Spain v Croatia referee review
If you had said beforehand that Spain and Italy would qualify from this group, people would have shrugged and not thought much of it. Instead, a frenetic and tense end to Group C saw Spain within a Cassilas glove and Italy a despairing Buffon parry of going out. But more controversy was to follow…
Yellow cards: Strinic, Corluka, Jelavic, Rakitic, Srna, Mandzukic (Croatia)
Red cards: 0
Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany)
As they always seem to do in recent years, despite a dogged opponent, a few nervous moments and increasing pressure, Spain won out with a narrow victory.
Stark had to have his eyes on stalks to regulate play with both sides pressing each other and not afraid of going in with a tackle. However both he and the addtional referee behind the goal have to answer for an incident after 27 minutes when Sergio Ramos went in studs showing on Mario Mandzukic.
This was undoubtedly a foul and it really is a question of inches about whether it should be a free-kick or a penalty. Doubtless, Stark was well positioned to see this but gave a corner to Slaven Bilic’s side. This indicates that he felt Ramos got the ball and presumably little of the man.
Regardless, Vedran Corluka was booked for his protestations, something at Stark’s own discretion and he is experienced enough for me to trust his judgement with dissent.
Darijo Srna joined his compatriot in the book just before half-time when he jumped over-aggresively with Sergio Busquets, catching him with an elbow.
After the break when David Silva was lumped to the floor by Ivan Strinic, Stark chose sensibly to play advantage and let Spain complete the attacking move before giving the Croatian defender a yellow when the ball next went out of play.
Stark is a very undemonstrable, uncomprimising presence. But sometimes it can help to have an official who may smile once in a while and remind a player that this is only a game and not oversee things as though you are a policeman managing a two sided protest.
That said however, we didn’t see any mass confrontations as in previous nights and players did behave themselves once a booking was hanging over them.
The real talking points came late on when first Corluka tried to reach a cross from a corner but was dragged down by Busquets, preventing him from getting any sort of elevation.
A caveat should be that Stark has to see this through a large conglomeration of players but this is no excuse for his additional referee behind the goal. Once again a penalty appeal went ignored.
This has been a feature of this tournament with just one spot-kick awarded so far. This a record for the group stages going back to Euro 1988 when there were half as many teams. I can only assume that an edict may have gone to referees either advising extra vigilance with awarding penalties or perhaps more cynically that it is harder for the media to create a storm over a spot-kick not being awarded than a wrong spot-kick being given.
Nonetheless, minutes later with the game nearing its end, Spain finally battered the Croats into submission when subsitute Jesus Navas waltzed in from an Andreas Iniesta pass to practically walk a ball into the net.
We have seen two goals like this in tournament before and once again the assistant was absolutely correct and followed precident to allow Spain a legitimate goal. But this was even trickier as their was not one close offside call, but two.
The ball from Cesc Fabregas finds Iniesta just onside as he is being played on by the back foot of a Croatian defender. Once again, to clarify, Navas himself while in an offside position is not “active” as he not involved in play at this time. I know that it is impossible to be “inactive” on a football pitch but based on heavy precedent, he is legal.
When Ineista squares the ball to Navas, the ball is played very slightly backwards to him meaning is now active and onside. Goal for Spain and that was it, Croatia were out.
Mandzukic was a trio of Croatian players who were then cautioned with the game as good over. He received his caution for a barge on Alvaro Arbeloa and shortly afterwards Nikica Jelavic was yellowed for deliberate handball as he tried any method possible to try and win the ball back.
Finally Ivan Rakitic was booked with seconds left for dissent. Which pretty much sums Stark’s “bad cop” approach. At least with “good cop” mentality, the players are happy to shake your hand after the game.
For some referees this Euros, they’ve got the big decisions right, yet controlled the match itself poorly. For Stark it was the opposite. He needed a bit more gumption from the additional referees and perhaps an extra backbone to award a penalty against the defending champions.
Overall though, Stark looked assured and unflustered, two excellent qualities to display as an official.
Ref’s rating: 6/10
Nice whitewashing “controlled oposition”…but comical for all those who know what is going on in FIFA.
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Funny that you discuss to length whether or not Spain’s goal was offside (which indeed is a technically interesting question), but do not mention the much more relevant fact that Iniesta quite clearly controls the ball with the upper arm.
Conclusion: the goal should have been disallowed and Iniesta probably given a yellow card.
Stark got all three major contentious phases of the game wrong, even though in at least 2 of the 3 he was well-positioned. He might be a good ref in general, but on this occasion I’d give him 4/10 max.
Posted from Finland
Yey for Croatia , they are long time home and other 2 teams are fighting for finale.
It would be still interesting to see if Iniesta did play with shoulder or his upper hand?
Posted from China
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