Héctor Baldassi: Best referee of the World Cup so far

June 29, 2010

I criticize the referees alot. When I played, I yelled alot, despite having some pretty negative experiences being a ref. So I try to praise as well as criticize.

Hector Baldassi had a great game today reffing Spain v Portugal. My notes after the first half said, “flawless performance from ref.” I suppose Portugal fans might disagree with me, since he didn’t fall for any of Cristiano Ronaldo’s dives and he gave out a late red card to Portuguese defender Ricardo Costa for his elbow to Joan Capdevila’s face. There’s no camera angle I can find that shows whether Costa made contact, but I’m inclined to think that he did, since Capdevila would have been taking a huge risk of giving up the win in order to get a redcard that wouldn’t matter. Also, Costa didn’t really protest as you assume he would if Capdevila had taken a total dive.

I didn’t know until afterwards that Baldassi is an Argentine. Well done, sir. From watching the Argentine league, I know the refs don’t mess around with elbows to the face.

To watch the inconclusive camera angles:


Ivory Coast v Portugal

June 15, 2010

Who knew Ivory Coast would “fall apart” the moment Didier Drogba was introduced as a substitute?  Until that point, Ivory Coast had the better of the scoreless draw.  Afterwards, Portugal had the better of the game.

And Jorge Larrionda?  Well, he didn’t give out any stupid red cards or penalties, so while he made a number of strange calls, and he fell for a couple Cristiano Ronaldo dives… for his standards I think you judge the game a success.

Drogba really should have scored in the first minute of extra time.

Portugal gets North Korea next while Brazil takes on the Ivory Coast.  I think that’s advantage Portugal, because if Brazil wins, they will have already advanced and have a little less motivation against Portugal in their final game.

Interesting games tomorrow, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Portugal

June 15, 2010

Italy’s 1-1 draw with Paraguay wasn’t completely unexpected.  Paraguay beat Argentina and Brazil in qualifying, and led all of South America for a long time during qualifying.  They are good on the counter, organize well defensively, and actually have a ton of attacking talent.  Oscar Cardozo, Lucas Barrios (who is actually an Argentine), Roque Santa Cruz…

* At one point during the Italy Paraguay game, there were two Argentines from Buenos Aires on the field, one for each team: Lucas Barrios and Camorenesi.

It was a little disappointing that there was so much rain, but there’s no doubt Italy controlled the game.  The goal for Paraguay came against the run of play, although I didn’t find it surprising, having seen Paraguay play.  Italy had to press, but to my mind they didn’t really create that many clear chances.  When they get behind, the lack of a playmaker like Giuseppe Rossi is pretty apparent.  Italy got its goal by what was basically a goalie error.

All this leads into tomorrow’s first game: Slovakia v New Zealand.   Those are two of the biggest minnows of the World Cup and are very unlikely to advance.  Still, Marek Hamsik is someone who could definitely help himself get to a big club in Europe with a solid performance.

Following that is probably the best game of the “first games” of the first round.  England v US was pretty big, but Ivory Coast and Portugal is pretty massive.  The other two teams in that group are North Korea and Brazil: arguably the worst and best team to qualify for the World Cup finals, respectively.   I would argue that Ivory Coast is probably one of the most underrated countries heading into the World Cup, although they have had alot of recent adversity, including the injury to Didier Drogba and replacing their coach with…yikes, Sven Goran Eriksson (not someone I rate).

Portugal has had a couple important injuries recently as well, but still boast a team that doesn’t have too much pressure on it, has Cristiano Ronaldo and his diving ability, and pretty well rested.  Compare that to a squad like England and Portugal has some intangibles on its side.

To date, African teams haven’t seemed to have any great home advantage, but it will be interesting to see the crowd tomorrow.   It will be a killer if FIFA doesn’t allow Didier Drogba to play (although the play in which he injured himself was his own fault as he essentially karate scissorkicked the opposing player).

Finally, it’s not impossible that Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugal end up in something of a three way tie, so beating North Korea by alot could be key for goal differential.  I would expect Brazil to pump in 5 goals or so, which could help determine who scores the most goals in the World Cup.

To tell you the truth, I think Portugal is likely to have the edge, in large part because of manager, but I will be rooting for the Ivory Coast.

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