball first you can see that his knee clearly makes contact with his opponent’s neck and head inside the box - I was certain it was outside. Luckily for his sake and Germany’s Neuer got to the ball first and the referee ruled that there was no intent to injure. Another referee could have decided that a knee towards an opponent’s head could be deemed dangerous play and therefore was a penalty…In seeing all the facts this is a tough decision for any referee to make and either outcome would have caused furious debate.

                • The picture is misleading…what it really shows is Neuer’s leg connecting with Higuain’s shoulder and Higuain’s head as a result of the impact leaning in the direction of Neuer’s knee, but there was never any contact between the knee and the head. There is a reason the only picture which circulates is the one where is still a little space between head and knee and none which shows an actual contact.

                  • Thanks swanpride for being the (only?) voice of sanity in here.

                    1. Neuer’s only intent is to reach the ball.

                    2. He punches the ball clearly inside the area.


                    3. This is the Romero-Klose incident, which is a prime example of dangerous play (had Klose not withdrawn his attempt, he might be in hospital today..)

                    (Warning: large GIF)

                    4. Higuain was as aware of Neuer as Klose was aware of Romero. See him here looking at Neuer twice just before the collision:

                    (again, Warning, a large GIF)

                    5. Neuer only focuses on the ball, whereas Higuain is blindly and foolishly running on without looking where he is running to, endangering both.

                    6. Higuain’s failure to look ahead results in him neither jumping for the ball nor withdrawing from the attempt, therefore undercutting Neuer and endangering himself and Neuer, too.

                    7. Had Neuer not raised his knee (as taught to all goalkeepers on the planet from day 1 of their training), he would have been sent somersaulting by Higuain, flying uncontrollably through the air.

                    8. Do I even need to mention this? Higuain and his co-players told Rizzoli they agree with the decision, and the Ref stands by his No-Foul-call. How obvious can it get?

                    And anyone who thinks this is comparable to Schumacher - no. Just no.

                    Schumacher didn’t give a damn about the ball. All Neuer does is homing in on the ball.

                    Schumacher (at least according to what I’ve read) was in a sort of roidrage, high on stuff and screaming himself to ever higher aggression during the game.

                    Schumacher didn’t care one bit about the health of Battiston, and only apologized days later. Neuer went to Higuain (after Higuain had lay down again after first standing up in anger and protesting) to check whether he was okay, and apologized for the heavy contact, which it certainly was.

                    A high speed collision without a foul - should have been a throw-in for Argentina.

                    At any rate, the most important result of this is: Neither Neuer nor Higuain were injured!

                    • Thanks for all the links…they are certainly good arguments.

                      Schumacher was in general a very offensive player, who was not above using force (this was 1970 after all, they had barely introduced cards and the games in general were more physical…not that this was a good thing, just as explanation why the ref might have come to the decision to give no no card). He later claimed that he couldn’t change the way he jumped, but I agree with the assessment that he jumped after the ball was already gone….I guess, it was similar to the Kramer situation. He wanted to intimidate Battiston, and hurt him worse than originally intended. He then didn’t show any remorse at all (he claims that he didn’t realize how worse the injuries were, but the jacket crown remark was delivered very arrogantly).

                      In any case, to compare those two situations is just insane. Schumacher was deliberately fouling. Neuer was clearly going for the Ball and was as much in danger as Higuain. Perhaps even worse. One shouldn’t forget that Neuer is still recovering from a shoulder injury and (even though it was not shown on TV it was commented on it) needed treatment on the pitch after a scuffle in the box shortly before the Higuain incident happened. If Neuer had landed unluckily on said shoulder, he might have been out of the game.

                    • Hi Bjorn, these are very interesting points. Thank you. One question though. In point 4. you said “Higuain was as aware of Neuer as Klose was aware of Romero. See him here looking at Neuer twice just before the collision.”
                      But when I saw your clip, I only saw Higuain looking at Neuer once. And what is the point you are making about Higuian looking at Neuer? Why is that important for this action not being Neuer’s fault?
                      Thank you

                    • Hello Joshua,

                      please have another look at this GIF:


                      You can see that during his run, Higuain is turning his head twice to check where Neuer is - once when the ball is in the air above Höwedes, and once when the ball is above Higuain.

                      If you cannot see it in normal speed, wait for the slow-mo to load. If you are using Chrome or Firefox, you can hold CTRL and use the mouse-wheel to zoom, as well.

                      The point of this is a counter-argument to statements which I have read on the Internets.

                      People claimed that Higuain was completely unaware of Neuer moving from the line, and deduced that Neuer raised his knee to intentionally knock Higuain out.

                      Complete nonsense, of course.

                      The truth, as previously explained, is that Higuain was very well aware of Neuer’s run, and carelessly ignored him by neither withdrawing from the challenge nor by making contact with the ball earlier, on its first bounce.

                      That is why the ball is free, and in nobody’s possession.

                      The next important question then becomes: who gets to the ball first?

                      And we know the answer to that.

  2. PS. I forgot to mention one important thing. Your reason for Neuer’s contact not being a penalty is because “the actual contact by Neuer on his opponent occurred just outside the box.”

    On the other hand, the Buenos Aires Times sports writer’s reason for Neuer’s contact not being a penalty is because “Neuer punched the ball away just inside his area.”

    And thirdly, Rizolli’s reason for not awarding a penalty is because as he says “Neuer reached the ball first.”

    All three of the above reasons for Neuer’s contact not being a penalty seem different in my opinion. Or are they? Is it possible to reconcile all three of these differing reasons? Or does the fact that there are three different reasons for not awarding a penalty make the case for not awarding a penalty even more solid?

  3. Thanks for the comments Red, but I am confused because I got two different answers from you.

    1)In your first answer, you said Neuer got to the ball first inside the area so this was not a PK.

    In your second answer you also suggest Neuer got to the ball first inside the penalty area and then contacted Higuan inside the box which could have been a PK.

    Since both your answers state Neuer got the ball within the penalty area, I am confused about the for and against PK argument. So could you please explain this discrepancy? The only reason Neuer contacted Higuian after getting to the ball, seems to be because of his momentum in the air. He couldn’t shift his body in midair and also, Higuain ploughed into Neuer.

    2)Even the Argentinian sports writer for the Buenos aires Times article says Rizzoli was probably correct in his decision that this was not a foul against Neuer, because he punched the ball away inside the penalty box.
    The Argentinian writer is a Argentine fan and would have wanted a penalty, but he seems to agree with Rizolli. Besides, he risks the ire of his fellow Argentines by publicly diasgreeing with their cries for a penalty in an “official” Argentine published newspaper. I’m not saying this makes it a non foul against Neuer, but it seems to be further agreement that it was not a PK.

    3) Finally, if Neuer’s play was dangerous and thus worthy of a PK, then shouldn’t previous instances of Argentine dangerous play such as that against Kramer who suffered a concussion also be considered red cards? And those against Scheweinsteiger too. It seems that if Neuer was penalised with a PK, this decision would have unbalanced the match since the ref did not penalise the Argies for previous fouls during the game. The ref’s decision seems equal and fair in that sense.

    Thanks for your answers.

    • One more thing. You said “I think it could have been a caution – getting to the ball first inside the area kept him clear for a PK but the clattering into his opponent part outside the area could have resulted in a yellow card.”

      I have watched and rewatched the event in question and to me it appears as if Neuer kneed Higuain outside the penalty area, not inside. Which would have meant no PK. Even if Neuer contacted Higuan inside the PK, this does not appear to be intentional as it seems that his momentum led him to this. He could not shift his body in midair. And could it not be argued that it was in fact Higuan who clattered into Neuer, since he challenged Neuer without looking?
      Here is a video of the contact.

      • Hi Red, I wondered what you thought about my 4 questions above? I’d be grateful for your reply and opinions. I did not ask these questions in order to argue or reject what you said. I asked them because I value your experience as a goal keeper and would like to know if you agree or disagree with me.
        Thanks again.

        • Hey Joshua - thanks for your interest on this issue. I think what I was meaning to say is similar to my response to Brente (see above). This had much to do with the notion of concussions and head injuries. Just because goalkeepers are trained to do this doesn’t make it right especially when there is intent to injure, especially with the current debate over head injuries and especially when it is contact with the head (re FIFA’s rule over dangerous play). You also need to see that this case was different as there clearly was more intent to ram his opponent then get the ball. Having said that what I meant to say was that some referees could have ruled differently on the play and decided that since there was a potential head injury involved and there was no need for the player to use his knee to clatter into his opponent’s face then he could have decided otherwise.

  4. Mr. Red (Reid?), I disagree. You said “Another referee could have decided that a knee (Neuer’s) towards an opponent’s head (Higuian’s) could be deemed dangerous play and therefore was a penalty.”

    No. There was clearly NO intent to injure. How can Neuer stop himself from kneeing Higuain in midair when it was his momentum that caused this? Do you expect him to disappear into thin air?

    I’m a GK. You may not know this, but all GKs are taught early on to raise the knee to gain height and most importantly, to protect vital organs. And being flipped midair and landing badly can also cause serious injury. A knee “up” motion prevents this. That’s what Neuer was doing instinctively. He clattered into Higuain only due to his midair momentum which was caused by going after the ball. A good ref knows this and takes it into consideration, just like Rizzolli did. well done Rizzoli.

    And what’s more, Higuain collided into Neuer’s path. It’s his responsibility to watch where he’s going and where the GK is going. Higuain should have avoided Neuer, just like Klose did in a similar one on one 50/50 situation earlier on, when Klose realised the Argentine GK would get to the ball first.

    Thirdly, Neuer punched the ball first. Inside the box. So it’s not a PK. This is key.

    So with these three facts, how can you seriously claim that Rizzoli’s non foul decision was wrong?

    • I also said this in one of my earlier responses - I know goalkeepers are trained to do this as was I. Just because goalkeepers are trained to do this doesn’t make it right especially when there is intent to injure, especially with the current debate over head injuries and especially when it is contact with the head (re FIFA’s rule over dangerous play). You also need to see that this case was different as there clearly was more intent to ram his opponent then get the ball. Having said that what I said was that some referees could have ruled differently on the play and decided that since there was a potential head injury involved and there was no need for the player to use his knee to clatter into his opponent’s face then he could have decided otherwise.

  5. What makes you think there was intent to injure though? I don’t see it. Could you explain?

    And besides, I’m not quite sure that Neuer was more interested in ramming Higuain. Could you elaborate? From the replay, it seems Neuer had both his eyes, as well as his body, focused on the ball.

    Look, if you had the intention to ram someone, especially from a vulnerable mid-air position, wouldn’t your body instinctively swerve or your muscles cringe at the last minute when you realised your opponent wasn’t going to budge? Neuer’s arm that punched away the ball right before he collided was straight as an arrow, and his erect abdomen, neck and straight shoulders did not hunch or cringe at the last minute, which attests to the fact that he had his eyes on the ball and wasn’t aware of any potential pain about to crash into him. I’ve done that often. Especially, when you’re in mid air, while your opponent is solidly charging at you. How does one expect to ram a solidly grounded opponent who’s charging at you, without being concerned about being made to pay for it in midair with a whole lot of pain? He wasn’t aware that he was about to collide with Higuain, because he had his eyes on the ball. No intent to injure there it seems to me.

    Argentine striker Higuain didn’t see Neuer coming at him either, because he had both eyes on the ball. And Neuer either had both his eyes on the ball too, and didn’t see the collision coming, or he saw he was about to get slammed by an unseeing Higuain. In the first scenario Neuer didn’t swerve, because he didn’t see Higuain coming, since he had both eyes on the ball, with no intent to injure, cos his only intent was to punch the ball. In the second scenario, if he knew Higuain was charging at him unknowingly, he would have swerved instinctively at the last minute, when he realised Higuain didn’t see him till the end and thus wouldn’t budge.

    In conclusion, both Neuer and Higuain went after the ball and made the mistake of losing sight of each other in the process. Both were careless, but there was no intent to injure and be injured in the process. Thus no penalty.

    These are my thoughts only. Sorry, if I’ve come across as if my word was final. I’d like to hear yours.

    • I value your opinion - and this debate goes to prove the game is seen through many lenses and interpreted differently by many. One of my main concerns is the lack of understanding by football officials to protect players from concussions and head injuries. Other sports including hockey and football (American), baseball have taken measures including rule changes to protect players while soccer lags behind. Though I can see your point that in your opinion the contact by Neuer may have been unavoidable. There may come a day when rules are adopted to discourage such collisions when they involve players knees going to head - possibly an adaptation of the dangerous play rules to more fully include goalkeepers in this category. Again many thanks for your thoughtful response.

  6. Thanks for your explanation that your main reason for deeming this dangerous play is because of your concern over Fifa rules that don’t protect players from head injuries.
    So, do you think that the reason why Rizzoli did not consider Neuer’s dangerous play to be a foul, was because Fifa’s rules still tolerate such intent to cause injury?

    • Sorry for the delay in my response I was doing a road trip up the BC Coast and haven’t had access to my blog for a couple of days. I believe eventually the game needs to evolve and the rules need to be applied differently to protect player safety - especially with head injuries. The rules are there - to an extent - already about dangerous play - though have more to do with boots and not knees to the head - and could have even been applied in this case depending on the referee.

  7. BC? British Columbia sounds nice. Are you Canadian? I thought you may have been American.

    Since you say that another referee could have decided this was a penalty, this means the rules about dangerous play can be interpreted differently? As was the case in this particular situation. Since one ref could say it wasn’t a foul (as Rizolli did), while another could have said it was a foul? This seems even more to be the case since even the Argentine sports reporter for the Buenos Aires Times said it probably wasn’t a foul. If the rules were clearly defined, this Argentine reporter probably would have loved to support his team by firmly stating that it was a foul, but he says it probably wasn’t. This was actually what I was trying to ask.

  8. Your assessment of the Neuer/Higuain incident is BS.
    1. Show me a picture of Neuer’s knee actually connecting with Higuain’s head. You won’t find any, because what actually happened was that Higuain run with his shoulder into Neuer’s leg, plugging him out of the air.
    2. I really don’t see any intent from Neuer. He goes after the ball the way keepers are trained to do, with the knee drawn to their bodies in order to prevent injury. (They are not trainer, though, to go after the ball with a stretched out leg like Romero did at the other side of the field, nearly taking Klose’s head off…thankfully Klose is to cautious to run into such situations, and too honest to use the opportunity to create a penalty).
    3. If you consider the direction in which the two players fell (more or less parallel to the line of the box), it is obviously that Higuain runs into Neuer, not the other way around. If Neuer had impacted into him, the force of his jump would have send the two in the direction in which he jumped, not the direction.
    4. It is not true that Argentina started fouling after the incident…they did it all along, but for some reason Rizzoli opted for just cautioning them, while punishing Germany immediately.

    You know, I originally thought that Rizzoli got it wrong when he decided that Higuain was fouling Neuer, and that a trow-in would have been the right decision. But after rewatching it again and again in order to spot the ominous “knee in the head”, I think he actually got it right in this instance. The ball came from the left side, so Higuain must have been aware of Neuer going after it, unless he has no perifal vision whatsoever. But he opted on risking crashing into the keeper, and when he did, he was going down and holding his head, which was never hit, spoiling for a penalty.

    All in all…Rizzoli slightly favoured the Argentinian side in the first half, but not overly so. I can see why the foul on Kramer was overlooked, or that he might have senn the scene in which Müller was pulled down in the box by his shirt to prevent him from a header from a unfortunate angle. I was okay with his performance up to the point when it became clear that he was reluctant to pull the second yellow. After that, the German players were free game. The last straw was the injury to Schweinsteiger. No card given, Schweinsteiger is forced to leave the pitch for treatment and Germany is down to ten man in a delicate phase of the game with no fault of their own.

    All in all it is a good thing that Germany made the goal in the end.

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