19th FIFA World Cup - South Africa 2010
11 June to 11 July 2010
ROUND OF 16
So the ire surrounding the officiating simply isn't going to go away. Take this comment (found originally on the Day 17 Musings) from one of FanNation's most esteemed members:
Bigalke, pointing to previous errors in officiating does not mitigate the blown current blown calls at all. Neither does contending that they likely wouldn't have mattered in the end.
1E/NETHERLANDS 2, 2F/SLOVAKIA 1
Moses Mabhida Stadium - Durban
Arjen Robben, the attacking midfield maestro for Bayern Munich in Germany, returned to the starting lineup for the Netherlands after spending the group stage recuperating from pre-Cup injuries and paid out near-immediate dividends for the Oranje. He took just one shot in the first half, but it proved a scorcher that Slovak keeper Jan Mucha was unable to handle and put the Dutch up 1-0 eighteen minutes into the contest. Robben, speeding down the center of the pitch, beat two defenders for a ball skidding forward from midfield. Running along, he maintained superb control before slowing, taking a few steps left and teeing up his left foot for the ground-hugging blast past Mucha. It was a stunning piece of individual imagination that left Slovakia clawing the rest of the way for an equalizer.
There was nothing controversial about this win today. Not even the most soccer-hating sports fan could find fault with the timing and tenacity of Robben as he put his country into the lead. He very nearly used his left foot to get a second five minutes after halftime, collecting a rebound on the right and charging in toward goal before shooting just wide. And when his teammate for Holland (and counterpart as quarterback for fellow Champions League finalist Inter Milan) Wesley Sneijder bolted into the box and ran right onto Dirk Kuyt's pass for the second Dutch goal to pad their lead, it was another faultless goal that allowed us to focus on the players rather than the man with the cards in his pocket. It looked like we were going to go without any controversy for a change...
... so when Alberto Undiano Mallenco -- the same Spanish referee who dealt Miroslav Klose two dubious yellow cards in Germany's 1-0 loss against Serbia in group play -- pointed to the spot for Slovakia on what was a pretty tame penalty against Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg, it was the last chance for the referee to inject himself into the nightly news. It would prove a pretty tame "foul" that Stekelenburg committed against Slovak substitute Martin Jakubko, but it did allow Slovakia to get on the board in the last play before the final whistle.
Is this a Tim Donaghey moment? Was Undiano helping to cover the spread? Will the fact that Slovakia even got the penalty kick cause more people like yesterday's comment-poster to bolt from the sport? I highly doubt this call incites the same kind of ire that other ones did, even though it resulted in a referee-influenced final score... though it ultimately looks far more suspicious than the genuine way in which Neuer was able to fool Jorge Larrionda or the recognition by Roberto Rosetti that his job, despite the protestations of the Mexicans, is to keep his eyes on the field and not the video screens in the stadium...
1G/BRAZIL 3, 2H/CHILE 0
Ellis Park - Johannesburg
Howard Webb, on the other hand, made all the right moves in the match he officiated in Ellis Park. When he reached for his yellow card in the 30th minute to book Kaka for a blatant foul -- the Brazilian, coming directly at Arturo Vidal and with the ball right there ready for the plucking, instead went straight for the left shin of the Chilean -- nobody could argue with his decision in the instance. It would be the only time either team would force him to reach for his pocket in the first half.
The opening goal by Brazil was a masterpiece of their flair and world-beating ability on set pieces. Maicon, stepping into a corner kick, lofted the ball expertly into the box. Juan, his counterpart at left back, was pressed forward in the box and tucked right behind a wall of fellow Brazilian players. Shielded thusly from the Chilean defense, Juan was left unmarked and got his head to the corner, getting just enough arc on the dipping shot to loft it above the outstretched fingertips of keeper Claudio Bravo and back down into the net.
Four minutes later, Brazil once again cracked Chile's defenses. At first glance it looked like this might have been a Rosetti moment for Webb, as Kaka took the pass from Robinho out wide and one-touched it between the center backs to Luis Fabiano. The striker walked the ball around Bravo and tapped it into the goal to double the lead... but was he offside? Chile immediately began protesting -- of course, with FIFA's dubious decision to keep replays off the screens in South African stadiums henceforth, they couldn't point to the video a la Mexico and argue with tangible evidence. But had the video been replayed there in Johannesburg, it would have shown Luis Fabiano level with the last defender, a superb bit of timing by the forward and a phenomenal job by both Webb and his linesmen.
And then, into the second half, the Selecao refused to let up against their fellow South Americans, keeping the pressure up as they sealed their quarterfinal spot and a continued run toward a potential sixth world title. A phenomenal run down the spine of the field by Ramires saw him step back to allow Robinho the screaming finisher. An hour into the match, it was already well over. By the whistle, we were left without a doubt that it was the talent disparity and not the man who just might be the best referee in soccer at the moment who decided this outcome...