Bosnia-Hercegovina v Portugal referee preview
It seems this blog has turned into the “Howard Webb” fan page with our coverage of the World Cup final merging into tonight’s qualifiers. But over a year since his height on the football stage, Webb returns to overseeing international knock-out football with the third meeting of these two sides in the playoffs.
In Webb’s native England, his nation do battle with Spain tomorrow. The furore proceeding that match revolved around FIFA’s ban on England players wearing poppies on their shirt as a symbol commerating the victims of war. The dispute has now been settled but not without wider ramifications
But Webb had already managed to get FIFA to bypass their rules for him when he took charge of Bolton v Stoke in the Premier League last week.
And if we turn our minds back to Soccer City in what seems like a lifetime ago, we can all recall the game that broke records for cards in a World Cup final. On that day, the team that had knocked out Portugal, Spain, triumphed.
But the Selecção das Quinas nearly didn’t get the finals, only grabbing two wins in their first seven qualifiers and eventually stumbling into the playoffs behind group winners Denmark.
In the controversial “seeded” playoff, Carlos Quieroz’s side were drawn against Bosnia-Hercegovina and managed to come through 2-0 on aggregate with two 1-0 wins.
Two years on, history has repeated itself in a way that only football can with Portugal again losing out to Denmark after being defeated by the Scandinavians on the final round of group games and now goes to Bosnia-Hercegovina side who probably wanted anyone but Paulo Bento’s team.
Managed by Safet Sušić, Bosnia-Hercegovina’s side were 12 minutes away from automatic qualification when they were 1-0 in the Stade de France against the stadium’s titular team. But a late penalty from Samir Nasri cancelled his Manchester City teammate Edin Dzeko’s goal and the Balkan side rolled into the hat for the play-off draw.
Their slight in-discipline will see defenders Saša Papac and Boris Pandža suspended for the first-leg after two yellow cards. But neither of these sides has suffered any reds in the qualifiers and is relatively well behaved. Though the heat of playoff pressure can play havoc with any side’s temprament.
At least one Portugal fan is pleased with Webb’s appointment due to his perceived bias for Cristiano Ronaldo (although purists may simply see this as letting a great player off the reigns to play his game).
I doubt the truth of such an assertion but whether Webb will be booking CR7 for his “gamesmanship” is probably unlikely, if indeed we behaviour of that sort tonight. I feel this type of play is more of a problem in a second-leg than a first.
But that said, Portugal will need to tread on egg-shells to avoid players being suspended for next week’s clash in Lisbon with Ronaldo, Raul Meireles, Carlos Martins, Hugo Almeida, Eduardo, Rolando and Ruben Micael all one yellow card away from being out.
The tight clash two years ago suggest that the first goal will be key and I can easily see this environment creating a perfect storm for some kind of disputed event involving Webb.
But with Portugal being heavy favourites for the tie overall, Webb is the least of Bosnia Hercegovina’s problems.
Setting a number of records already for the Premier League, the Blue Whites are easily the best team in the country and prove to be the best team in their Europa League group.
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