I would like to officially call this the Year of the Ref. Chineses calendars are often named after different animals but this year’s World Cup, rather than celebrating the wonders of Africa (given that few African teams did anything of import), is the year that the refs really blew it. Or didn’t, given that the refs have not blown their whistles when they needed to. Seriously, it’s a shame but the top two stories of the World Cup should have nothing to do with the game: the silly, vuzevelas and the refs who don’t seem to be watching the same game as the rest of us.
Yesterday, the Germans and the English renewed their multiple World War battle on the pitch, and the Germans immerged victorious this time. But the goal that was disallowed in the first half, which would’ve drawn the English even, may be the most talked about game even when five others were scored. In the second game, Mexico seemed to have their emotional back broken when a header by Carlos Tevez in the twenty-sixth minute put Argentina ahead even though Tevez was offside by light years. Honestly, it’s hard to know what the linesman was looking at, because he clearly had enough grass between Tevez and the Mexican defenders to see the difference (if he was looking). But the English are still hoping they install hockey technology in the goals for 2014, because Frank Lampard’s disallowed ball clearly broke the plane of the goal!
Today, things got off to a less controversial start, with the Netherlands slipping by Slovakia 2-1. If Jan Mucha hadn’t surrendered the empty net goal, Robert Vittek’s penalty kick in extra time might’ve tied it up and sent it into extra time, but the dream run by the Slovakian team came to a sudden halt. Some how, even in defeat, they sounded happier to be here than the Americans who exited at the same stage in the competition. Maybe attitude has something to do with it, or maybe knowing that you played your socks off to get here has that affect. Either way, the Dutch know they’ll have to play better to beat Brazil, which seemed a presumed winner before the match with Chile even started.
Brazil seemed to have an obvious complaint when the English ref allowed the Chilean player to scissor kick Michel Bastos from the ground without foul, but given Bastos’ diving, the “Peter cried ‘wolf!’” scenario seems to be in play. Juan and Luis Fabiano each scored to put Chile in the hole by the half, just like their qualifier match. It seems like Brazil has an extra gear that they’re just waiting to turn on, and one has to wonder if the same team will show up against Portugal that tied in their final group match.
Either way the road to the quarterfinals ends, it’s a shame that the beautiful game won’t be remembered nearly as much as the bad calls, non-calls, and forfeited opportunities. Playing the game is one thing, but it’s like playing with the neighborhood kids and finding out that the rules change moment-by-moment. C’mon, FIFA, get your head in the game!