It would not be a World Cup without some refereeing controversy. It took eight days for a significant problem to occur in that department, but it was one massive blunder that took place in Australia’s 3-2 win over Equatorial Guinea.
Hungarian referee Gyoengi Gaal inexplicably missed a hand ball where Equatorial Guinea defender Bruna not only handled the ball but actually picked it up and carried it. No whistle had blown and the play was still live, but Bruna just set the ball down and play continued. It was bizarre at best and inexcusable in truth, but beyond a couple of protesting Matildas players, everyone else was dumbfounded.
Check out the highlight of the ordeal here and check out the official statement given by FIFA match commissioner Karen Espelund. Here is what she said post match (via Jacqueline Purdy’s story):
“I have spoken to the referee,” she said at a news conference. “[Gaal] expresses she’s extremely sorry that she missed that episode.”
She can be as sorry as she wants, but she is still our top substitute as the day’s worst performer. Her are the day’s STARS and SUBS:
- Marta – The ‘old’ Marta of the past two years looks like she is back after a little bit of a funk over these past couple months in WPS. She scored two goals and added an assist for Brazil, which looked sluggish in the first 45 minutes before coming alive immediately after halftime. Marta still committed a foul on her first goal, but Kari Seitz was willing to let that one go for the best player in the world.
- Leena Khamis – She had a goal and an assist for Australia in the team’s 3-2 win over Equatorial Guinea. She is also the player whose shot hit the post right before Bruna’s handball. Khamis was active all evening and gave Equatorial Guinea’s defense fits.
- Collette McCallum – I was disappointed to see McCallum leave Sky Blue FC after the team’s 2009 WPS Championship run and she showed why on Sunday. McCallum was great all evening and she vaguely reminded me of a left-footed, Australian-by-way-of-Scotland David Beckham type of set piece specialist who provides great service from the wings. She assisted on Lisa De Vanna’s goal – the team’s third – and was dangerous all night on set pieces. McCallum smacked the post on a 43rd minute free kick and sent another just wide (after it was deflected) in the 73rd minute.
- Añonma – I reluctantly give this honor to the Equatorial Guinea captain because although she was good today, both her goals were gifts from Australia and he temper on the pitch was detrimental to the team. But we still saw why she is a rising star. Unfortunately, the world won’t see her on the big stage again until at least 2015, should the team again qualify for the Women’s World Cup. Equatorial Guinea has been banned from the Olympics due to the use of ineligible players.
- Tom Sermanni – The Australian manager made five line-up changes from the loss to Brazil and The Matildas looked far better than they did against Brazil.
SUBS (those who had a not so great day):
- Hungarian referee Gyoengi Gaal – See above. I don’t want to harp on this too much because it should not be the focus of what has been an otherwise great tournament thus far. But seriously, what a missed call.
- Servet Uzunlar – What a nightmare of an evening for the Australian defender. She twice coughed up the ball as the last defender and gifted two goals to Añonma. Once is somewhat forgivable, but the same awful mistake twice in the same game? That was sad to watch.
- Marin Mjelde – The Norwegian defender dove in on Marta’s first goal (yeah, yeah, Marta’s scissor moves were nice but that was also poor defending) and Mjelde was personally responsible for the third goal on an errant back pass. It wasn’t the best day at the office for her.
Free Kicks (News and notes not quite as spectacular as Collette McCallum’s set pieces):
Rosana became the first player of the tournament to score in multiple games after 16 games. Japan captain Homare Sawa remains the only player to score a hat trick. Añonma, Marta and Gaëtane Thiney are the only other players with multiple goal games.
We have gone 1440 minutes without a red card or a penalty kick in this tournament (somehow, despite Bruna’s attempt to turn soccer into rugby).
Brazil continues to play its unique 3-4-3 formation with man-marking in the back. It’s a wacky looking formation that seems all out of sorts, but Fabiana is still one of the most underrated players out there. If there is one right midfielder who can both defend and attack and cover an entire flank for 90 minutes, it is Fabiana. Maurine on the left might be a concern.
Speaking of formations: Equatorial Guinea’s back line was all sorts of messed up. The days of playing with a sweeper are over, for the most part (other that the youth and high school levels – and you wonder why there are youth development problems), yet Carolina played one of the deepest sweeping roles imaginable. She was practically a sweeper-keeper.
Norway has been really underwhelming and I see Australia handling this team pretty well. Australia has looked far stronger and should have a much more favorable goal differential if it weren’t for two foolish mental lapses in the back. This young Norwegian team is going to need to wait until 2015 to get back to looking like the usual dominant Norway. But hey, we’ll see what Wednesday brings. I had Canada going to the semifinals, after all.
Equatorial Guinea’s complaining to the referee (as poor as she was on certain occasions) was honestly disgraceful. Carolina and Dulcia were particularly frustrating in that department and Añonma was far from innocent.
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