Refs will be full of pre-match tension
RELIEF — that’s what the 35 referees, their assistants and VAR officials will be feeling as the World Cup gets under way today. Yet there will also be trepidation. Appointments are revealed in batches of four to six at a time and you are desperate to get your campaign under way, but know you may have to wait until matchday 12 or later. There is a real ‘team feel’ inside the referees’ camp which is encouraged by FIFA as they look for consistency, irrespective of different different nationalities in the video booth — surely another potential issue, not just due to language but also experience and ethos. Argentinian Nestor Pitana will referee that match, which is seen in refereeing circles as the second best appointment after the final. And the top officials? I like Sandro Ricci (Brazil), Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey), and Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan), but Felix Brych of Germany is probably best of the lot.
experience and culture. The other feeling as your game gets closer is nerves, which will either be eased as colleagues go out and do well or increased if things aren’t going well and you are seeing highly critical debriefings. Those present at the referee base sit through video feedback and analysis of all games. It’s very uncomfortable sitting with officials who have erred and struggled. The group this time will be interested to see what effect VAR has in real and psychological terms. Assistants having been told not to flag for a tight offside is all well and good but they tend to see decisions as black and white — offside or not — so to ask them to change will not be easy. It’s also noticeable that the first match will have three