May 29, 2013

Referee Designations for World Cup Qualifiers (UEFA zone, June 2013)

Today, FIFA has unveiled the referee designations for June's World Cup qualifiers in UEFA zone including Slovenian Damir Skomina's assignment for the vitally important Group F clash between Portugal and Russia.

Damir Skomina to oversee Portugal - Russia (c) ZIMBIO

Group A
07 June 2013, 21:15 CET, Zagreb
Croatia – Scotland
Referee: David Fernández Borbalán (ESP)
Assistant Referee 1: Raúl Cabañero Martínez (ESP)
Assistant Referee 2: Jesús Calvo Guadamuro (ESP)
Fourth Official: Carlos Clos Gómez (ESP)

Group A
07 June 2013, 21:45 CET, Brussels
Belgium – Serbia
Referee: Stéphane Lannoy (FRA)
Assistant Referee 1: Frédéric Cano (FRA)
Assistant Referee 2: Michaël Annonier (FRA)
Fourth Official: Ruddy Buquet (FRA)

Group B
07 June 2013, 18:00 CET, Yerevan
Armenia – Malta
Referee: Arnold Hunter (NIR)
Assistant Referee 1: Eamonn Shanks (NIR)
Assistant Referee 2: Richard Storey (NIR)
Fourth Official: Mark Courtney (NIR)

Group B
07 June 2013, 20:45 CET, Prague
Czech Republic – Italy
Referee: Svein Oddvar Moen (NOR)
Assistant Referee 1: Kim Thomas Haglund (NOR)
Assistant Referee 2: Frank Andås (NOR)
Fourth Official: Svein Erik Edvartsen (NOR)

Group B
11 June 2013, 21:15 CET, Copenhagen
Denmark – Armenia
Referee: Aleksei Nikolaev (RUS)
Assistant Referee 1: Oleg Tselovalnikov (RUS)
Assistant Referee 2: Dmitry Mosyakin (RUS)
Fourth Official: Mikhail Vilkov (RUS)

Group C
07 June 2013, 20:45, Vienna
Austria – Sweden
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (ITA)
Assistant Referee 1: Elenito Di Liberatore (ITA)
Assistant Referee 2: Gianluca Cariolato (ITA)
Fourth Official: Mauro Bergonzi (ITA)

Group C
07 June 2013, 20:45 CET, Dublin
Ireland – Faroe Islands
Referee: Mattias Gestranius (FIN)
Assistant Referee 1: Mikko Alakare (FIN)
Assistant Referee 2: Marko Hänninen (FIN)
Fourth Official: Dennis Antamo (FIN)

Group C
11 June 2013, 20:15 CET, Solna
Sweden – Faroe Islands
Referee: Nikolay Yordanov (BUL)
Assistant Referee 1: Ivan Valchev (BUL)
Assistant Referee 2: Veselin Dobriyanov (BUL)
Fourth Official: Stanislav Todorov (BUL)

Group E
07 June 2013, 17:30 CET, Geneva
Switzerland – Cyprus
Referee: Paolo Mazzoleni (ITA)
Assistant Referee 1: Mauro Tonolini (ITA)
Assistant Referee 2: Riccardo Di Fiore (ITA)
Fourth Official: Luca Banti (ITA)

Group E
07 June 2013, 20:30 CET, Tirana
Albania – Norway
Referee: William Collum (SCO)
Assistant Referee 1: William Conquer (SCO)
Assistant Referee 2: Martin Cryans (SCO)
Fourth Official: Robert Madden (SCO)

Group E
07 June 2013, 21:00 CET, Reykjavik
Iceland – Slovenia
Referee: Felix Zwayer (GER)
Assistant Referee 1: Detlef Scheppe (GER)
Assistant Referee 2: Mike Pickel (GER)
Fourth Official: Christian Dingert (GER)

Group F
07 June 2013, 19:00 CET, Baku
Azerbaijan – Luxembourg
Referee: Mihaly Fabián (HUN)
Assistant Referee 1: István Albert (HUN)
Assistant Referee 2: Peter Berettyan (HUN)
Fourth Official: Sándor Andó-Szabó (HUB)

Group F
07 June 2013, 22:45 CET, Lisbon
Portugal – Russia
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN)
Assistant Referee 1: Matej Žunič (SVN)
Assistant Referee 2: Bojan Ul (SVN)
Fourth Official: Slavko Vinčič (SVN)

Group G
07 June 2013, 18:30 CET, Riga
Latvia – Bosnia-Herzegovina
Referee: Mike Dean (ENG)
Assistant Referee 1: Stuart Burt (ENG)
Assistant Referee 2: Peter Kirkup (ENG)
Fourth Official: Martin Atkinson (ENG)

Group G
07 June 2013, 20:45 CET, Vilnius
Lithuania – Greece
Referee: Olegário Benquerença (POR)
Assistant Referee 1: Ricardo Santos (POR)
Assistant Referee 2: João Santos (POR)
Fourth Official: Manuel De Sousa (POR)

Group G
07 June 2013, 21:00 CET, Vaduz
Liechtenstein – Slovakia
Referee: Martin Strömbergsson (SWE)
Assistant Referee 1: Henrik Andrén (SWE)
Assistant Referee 2: Daniel Gustavsson (SWE)
Fourth Official: Martin Hansson (SWE)

Group H
07 June 2013, 20:15 CET, Chisinau
Moldova – Poland
Referee: Fernando Teixeira Vitienes (ESP)
Assistant Referee 1: Victoriano Díaz Casado (ESP)
Assistant Referee 2: Teodoro Sobrino Magán (ESP)
Fourth Official: Javier Estrada Fernández (ESP)

Group H
07 June 2013, 21:30 CET, Podgorica
Montenegro – Ukraine
Referee: Manuel Gräfe (GER)
Assistant Referee 1: Thorsten Schiffner (GER)
Assistant Referee 2: Guido Kleve (GER)
Fourth Official: Florian Meyer (GER)

Group I
07 June 2013, 18:00 CET, Helsinki
Finland – Belarus
Referee: Eli Hacmon (ISR)
Assistant Referee 1: Shabtai Nahmias (ISR)
Assistant Referee 2: Dvir Shimon (ISR)
Fourth Official: Menashe Masiah (ISR)

Group I
11 June 2013, 19:00 CET, Gomel
Belarus – Finland
Referee: Libor Kovarik (CZE)
Assistant Referee 1: Krystof Mencl (CZE)
Assistant Referee 2: Jiri Molaček (CZE)
Fourth Official: Radek Matejek (CZE)
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May 28, 2013

South American fitness debacle in Rio de Janeiro seminar

FIFA's Refereeing Officer Massimo Busacca probably could not believe what he had to notice in yesterday's fitness tests having been a crucial part of this week's seminar for pre-selected referees in Rio de Janeiro. On their road to next year's World Cup, a total number of eight out of ten pre-selected South Americans as well as one standby referee from Brazil (Heber Lopes) have failed the tests.

At least nine of them failed the yo-yo-tests (c)
According to the news provided by Árbitro Internacional, Diego Abal (ARG), Antonio Arias (PAR), Víctor Carrillo (PER), Heber Lopes (BRA), Raul Orosco (BOL), Juan Soto (VEN), Martin Vazquez (URU) and Carlos Vera (ECU) have failed the yo-yo-test. Additionally Brazilian Sandro Ricci suffered from an injury during the test and therefore failed it as well.
Only Enrique Osses (CHI), Néstor Pitana (ARG) and Wilmar Roldán (COL) have passed it. 

It is only another episode of failed fitness tests in South American refereeing. Before Lopes and Ricci, Brazilian officials Wilson Seneme and Leandro Vuaden had already failed to be physically ready for next year's World Cup to be hosted in their nation. Furthermore, Roberto Silvera (URU) was removed from the prospective list due to injuries, too.

In the end it is unclear how FIFA is going to deal with these circumstances. In fact, all the referees who were originally planned for June's Under-20 World Cup have failed the test. Thus it is quite probable that they get a second chance to repeat the tests.
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"The players helped me to fade from the spotlight", Rizzoli tells Gazzetta dello Sport

After his presence in 2013 UEFA Champions League final, Italian official Nicola Rizzoli spoke with Italy's biggest sports newspaper, Gazzetta dello Sport, about his emotions and impressions collected at Wembley Stadium.

Nicola Rizzoli urging Mario Mandzukic (c)
Gazzetta: Tell us about your feelings during the match.
Rizzoli: There was a quite calm atmosphere. The players were really fair and they helped me to fade from the spotlight, I whistled only 17 fouls. After the final whistle, I cried, I was sure of having shown a good performance on the pitch, but I was waiting for Pierluigi Collina’s words. He came in my room and after a few seconds of silence, he said: “Good, Nicola, you were good along with your whole team. Now it’s time to celebrate and enjoy. You deserve that.“

Gazzetta: You have frequently given advantages.
Rizzoli: Stopping an action is often a pity: football is nice especially when it’s fluent, without interruptions. A referee has not always this chance, but in this match I noticed that it was possible.

Gazzetta: In serie A, it’s different.
Rizzoli: It’s a problem of culture. When our teams play in UEFA competitions, they also change their styles, focusing on the respect for the opponent. A player knows that a red card might mean several matches of ban, so he is careful. There aren’t exaggerated complaints. Everything is easy.

Gazzetta: Hearing your words, it seems that a CL final is easier than a serie A match.
Rizzoli: Yes, it’s true. Of course, we can’t compare the importance and the pressure of this final with other matches, nevertheless in serie A from a technical point of view, I have more difficulties.

Gazzetta: Other memories from “your” Wembley final?
Rizzoli: At the end of the game, Robben talked to me, saying: “You deserved this final, and you were really good.” I’m quite able to play football but sometimes I envy those players, they are really champions. Robben, Schweinsteiger and Reus were my favourite players in this final.

Gazzetta: The most difficult decision of the match?
Rizzoli: Penalty to Borussia Dortmund, even though it can appear clear on TV, it wasn’t. I had not a free view on the pitch, Reus was obstructing me. I was able to understand the situation also thanks to my experience.

Gazzetta: Klopp asked for a second YC to Dante.
Rizzoli: To be honest, he congratulated me. Anyway, I understand that we can discuss about this situation. It appeared to me as an unintentional foul. It was a negligence by Dante, and according to rules, this is not a YC. You must give the second YC only when you are really sure. Some people say that when you whistle a penalty, the card must be mandatory. Stupid and false sentence. Furthermore, the action didn’t appear to me as potentially important for Borussia Dortmund.

Gazzetta: What about the situation between Ribery and Lewandowski in the first half?
Rizzoli: Yes, I might have booked them, but in those cases the referees must calm down the players, not exasperating them. It’s a better choice. They immediately had a clarification and nothing happened. In second half it was different, therefore I booked Ribery and Großkreutz.

Gazzetta: The first goal scored by Bayern is an excellent call due to a very difficult onside position.
Rizzoli: Yes, thank to this man here close to me (Faverani).
Faverani: I have to admit that I was lucky. I was focused on Mandzukic, he was in an offside position. Ribery decided to pass the ball to Robben, at first he also appeared to be offside to me, but I waited because I evaluated the speed of the action, and I thought that he was in a regular position. And that was correct, I decided by intuition.

Gazzetta: Your next goals?
Rizzoli: 200 matches in serie A, and Brazil 2014.

Gazzetta: You are going to fly to Rio de Janeiro with Rocchi.
Rizzoli: Yes, we have a FIFA meeting on the road to WC 2014.

Gazzetta: A lot of time has passed since your first match as referee.
Rizzoli: Yes, and I would like to meet again a man who 25 years ago said to me: “You can’t referee, you are not able to do that. I know important people in our association (AIA). I will make you stop refereeing.”
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May 27, 2013

Mixed echo after Rizzoli's final performance

When Nicola Rizzoli blew the final whistle after 94 minutes of high-quality football played by triumphant Bayern München as well as unlucky Borussia Dortmund, all the tension that had pressed on the Italian referee's shoulders immediately declined. The 41 year-old architect of Mirandola furthermore admitted that he had been moved to tears as even Dortmund's fans applauded for the Italian officiating crew. Even Pierluigi Collina seemed delighted having come to their dressing room after the match. But, was really everything that rosy?

Rizzoli himself was content with the decisions he had taken, at least according to an interview he gave to an Italian newspaper that will appear tomorrow on this blog as a copy, too. 
As pointed out in the two unofficial referee observer's reports you can find on the right hand-side of this blog, there have been several game-relevant incidents and, from our point of view, the referee failed to issue at least two sending-offs. Among others, Franck Ribery, who was directly involved in both Bayern goals, should have been red-carded after a violent punch into Robert Lewandowski's face in the midst of the first half.
Without any doubt, the match seemed to be under control. Football savoured the absolute focus and surely, there has been rarely such an open-minded and tense final in recent history. But does the end justify the means? Is a match fair and well-controlled by the referee as soon as 22 players, 11 vs. 11, are combatting for the win on the pitch? Even if one or two of them qualify for being sent off? I doubt that. Yes the match would have suffered from an early red card to the Frenchman. And yes, you can superficially call the missed but actually mandatory yellow card to Dante, which would have meant his expulsion, kind of "match feeling". However neutral observers should not be interested in such thoughts. The Laws of the Game also count in a final of the most popular football league of the world. Violent conducts are red. No matter when, where and against whom the card might go. Specially Pierluigi Collina should know that best.

Rizzoli calming down Mandzukic verbally (c) ZIMBIO
Großkreutz and Ribery both deserved a caution (c) ZIMBIO
Oops: mind your positioning... (c) ZIMBIO
...or did he just want to play? ;)
A proud final team (c) Twitter AIA

Finally, a short overview on the "third half" of the match: Rizzoli's performance attracted a mixed medial echo in the aftermath of the match.

Markus Merk, former top referee, was one of many who had their say on Rizzoli's performance:
"Yellow for both would have been mandatory, red for Ribery possible.", referring to the Ribery vs. Lewandowski incident.

Two times World Cup referee Graham Poll was more critical:
"The game was a superbly entertaining encounter, one of the best finals at the new Wembley and therein lies the problem: the perspective that it is better to watch 22 players contesting a game than 11 v 10 or even 11 v 9. This leads to referees being guided to ‘keep 22 players on the pitch’, particularly in a showpiece final. [...] 
Ribery, trying to shrug off his opponent, threw his arm back into him, clearly striking Lewandowski in the face. It was as clear a red-card offence as you will see — and in full view of Rizzoli. Incredibly, the Italian referee did not even caution the Frenchman. Had it not been the final, I would expect UEFA to charge Ribery retrospectively. [...] 
We would all rather be talking about the absorbing match rather than referee errors but if a competition is going to be affected by what UEFA call ‘brutality’, as it was when Nani was dismissed at Old Trafford, then it should be done consistently — even if it affects the final.", these are the words of a referee, who himself needed three yellow cards to finally send off a Croatian player at World Cup 2006, who mostly heralds quite exclusive point of views in his column, but who - this time - hits the nail right on the head (source).

Borussia Dortmund manager Klopp reacted shortly after the game:
"I saw it in the game and I was sure you can give a second yellow card and when I saw it on television I thought you had to give it. But in the history of football there were refereeing decisions worse than this. 11 against 10 after that we are the winner? I don't know.", Klopp stated with regard to Dante's foul leading to the penalty. Words, which should close the chapter "Refereeing in CL final 2013" in a conciliatory manner.
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May 24, 2013

Deliberate Handball - THE Grey Area

In defiance of all those topics football’s lawmakers of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) have recently put on the agenda of things to be urgently discussed – mostly for political reasons –, the probably most apparent controversy is still remaining untouched: the question of what the term “deliberate handball” means at all.

Handball yes - but also deliberate, chargeable handball? (c) focus

In the past, many examples have shown that there has been no real consistency and uniformity in terms of handball and its assessment in situations occurring in the penalty area. That’s because the Laws of the Game define a package of criteria that must be applied when assessing these situations, e.g. the hand position, the hand movement or the distance between the shot ball and the player’s hand. Parts of this criteria can be fulfilled, while other parts of them can work in opposite direction. A process of weighing up has to be induced, which is similar to almost every tough decision you face in life. The problem: referees have no respite, they have to take these decisions based on their weighing up in a self-confident and convinced manner after mostly very little seconds, if at all.
Handball situations are not “black-and-white”, they require a profound and individual assessment, they depend on the referee’s feeling and grasp for the game. In the interest of football and its players, it is merely good that not every contact between hand and ball must be penalized – contrary to other kinds of sports. Though it must be achieved that teams, players and even supporters can comprehend the referee’s decision and that they do not perceive them as pure arbitrariness. In the same league, in the same competition and within the same federation, predictable and reliable decisions must be taken with regard to handball. It is happening too often that quite similar handballs are ruled as an infringement and entail a penalty kick in the one match, while another referee is waiving play-on in another match at another venue. National federations and, above all, UEFA and FIFA must ensure uniform instructions and an improved coaching of their referees by analyzing more material like video-footage to create a harmonious feeling for what handball is really deliberate, intentional and therefore chargeable among their officials, who are otherwise left out in the rain.
Solely simpliying this rule will undermine the foresight and prudence that are aspired by the differentiated assessment of in-box handball situations. In this specific case (and contrary to other cases), more uniform instructions for referees seem to be the best solution. And, what is even more relevant, dear lawmakers and federations: explain your instructions to the referees, teams, players and supporters to gain more comprehension and approval.
Besides that, it is good that those grey areas linger on – if they did not, what would we discuss about?
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Prideful Rizzoli thrilled by Wembley duty

Nicola Rizzoli will be unable to repeat his usual mantra ahead of Saturday's game between FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund. "Approach it as if it were the final of the UEFA Champions League," the Italian referee always says to himself before a match. This time, however, he really will be handling the top club fixture in world football.

Nicola Rizzoli awaiting kick-off at Wembley (c) UEFA
The 41-year-old architect from Bologna is no stranger to the big occasion: he officiated at the inaugural UEFA Europa League final in 2010, an experience that he believes will help him at Wembley. "Absolutely, yes," he told "Finals are always special." How does it feel to have been selected for such a prestigious match?
Nicola Rizzoli: I feel very proud, I am proud of what we have done and achieved on this long road to the final. It's the most important match at European level, and if I look back at the 24 years of my refereeing career, it's unbelievable to have made it to this point now. How do you prepare mentally for such an occasion?
Rizzoli: The same preparation applies for all matches, basically. I have always said, in all the matches I have refereed, even at youth level, that I have to approach it as if it were the final of the Champions League. And this coming Saturday I really will referee the Champions League final. It's motivation for me to prepare even better mentally. Can your experience of refereeing the 2010 UEFA Europa League final help at Wembley?
Rizzoli: Absolutely, yes. Finals are always special matches – they are not like other games, although they should be – but the experience you gain in a match like that helps you a lot, to understand how to handle the special tensions that are normal in a final. What will you do in order for you and your team to enjoy the experience?
Rizzoli: Trying to enjoy it is not always easy – concentrating makes you so careful about details, which can help you better evaluate certain situations, that you lose the real context. From when we come out of the tunnel until the moment we start the match, we must enjoy the spectacle and the event. We must look at the spectators, fans and supporters, all the beautiful things that football offers, and all the passion you can feel, because I'm sure that during the match we will be so focused and mindful of what is happening on the pitch. Two German teams are in the final. Have you talked about this to any of your German colleagues?
Rizzoli: Getting information is the most important thing when preparing for a match like this. I had already spoken to some German colleagues before it was known who would be refereeing the final, because I like to get information when I meet other officials. Of course, today we are lucky to be able to get all the information we want off the internet, so the teams have been studied and analysed. How important is it to know how the teams play tactically?
Rizzoli: It's fundamental, because it's the only way not to be taken by surprise. Knowing beforehand what could happen and having that information can help you anticipate certain situations. If you are taken by surprise in a situation then it can become difficult to judge in a correct way. What kind of match do you expect?
Rizzoli: It will be a game between two excellent teams who are both very physical, but at the same time involving coaches who make their sides play tactically very well. They each have coaches who know how to get the best out of their players, so I expect them to all play at the highest level, which will create a great spectacle. Does the fact it is at Wembley make the final more special?
Rizzoli: Wembley represents the history of football, even if it has been rebuilt and restructured. You breathe the history and the passion, just pure football. That is what I hope to feel when I'm in the dressing room and when we come out of the tunnel. And lastly, how would you like to be remembered after the final?
Rizzoli: I don't really want to be remembered. I hope they will just remember me when they read the name of the match referee. The stars are – and should be – the players. Don't remember me, that is better.

Check out having vistited Rizzoli at home in their video!
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May 22, 2013

52 Referees invited to Rio de Janeiro seminar

FIFA Refereeing Department headed by Massimo Busacca has invited 52 referees to meet in Rio de Janeiro from 25 to 31 May 2013 at a seminar - among them, there are 50 pre-selected match officials.

"Pre-selected" means that these officials are considered to attend 2014 FIFA World Cup. Two of them, Ali Al Badwawi of UA Emirates will miss the meeting due to injury. At the same time, Argentina's Néstor Pitana and Brazilian official Heber Lopes have been invited, too, despite not being on the prospective list for the World Cup. Khalil Al Ghamdi of Saudi Arabia, who is actually on the pre-list as well, is absent for other reasons.
The seminar comprises basic instructions in terms of the technical application of the laws of the game, briefings and fitness programmes.
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Preview: UEFA Champions League final 2013

Wembley will be the centre of attention on Saturday (c)

Three days ahead UEFA Champions League final at Wembley Stadium, it's time to look ahead to the often called "greatest football match of the world".

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May 20, 2013

Nicola Rizzoli to savour German Champions League final night at Wembley

Italian Elite referee Nicola Rizzoli has been assigned to take charge of next Saturday's all-German top-class final between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern München who will combat for the Champions League trophy at Wembley Stadium.

Selected for Wembley: Nicola Rizzoli of Mirandola, Italy (c) ZIMBIO

The 41-year-old Italian, who has been an international referee since 2007, was selected by the UEFA Referees Committee to oversee Saturday's match at Wembley. He will thus be the first Italian to take charge of a Champions League final since 2000, when Stefano Braschi oversaw an all-Spanish final in Paris.
He took charge of the inaugural UEFA Europa League final in 2010 in Hamburg, where Club Atlético de Madrid beat Fulham FC 2-1 in extra time, and also officiated three matches at UEFA EURO 2012. In total, Rizzoli has presided over 26 UEFA Champions League games, four of them this season, including the round of 16 second leg between Málaga CF and FC Porto.
At the final in London, Rizzoli will be assisted by his fellow countrymen Renato Faverani and Andrea Stefani. The fourth official will be Damir Skomina from Slovenia and the two additional assistant referees, Gianluca Rocchi and Paolo Tagliavento, are from Italy. An Italian reserve assistant referee – Gianluca Cariolato – completes the refereeing team lineup.


More information later!

25 May 2013, 20:45 Central European Time
Wembley Stadium, London, England
Borussia Dortmund - Bayern München
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)
Assistant Referee 1: Renato Faverani (Italy)
Assistant Referee 2: Andrea Stefani (Italy)
Additional Assistant Referee 1: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)
Additional Assistant Referee 2: Paolo Tagliavento (Italy)
Fourth Official: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)
Reserve Assistant Referee: Gianluca Cariolato (Italy)
UEFA Delegate: Joël Wolff (Luxembourg)
UEFA Referee Observer: David R. Elleray (England)
UEFA Referee Liaison Officer: Peter Elsworth (England)
Blog Referee Observers: Edward A. (Greece), Niclas E. (Germany)
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May 19, 2013

"Interfering with an opponent" decides Bundesliga relegation

A jaunt into the German Bundesliga: Yesterday afternoon, the 50th Bundesliga season has come to an end. While the first places have been already allocated for a couple of weeks, the bottom region of the standings was not decided yet. Fortuna Düsseldorf, FC Augsburg and 1899 Hoffenheim had still the chance to combat for the rescuing 15th and the 16th place that qualifies a team for two relegation matches against the third positioned team in 2nd Bundesliga. As Fortuna Düsseldorf were clearly defeated in Hannover and as FC Augsburg managed a safe and rarely threatened win at home, all 1899 Hoffenheim needed was a win - unfortunately away in Dortmund facing the Champions League finalists.

Drees disallowing a goal after conversation with Brand (c) sky news

DFB officials Dr. Jochen Drees (1970), Tobias Christ (1976) and Benjamin Brand (1989) were assigned to take charge of this decisive clash. What DFB could not know is that the youngest of those three match officials, 23 year-old Brand, would have to take the probably most important decision in his career under immense pressure, also exposing a paramount example for how to adequately deal with the offside variation "interfering with an opponent". But step by step.

Dortmund managed an early goal and controlled the game in its first 60 minutes. Then things changed and Hoffenheim became grittier, because they had to. One of their strikers was obviously fouled by BVB defender Hummels in the box in the 76th minute and Drees correctly and immediately pointed to the spot. Hoffenheim's Salihović scored the equalizer and his team nourished new hope and regained their strength. Only a few minutes later, Hoffenheim striker Schipplock appeared totally free in front of goalkeeper Weidenfeller, who fouled him and thus denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity. Drees correctly awarded the next penalty to the underdogs and sent off Weidenfeller with a direct red card. As Dortmund had already executed their three possible substitutions, midfield player Großkreutz took Weidenfeller's place, which however did not change anything. It was again Salihović who used the chance and scored the 1:2 goal which qualified Hoffenheim for the relegation match to be played next week at that moment. But then, the stoppage time commenced.

Please find this high-quality video and go to match-minute 90+2:20 (select the 2nd video)!


As you can obviously see, Robert Lewandowski was in an offside position when Dortmund's Marcel Schmelzer executed the shot. For AR2 Benjamin Brand, it was obviously not clear whether he influenced or distracted the goalkeeper Casteels. For this reason, he stood still and did not move to the midfield line thus indicating doubts. Drees initially allowed the goal. Via micro, Drees was asked to come to him in order to consult each other though. Drees confirmed that there was an active movement by Lewandowski who attempted to reach the ball. The behaviour of Hoffenheim's goalkeeper obviously was influenced by this. Therefore, it's a clear case of interfering with an opponent meaning that passive offside has become active. Perhaps Lewandowski even touched the ball with his foot in a minimal manner, the replays are not clear enough to say so - but this does not matter.

Besides this correct and model decision taken by Drees and Brand, one has to emphasize the importance of this call. In a full stadium of 80.000 spectators, a 23-year old assistant referee, who is in his first season in Bundesliga, made this call totally right. And that under immense pressure. Flagging or not flagging decided on what team would go into 2nd Bundesliga and what team get a second chance. Respect!

Taking offside decisions in a correct way in additional time in Dortmund is possible, even though it seemed to be different in a Champions League match this season.
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May 17, 2013

Predicting the Wembley final referee

Following Wednesday's top-class performance shown by Björn Kuipers, it's time to shift focus on next week's UEFA Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern München in London's Wembley Stadium.

First of all it must be pointed out that, with all due respect to the difficulty of the task, this season's K.O. stage has been very weak in terms of refereeing. Besides some really positive exceptions, we were not spoilt by thus many good performances. Game-relevant decisions have been taken in a wrong manner, partly with a heavy and direct impact on the competition's course, the Laws of the Game were sometimes applied in a wrong way even by very experienced officials and there has been rarely that much public indignation and disgust with regard to referees and their performances. The bad thing: this medial outrage has been justified in most of the cases.

Against this background, it becomes very obvious that UEFA has to find the best referee possible for this final, a referee who can ensure a high-level performance that is completely free of polemical circumstances before and after the match. One tends to wish Björn Kuipers being the referee for Wembley, too...

Additionally, we have to focus on the type of match. Borussia Dortmund - Bayern München has been a very tough duel throughout the past seasons. Since Dortmund took the lead in Germany's Bundesliga in 2011, the deeply-rooted rivalry between both clubs became even larger. DFB has mostly appointed very experienced officials to take charge of this match in the past. Peter Gagelmann, Knut Kircher and Michael Weiner were the last referees in these duels. With the exception of Weiner, who refereed this match in a more unimportant competition format (Super Cup), Gagelmann and Kircher are both very lenient match officials whose main strengths are their charisma and personality, having a strong approach and good relationship to players. Hence, UEFA would be well advised if they selected a referee who harmoniously unites these strengths.

The following criteria must be applied when attempting to predict the final referee:
1. The referee has to belong to the highest referee category, the Elite Group.
2. A referee, who was appointed for one of the four Champions League semifinals, won't get the final.
3. Referees, who were already in charge of a Champions League final in their careers, won't get the final.
4. A German officiating team won't get the final due to the clubs involved.
5. As David Elleray of England is the referee observer, English and Scottish referees won't get the final.

The remaining officials are:

Olegário Benquerença (POR), Cüneyt Çakır (TUR), Jonas Eriksson (SWE), Pavel Královec (CZE), Stéphane Lannoy (FRA), Svein Oddvar Moen (NOR), Nicola Rizzoli (ITA), Gianluca Rocchi (ITA), Paolo Tagliavento (ITA), Alberto Undiano Mallenco (ESP), Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP) 

Some of them can be erased from the pool of candidates due to weak performances or a background which makes a Wembley call-up almost impossible (not deployed in CL K.O. stage before, injuries...):

Cüneyt Çakır (TUR), Jonas Eriksson (SWE), Stéphane Lannoy (FRA), Nicola Rizzoli (ITA), Alberto Undiano Mallenco (ESP), Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP)

Let's start with the two Spanish representatives Undiano Mallenco and Velasco Carballo. Both officials certainly have a huge international experience. Specially Velasco Carballo showed many good and solid performances in Champions League, among others in the quarterfinal's second leg between Juventus Turin and Bayern München, where he only showed smaller weaknesses. It's however quite unprobable, from my point of view, that Velasco gets this match: He was appointed as Europa League final referee in 2011 and assisted the Portuguese officiating crew in 2012 Champions League final as fourth official. Being nominated for three finals within 2 years (3 seasons) sounds irrealistic (but not impossible). In addition, Collina trusted in Velasco Carballo twice in very important moments. Not only in 2011 Europa League final, but also in the opener match of 2012 European Championship, the Spaniard failed to pay back this trust to a certain extent. In both matches, Collina himself was the observer. I doubt that he appoints him for such a match for a third time. Undiano Mallenco's chances are not really higher. His three group stage matches were ok, but easy to handle and, what is striking, they were not really important duels. He was only deployed once in the entire K.O. stage in both competitions, when he handled the first leg of the Round of 16 tie between Celtic and Juventus. Because of multiple facets, it was a controversial performance. Thus, he was publicly criticized by Celtic responsibles after the match. Moreover, his refereeing style is certainly more pedantic and does not correspond to the referee type I have in mind for this specific final match (see above).

After a long injury, Stéphane Lannoy returned onto the pitch and was frequently appointed in the last couple of months conveying ambivalent impressions. After an average performance at Stamford Bridge, he showed a strong one in Galatasaray - Real Madrid, which was however again followed by a so-so performance in Europa League semifinal SL Benfica - Fenerbahce. The first half was splendid, characterized by many correct decisions concerning in-box situations, the second half revealed basic lacks in terms of foul detection and keeping a high level of match control though. Lannoy has nonetheless proven to be a reliable referee who is able to show a solid performance when it is important. At Euro 2012, he was one of not many officials who could convince in the end. Lannoy has not only the necessary experience, he also has enough political power in the referee committee to be considered as a very probable bet for Wembley final. 

The most controversial name is Cüneyt Çakır. There is no need to repeat the story of Man. United - Real Madrid, a performance which is nearly impossible to analyze. Finding an adequate mark was even more difficult. The fact that Collina was the observer should make us prick up our ears. It is more or less the proof that UEFA's referee committee originally planned to appoint the Turkish referee team for Wembley. After all this medial aftermath and despite the justified sending-off, one must question whether UEFA is still thinking in that fashion. It must be clarified that Çakır would not face any form of medial slander in the German press. They have always proven to deal with referees in a fair way before matches. If newspapers like the Spanish Marca or the English Dailymail see themselves coerced to harrass him due to the performance at Old Trafford, UEFA should not be interested and Çakır should not feel any form of pressure. It's a German final, which needs the best referee possible. Let the foreign media say what they want to say. Of course it is also a political issue. Because the final is played on English turf, at the birthday of the FA, it could be perhaps a problem to justify the appointment. Anyway, I would not be surprised to read his name next week. But I do not think so. And those who already claim to know that the Turkish team were already sure and fixed for Wembley: nothing is decided.

Swedish Jonas Eriksson (c) ZIMBIO

Jonas Eriksson of Sweden corresponds to the refereeing style described before. He has a very good relation to players and is able to handle a match with natural authority and a lenient, but self-confident and consistent tactical approach. Nevertheless, his decision-taking often suffers a bit from that. In Shakhtar Donezk - Juventus Turin, he missed a penalty kick after a handball which was ruled as deliberate by Collina in a newspaper article after the match. In Schalke 04 - Galatasaray Istanbul, he had a couple of flaws in his disciplinary and foul-detection line - furthermore, there were many controversial scenes, such as potentially illegal goals or a missed penalty. Obviously, UEFA ignored that and appointed him for Málaga CF - Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Also here, a very good performance, but he missed a clear penalty to the German side which also should have been detected by AAR1. And again, UEFA ignored that. His mark must have been higher than 8.3, which would justify his nomination for Chelsea - FC Basel in the Europa League semifinals. At Stamford Bridge, he showed an excellent performance without any problems or difficulties. The observer "only" was Nuno Castro of Portugal, neither a very important observer, nor a committee member. I am quite sure that we will see Jonas Eriksson working at Wembley, but not as the main referee.

Italian Nicola Rizzoli (c) ZIMBIO

Last but not least, Italian official Nicola Rizzoli. There may be no doubt that Rizzoli has often shown in the past that he is able to adapt his style to the needs of the match. He has a strong personality and basically fulfills the criteria set above. At Euro 2012, he was already planned to get the final match, which was rendered void as Italy beat Germany in the semifinals. Now could be his time. The last Champions League final between two teams of the same countries, Juventus - AC Milan in 2003, was by the way overseen by German Markus Merk. This year, ten years later, it could be the other way round, an Italian referee for a German final. But it must be underlined that appointing Rizzoli would be good for this specific match, but would undermine the performance principle. His current shape is not really good, neither on national level, nor on international level. His performance in Málaga CF - FC Porto (CL Round of 16) was defective. He totally lost control in several stages of the match and wrongly disallowed an actually legal goal scored by the Spanish side. But in the end - who cares? The match was not really under huge medial attention. The underprivileged team, Málaga, won the match despite the annuled goal and qualified for the next round. Besides, perhaps this disallowed goal was shifted to AAR1's responsibility. Nobody will remember this match, if the Wembley call-up becomes reality. In the end one may also doubt the power of referee observer Ilkka Koho of Finland, who had to assess Rizzoli's performance in Málaga. If there perhaps was "top-down" pressure on his report, this match is no hurdle for Rizzoli.

It has been rarely thus difficult to predict the final appointment. 
My suggestion however is:

25 May 2013, 20:45 CET
Wembley Stadium, London, England
Borussia Dortmund - Bayern München
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)
Assistant Referee 1: Andrea Stefani (Italy)
Assistant Referee 2: Renato Faverani (Italy)
Additional Assistant Referee 1: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)
Additional Assistant Referee 2: Paolo Mazzoleni (Italy)
Fourth Official: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)
Reserve Assistant Referee: Elenito Di Liberatore (Italy)
UEFA Referee Observer: David R. Elleray (England)
UEFA Delegate: Joël Wolff (Luxembourg)
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Anastasios Sidiropoulos feels "honour to be selected" for U17 Euro final

Taking charge of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship final on Friday, Anastasios Sidiropoulos is all set for the most "important game" of his career. The 33-year-old native of Rhodes has been refereeing for 12 years, and has been in the middle for Greek Super League games since 2009. After relishing his time in Slovakia, Sidiropoulos is hoping this is the first step on the road to UEFA Champions League, UEFA EURO and FIFA World Cup finals. Are you looking forward to Friday's final?
Anastasios Sidiropoulos: I am looking forward to kick-off. It is a great feeling knowing that in a few hours I will be the referee of the European U17 final. What does it mean to you to take charge of the showpiece?
Sidiropoulos: It is an honour to be selected. It feels good because you know that all the hard work you put in to get here finally pays off and you can reap the rewards. Tell us about the team who will be supporting you during the final.
Sidiropoulos: I will have the full support of my team, made up of assistant referees Dejan Kostadinov from Macedonia and Richard Storey from Northern Ireland, as well as my fourth official Ivaylo Stoyanov from Bulgaria. During the tournament we have had excellent cooperation on and off the field and all of them are experienced international officials, who have been officiating at the top level in their own countries. Is this an important step in your career?
Sidiropoulos: It is another step forward. It is definitely the most important game in my refereeing career so far, and an opportunity to prove to my mentors that I can successfully take such an important match. The fact that I am the referee for the final is not only an honour for me, but also for the Hellenic Football Federation, my family and to all the people who support me in every step of my refereeing career. What has it been like to be part of the refereeing team at this competition?
Sidiropoulos: It has been an excellent experience. I met people from 15 different countries and I learned a lot from my colleagues. We really had a very good team in this tournament and it is a privilege that I have had the chance to cooperate with them. What are your aspirations as a referee?
Sidiropoulos: My ambition is to take part in major tournaments and competitions such as the Champions League and the European finals. Who are your heroes, both footballing and refereeing?
Sidiropoulos: I admire skillful football players with the best sporting behaviour and respect for the game. My refereeing model is a former elite referee and now member of UEFA's Referees' Committee, Kyros Vassaras, who has taken charge of many important competitions such as the Champions League, World Cup, EUROs and Olympic Games. He always helps referees and he always says his aim is to help Greek referees achieve even more than he did. What is your method and philosophy for refereeing games at U17 level?
Sidiropoulos: At this level you must be not only a referee but also an educator to these young players. They play with passion and they are physically strong so sometimes they overreact. This is the right time to intervene, with calmness and having good knowledge of the psychology of young players, and help them understand that football is just a game and that we have to respect each other. Tell us about the support which is provided by UEFA?
Sidiropoulos: I honestly cannot believe how lucky we have been with the support of the three UEFA Referees' Committee members, Kyros Vassaras, Jozef Marko and Nikolai Levnikov in this final tournament. They advise and communicate through technical instruction meetings and practical training sessions throughout the tournament, and have been invaluable and will help us for our forward development. How has the experience of Slovakia been?
Sidiropoulos: What an experience! It is such a beautiful country. The hospitality has been excellent end everybody has been very friendly to us all. Also, the organisation has been amazing and it is obvious that football is such a passionate sport in this country as attendances have been fantastic.

The full appointment:

17 May 2013, 18:00 CET
Štadión MŠK Žilina, Zilina (SVK)
Italy - Russia
Referee: Anastasios Sidiropoulos (GRE)
Assistant Referee 1: Dejan Kostadinov (MKD)
Assistant Referee 2: Richard Storey (NIR)
4th Official: Ivaylo Stoyanov (BUL)
UEFA Referee Observer: Jozef Marko (SVK)

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