Referee preview – Brazil v North Korea
44 years ago, North Korea shocked the footballing world by beating Italy at the 1966 World Cup. Viktor Kassai wasn’t even born but as they attempt to evoke the spirit of Ayresome Park, he will take charge of their match with football giants Brazil. Away from officiating at Europe’s big games this year, Viktor Kassai has probably help a lot fans arrange their trips to South Africa this summer in his role as a travel agent. Whilst he has never overseen a match involving the A Seleção, he has been involved in their rivals biggest success of recent years.
Two years ago European fans may have been concerned with Euro 2008 but football supporters in South America had their eyes firmly on Beijing as Brazil and Argentina competed for a gold medal in the Olympic football tournament. Viktor Kassai was the man in black for Argentina’s opening victory against Australia and as both nations swept aside their opponents, it became clear they both had a big shot at the trophy.
Push came to shove and Albiceleste played Canarinho in the semi-final. Sergio Batista’s side outfought their opponents and by the time Juan Riquelme scored his 76th minute penalty, the Argentinians were 3-0 up. The final step in their quest was a final against Nigeria who had famously defeated them at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Once again Kassai was the man in the middle and he took charge of tight game won by Angel Di Maria’s second-half strike. Argentina had the gold medals and Brazil’s bronze for thrashing Belgium 3-0 was scant consolation.
Now two years on from that and four years since Brazil limply lost the World Cup quarter-final 1-0 to France, Dunga has brought together a side that are favourites to take football’s biggest prize again. They kick-off this evening against the unknown men of South Africa, the North Koreans.
Earlier today the underdogs of New Zealand snatched a point against Slovakia and Kassai, who refereed a leg of their playoff win against Bahrain, will witness another dogged struggle by a side this evening, hoping to achieve one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history.
Kassai may have memories of the 2007 FIFA u20 World Cup when he took charge of Brazil against South Korea and Argentina against North Korea. There appears to be a spooky symetry at work here and with Kassai being one of the men being talked about to referee the final, and may ask himself “could we three meet again?”
But players tonight should be wary of over exuberant celebrations (not someting Brazil shy away from) as Kassai once sent off Sporting Lisbon’s Simon Vukcevic for removing his shirt after scoring.
As usual, we will be covering the game on our twitter page with tweets throughout the 90 minutes and a full review of the referees and match decisions will be posted here soon after the final whistle.
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