FIFA To Blame For USA and Germany Missed Wins
Less than two days ago, I compiled a list of World Cup predictions following the first round of group play in South Africa.
One of those predictions stated that at least one referee will incontrovertibly affect a game negatively before the end of the tournament.
Well, it didn't take long to occur.
First, it was Alberto Undiano Mallenco who decided Germany's and Serbia's fair play involved a little too much "heavy breathing" for his liking, so he showed nine yellows and one red card, punishing a starting roster worth of players.
Does anyone even recall a single bad tackle in the game? Did any of the interactions among players on the field call for such harsh actions, or was Mr Mallenco intent on working out his card-holding hand?
No more than two yellow cards were deserved. The second given to Miroslav Klose, which resulted in his dismissal and an automatic one game suspension, was so laughable that perhaps Serbia were surprised.
Germany won its first group game and are odds on favorites to win Group C. USA were clipped in a way that may hamper their flight to the eliminators.
Koman Coulibaly from Mali - it even rhymes well - made such questionable decisions at the USA vs. Slovenia game that it prompted players on the field to wonder what was being called.
The single worst officiating decision at this World Cup came minutes before the final whistle of the game (even this was not properly blown) when Maurice Edu put the ball in the back of the net following a Donovan right cross, only to see it disallowed.
USA quickly swarmed the official, but were not granted any explanation.
Speculation suggests a foul was called against USA, but replays showed Slovenia's pulls against Carlos Bocanegra and Michael Bradley were far worse and might have resulted in a USA penalty.
It has been argued that a side assistant wrongly signaled an offside.
So, no goal, no penalty, and a USA comeback quashed.
Giving interviews for ESPN, coach Bradley and Landon Donovan seemed dismayed and confused about Koman Coulibaly's call.
We may never learn the exact call that denied USA victory. The question must be asked whether the incompetent officiating stems from the referees or the FIFA instructions given to them.
I am not suggesting that the Malian official of the USA vs Slovenia game was instructed by FIFA to obstruct USA.
However, I am suggesting that the FIFA directives have resulted in too strict refereeing which penalises physical play.
In the first round, teams played very conservative football. With few exceptions, everyone was on the defensive.
Without the pressure of elimination, the competition of opening games was tepid.
Fans soon recognized how quick referees were to penalise when play heated up.
Every semi-harsh tackle was cautioned and every push and shove earned a free kick.
The second games carried the threat of elimination and tensions bred friction.
Referees are failing to distinguish physical from illegal play.
Mallenco and Coulibaly made mistakes, all officials do.
But FIFA made a mistake too.
And it is time for them to readdress its officials, before things get out of hand and instead of enjoying this fiesta of world football and cultural diversity we ill be forced to watch referees marring games.
The best referee is the one whose name you do not remember at the end of 90 minutes.
FIFA should stick to that slogan.
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