Group stage World Cup referees in Qatar

World Soccer Talk writer Lawrence Dockery, himself a referee, shares his insight on leading the World Cup group stage from Qatar 2022.

Many don’t realize it, but one of the most important parts of a football game is the referee.

There is no game without officials.

Being selected to referee at the World Cup is a great honor. And so far the refereeing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has been excellent.

There have been controversial moments, of course, as with any tournament. But so far the referees have handled themselves with confidence.

Here are some of the most important refereeing moments in the World Cup so far.

Red cards

Incredibly, there were only three red cards through the group stage at the World Cup.

It wasn’t until the sixth day of the tournament that anyone was sent off. The unfortunate scoop was Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey against Iran. He initially only received a warning and a yellow card for fouling an Iranian striker.

But after a VAR check, he was sent off and shown a red card for ‘serious foul play’. It was the correct decision by the referee as Hennessey pushed his knee into the Iranian player’s jaw.

The second red card of the tournament was an unusual one. South Korean manager Paulo Bento was sacked and shown a red card after the final whistle in the Taegeuk Warriors 3-2 defeat to Ghana.

Bento appeared upset that referee Anthony Taylor ended the game before the South Koreans could take a corner kick and ran onto the field to berate him for it.

But the full amount of added time had been played and Taylor was not having a good time with the abuse form Bento. He made the right decision by showing Bento the red card.

The last red card of the group stage was during the last match of the group stage. Vincent Aboukabar already received a yellow card when he scored the winning goal for Cameroon against Brazil in stoppage time.

And as footballers tend to do when they score goals, he took his shirt off to celebrate. Unfortunately this is an automatic yellow card. The referee had no choice but to show him a second yellow card and send him off the field.

Female umpires

History was made at this World Cup when female referees were selected to officiate at the World Cup for the first time.

That history continued when an all-female referee squad was assigned to the crucial final match in Group E between Costa Rica and Germany.

France’s Stephanie Frappart had the whistle, while Brazil’s Neuza Back and Mexico’s Karen Diaz Medina were on the line and all three performed very well.

American umpires

At the last two World Cups, American referee Mark Geiger has been outstanding in officiating three games at each of those tournaments.

For the 2022 World Cup, it was Ismail Elfath who earned the honor of the American umpiring ranks. Elfath officiated the group H opener between Portugal and Ghana, while his assistant referees included Kyle Atkins and Corey Parker, also both Americans.

Some controversy arose when Elfath awarded Portugal a penalty in 65e minute, but it was the right decision and the rest of the match went smoothly.

Elfath and his team were then tasked with taking charge of the final Group G match between Brazil and Cameroon.

The match went almost without incident as Brazil had already secured their spot in the Round of 16 after their second match.

But then the aforementioned Vincent Aboukabar scored and took his shirt off. Elfath clearly felt bad about having to send him off for a second yellow card, but his hands were tied.

Also present at the World Cup from the US is another female referee. Kathryn Nesbitt was sent off as assistant referee and was the offside VAR official for the match between Costa Rica and Germany.

Thoughts on FOX’s umpire analysts

As much of their coverage of this World Cup has proven to be subpar, it should come as no surprise that Fox’s coverage of the World Cup referees also left a lot to be desired.

First, there’s their insistence on continuing to use Joe Machnik as their rules expert. Not only is Machnik highly regarded in the refereeing community for his lack of knowledge of the Laws of the Game, he simply adds nothing to the broadcast.

Most of the time he just repeats the question the commentators put to him rather than shed any light on the referee’s decision or thought process.

However, Mark Clattenburg has been a great addition as an expert on secondary rules. Clattenburg’s qualifications are impressive.

He was selected to referee Euro 2012 and the 2012 London Olympics. He also had a very impressive 2016 when he was selected to referee the FA Cup final, the Champions League final and the Euro 2016 final, all in the space of two months.

So far throughout this tournament he has done a great job of explaining what the referee is looking for in certain decisions. And he also explained very well what FIFA expects from the referees in these matches.

A notable omission from FOX’s group of refereeing experts is Christina Unkel. At the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, Unkel received critical acclaim as a FOX rules analyst, but has not been included in their Qatar roster.

Unkel was also the first to point out something that had gone unnoticed by many viewers. FOX Sports.

Instead, FOX opts to cram in an extra minute or two of commercials, robbing the umpires of what small measure of recognition they receive before games begin.

Many viewers have also noticed that the FOX Sports commentary duo, John Strong and Stuart Holden, have been particularly vocal in their criticism of umpires, especially during American games.

Their call during the game between the US and Wales is the crowning glory. Every time an American player committed a foul, they attacked the referee for not showing a yellow card.

Every time an American player was cautioned and booked, they flipped the script and started questioning how it was a foul in the first place, let alone a yellow card.

Photo credit: IMAGO / Sven Simon

Guide to World Cup 2022

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