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Referee Diego Abal waves away protests after the first of two bad penalty calls.
For the second game in a row, Italy was saddled with an absolutely terrible refereeing performance. Chile's Enrique Osses had a terrible game in Sunday's 2-1 victory against Mexico, but Argentinian arbiter Diego Abal took that performance and cranked the inadequacy up to 11.
The penalty call against Gianluigi Buffon in the 20th minute was one of the worst in recent memory. Buffon clearly gained the ball when making a sliding challenge against Keisuke Honda following a bad back pass from Mattia De Sciglio, but Abal pointed to the spot and booked the Italy captain to boot on a completely legal play.
It wasn't just the Italians that were victimized by Abal's incompetence. Makoto Hasebe's sliding block of a shot by Sebastian Giovinco bounced off the bottom of his leg and then hit his outstretched arm as it went by.
Abal heeded Italian appeals and pointed to the spot, and Mario Balotelli—who has never missed a penalty for club or country—gave Italy a 3-2 lead.
It was hard luck for Hasebe, who argued that there was no way he could have gotten his arm out of the way. His arm was in what could be considered an unnatural position, and the call is arguably a more legitimate one than the one against Buffon, but it was still a weak penalty—almost a makeup call.
Abal and his crew also missed several out-of-bounds calls, with both teams having legitimate appeals for corners waved away when an Andrea Barzagli deflection and an Eiji Kawashima touch both went unnoticed.
Both Abal and Osses are from South America, where referees have a reputation for blowing their whistles a bit quicker than European officials do. But both of these referees had deeper problems then those differences.
If either gets another appointment in this tournament FIFA will lose a lot of credibility, even more so if they come anywhere near a World Cup match next season.
One thing is certain: Attention needs to be paid to the officials for the rest of this tournament.