Sunday, June 27, 2010

... and the winner is ...

... Viktor Kassai?

Yes. His performance in USA v. GHA was very good in my opinion. Let's take a closer look.

One of the first things I noticed in looking at the report (here) was the number of fouls ... 30 to be exact. Mind you, this was after 120 minutes of play, not the typical 90.

Also of note was that there was only 5 cautions and no send offs in the match. Again this is over the 120 minute span in a knock-out round of the biggest tournament in the world.

Here is the timeline courtesy of

Each caution was very good and served a purpose. Kassai did not "throw any away". Of particular note was the caution to BOCANEGRA in the 68'. While the foul seemed fairly innocuous, and was his only one of the match, take a look at the position on the field ... it was right in front of the benches ... and KASSAI wanted to make sure that one was taken care of for sure.

Decisions on fouls were accepted by players on both sides. There was not obvious dissent ... there was discussion. Players were talking to the referee and vice versa. Many cut away scenes were of the referee talking or communicating without talking, with a stern look, or a "knock it off" gesture, to players who were accepting the decisions.

Case in point, and the referees moment of truth ... the USA penalty. There was no drama, no whining, no acting from anyone. It was a foul, they went to the spot, and everyone lined up for it. Simple, right? Right! (There is that luck is the residue of hard work thing again) Simple foul, simple call. Had KASSAI not called that one, the match was over, as was his World Cup I would opine.

KASSAI is a players referee. He talks, and works with the players to manage them through the match. He is proactive about dealing with issues (like the caution to BOCA) before they become an issue. He was fit, he was close to play, and he let them play ... can't ask for anything more than that.

Finally he protected the integrity of the game by allowing for extra time when it was being wasted by GHA. Imagine, here is a referee who gave +3 in extra time after 120+ minutes with the losing team pressing hard. GHA may not have liked it, but fans of the game did. KASSAI gave all the players a full opportunity that day.

So for all this was there anything at issue? My big picture answer is no, he was excellent. There were a couple of minor, one very minor things that caught my eye.

First, in the 63' DONOVAN and PRINCE (really BOATENG) were really going at it and in a series of back to back fouls pretty clearly kicked each other pretty freaking hard. Did the players accept it, yes. Did the referee need to get involved more than he did, no. Could it have gotten worse, I though so. This was right in front of the JAR and may have been worth a word, maybe he did. Either way, the decisions were accepted and the players dealt with it.

Second, KASSAI was in a passing lane more than a few times. Don't get me wrong, his fitness was excellent ... maybe too good as he was able to get in behind the play fairly easily. A few players had to either pass, or make a run around him to get at the ball. This seemed to happen most in the middle 1/3 as play was settling in around the 18 yard box. Not a real effect, just noted ... as did the fact that he was not hit with the ball.

Third, I would have *loved* to see KASSAI get more animated when the GHA players were slowing it down or lying around in the 2nd ET. While they likely would not have picked up the pace, and it would not have changed the amount of extra time given, a more public gesture may have gone that much further.

Finally, and I am picking nits here, why were the ARs wearing long sleeves, and the referee short? I know, I know, silly little point and certainly does not take away from anything ... it just looked weird to me and would have expected the ARs to follow the referees lead. Those guys were working hard too, figured they migh enjoy the shorter sleeve. This from a guy who always wears long.

All and all, KASSAI was very good, and I believe he secured himself a place in the 1/4 finals with that performance. While to me he has only an outside shot of doing the final for reasons I will share later, he has certainly done well to advance himself on the world's stage.

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