Germany 2006 has been a spectacular event so far, however like any major sporting tournament the officiating has come under close scrutiny with the list of contenders to referee the final in Berlin getting shorter with each new controversy.
The biggest error made so far has been that of English referee Graham Poll, when he failed to send Croatia’s Josip Simunic off after his second yellow card, only marching the defender after a third caution.
Rather than being a question of the referee’s interpretation of the rules, this was just a blatant and potentially costly human error, with Andreas Werz, spokesman for FIFA’s referees’ committee, all but sealing Poll’s fate.
“Under normal circumstances, he would not take charge of any other matches at this World Cup,” Werz said.
Fans hold up a card of their own
Poll’s German counterpart Markus Merk who came under fire from Amercian coaching staff after his handling of the USA v Ghana match in which a dubious penalty was awarded to Ghana, is another who may have had his final chances dashed.
“That was a big call. That was a key part of the game. We have control of the game and we go in behind by a goal,” said USA coach Bruce Arena.
“That’s tough. It’s a tough one to deal with,” he added, about the man who officiated the Euro 2004 final between Greece and Portugal.
In terms of setting new heights in refereeing controversy, Russian referee Valentin Ivanov now holds the record for most cautions and most red cards in a World Cup Finals match after showing 16 yellows resulting in 4 reds in the match between Portugal and the Netherlands.
Even FIFA President Sepp Blatter commented on Ivanov’s performance saying the refereeing itself “deserves a yellow card”.
“The referee’s actions harmed what could have been an excellent football match,” Blatter added.
Brazilian referee Carlos Simon
Spanish referee Luis Cantalejo, who handled the Australia v Italy match may also come under scrutiny for his questionable straight red card to Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the second half, and then his awarding of a highly dubious penalty to Italy in the dying seconds of the match.
If World Cup tradition continues, then Argentinean referee Horacio Elizondo is also out of the running for the final as he held the whistle in the opening match of the tournament, and hence will not do so in the final, however with so many other whistleblowers now with marks against their names, tradition may give way to necessity.
As for the referees who are left, Slovakia’s Lubos Michel or Brazil’s Carlos Simon could be the man with the whistle in the big match, however as the current World Champions get closer to making the final, the slimmer Simon’s chances get of controlling the match as under FIFA rules the referee cannot be from the same nation as either of the finalists.
With Slovakia not qualifying for Germany 2006, Michel has the all clear for the final, and with a good background in big international matches he could be FIFA’s man in the middle in Berlin on the 9th of July.