Official Blunders Likely To End In Change

The start of this World Cup has been synonymous with poor refereeing decisions. With Sepp Blatter in favour of change, that only means one thing: technology...

Last Updated: 14/06/14 at 09:32 Post Comment

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When Brazil striker Fred threw himself to the floor during the second half of Thursday night's game against Croatia and was given the warmest of welcome gifts by referee Yuichi Nishimura, the predictable fall-out was that the Japanese official was a 'homer', corrupted to allow Brazil safe passage into the knock-out stages. 'Sao Paulo has the largest ex-pat Japanese community in the world,' conspiracy theorists told us. 'This was the guy that refereed their exit last time,' others chimed in.

All rot of the highest order, of course. These were nothing more than poor decisions. Really poor decisions, actually, but intensely magnified due to the high-profile nature of the match. The opening game was watched by a peak audience of 12.6million - that's more than Chelsea's Champions League win over Bayern Munich in 2012. Such an audience tends to generate more than its fair share of hysteria.

By half-time in the World Cup's second game, the officiating had somehow managed to take another turn for the worse, with Mexico's Giovanni dos Santos twice incorrectly called offside when giving his side the lead over Cameroon. Whilst the first decision was marginal, and certainly not the disgrace that Clarke Carlisle on ITV made it appear, the latter was less forgivable. Mexico's corner clearly (on the replay at least) struck a Cameroon head before falling to Dos Santos to nod home. The former Spurs player was noticeably and understandably furious - so too was his effervescent manager Miguel Herrera.

Whilst our lawyers will rightly plead with me to reiterate that it is a result of nothing other than mere coincidence, such shambolic refereeing could not have come at a more opportune time for FIFA president Sepp Blatter. On the eve of the tournament, perhaps as a hopeful "Quick, look over here guys" distraction tactic, Blatter suggested that he was in favour of introducing increased technology into the game.

"You are looking at so many matches on the TV," Blatter said. "We have 34 cameras here and it is so evident what has happened I think it is a good idea. If it is feasible we will see but when I have an idea I generally try to bring it."

Blatter's plan is to allow managers to have two challenges per match in order to contend refereeing decisions that are seen to be blatantly erroneous. Alongside ironing out evident mistakes (such as the one for Mexico's second 'goal' on Friday), the aim is that it would also alleviate some of the abuse received by officials, who could simply shrug their shoulder - 'victims' have a form of recompense if they feel they have been wronged. It would certainly leave diving players claiming penalties with red faces if they were instantly proven to be attempting mischief.

This is not intended to be a debate of the merits of such a concept or its specific intricacies, merely a discussion over the likelihood of such an introduction, and on that point there seems only one obvious conclusion: If the past week has taught us anything it is that what Sepp wants, Sepp gets.

Friday's Mediawatch may have rightly mocked the Evening Standard for suggesting that his 'ghost goal' against Germany in 2010 was the biggest achievement of Frank Lampard's career, there is little doubt that the officials' incompetence that afternoon forced football's hand on the issue of goal-line technology.

"For me as Fifa president it became evident the moment what happened in South Africa in 2010," Blatter admitted in 2012. "I have to say 'thank you Lampard'. I was completely down in South Africa when I saw that. It really shocked me, it took me a day to react."

The World Cup is the stage on which coaches and managers can gain fame, fortune and greatness, but is also a platform for change, simply through the prestigious nature of each and every match. 'All eyes are watching' is the clear cliché, but 'all mouths are talking' may be more relevant.

For the first 24 hours of the World Cup, the bandwagon for added technology has been stopped in the streets of Brazil, tooting its horn and inviting people to jump on board. When Blatter is in the driving seat, the end destination soon becomes obvious.

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