Worst World Cup referees ever. Officials under fire for series of shocking failures

By Andrew Warshaw

December 12 – Referees are invariably lambasted at various stages during major competitions.   It goes with the territory.

But there is a general consensus of opinion that rarely, if ever, have the officials been as inconsistent as in Qatar – the exact opposite of what FIFA set out to achieve. Combined with a spate of suspect VAR decisions despite the much-trumpeted semi-automated offside system.

Brazilian referee Wilton Sampaio was accused of having an ‘awful, awful game’ by England defender Harry Maguire as his team were beaten 2-1 by France in the quarter-finals.

“I can’t really explain his performance – the number of decisions he got wrong was actually incredible,” said the Manchester United defender.

Despite awarding England two penalties, Sampaio was heavily criticised by supporters, pundits and players alike.

There are legitimate questions about whether France’s opening goal should have stood following a clear foul on Bukayo Saka in the build-up. It was a pivotal moment and the kind of luck that France capitalised on and contributed to England going out.

Former England Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher claimed Sampaio wasn’t good enough to deal with such a crucial encounter.

Gallagher, who regularly appears on Sky, commented“I don’t think there’s any doubt there’s a foul (on Saka), you can see it’s a foul. If the referee doesn’t see it, the assistant has a perfect view, he’s looking straight at it and is very, very close. If the assistant flagged, everyone would have accepted that decision.”

Even for the late penalty which Harry Kane blasted over, Sampaio had to go to the monitor even though the blatant barge on Mason Mount, initially overlooked, was clear for all to see – except the man in the middle who also arguably missed at least one other stonewall spotkick.

On Sampaio’s overall performance, Gallagher added: “Whether he was nervous or the occasion got to him, he certainly didn’t perform how you would expect a ref at that level to perform. It wasn’t the level of a referee in a World Cup quarter-final. You can’t say he wasn’t at that level but I would say he didn’t produce on the day. During the 90 minutes, he didn’t reflect that level. The problems emanated from decisions he didn’t make rather than ones he did make.”

England, of course, haven’t been the only victims of dodgy officiating and with three games still to go there are growing concerns that whoever lifts the trophy might end up doing so thanks to a healthy dose of suspect refereeing.

Spanish official Antonio Mateu Lahoz, for one, has already been sent packing after dishing out a record 18 yellow cards in the feisty last-eight game between Argentina and the Netherlands.

In what was a bad-tempered clash Dutch defender Denzel Dumfries received his marching orders despite the game having already finished while two-goal Wout Weghorst was booked even before he got on the pitch.

Despite Argentina running out victorious, even Lionel Messi could not contain himself.

“This match shouldn’t have ended as it did,” he told Argentine TV. “We were afraid before the match because we knew how he was and I think FIFA has to review this. You can’t put a referee like him for these matches.”

Argentina’s shootout hero Emiliano Martinez went further.

“The ref gave everything to them [Netherlands],” said the Aston Villa goalkeeper. “He gave 10 minutes extra time for no reason. He just wanted them to score. That referee is crazy. Arrogant.

“Because Spain were eliminated, he wanted to eliminate us. He is the worst referee at the World Cup. Hopefully we won’t have him again – he’s useless.”

Veteran Portuguese defender Pepe, by contrast, questioned the appointment of an Argentinian referee to handle their shock quarter-final defeat by Morocco and claimed FIFA officials “can now give the title to Argentina”.

“It was unacceptable for an Argentine referee to referee our game,” Pepe said. “We weren’t allowed to play the second half.”

Pepe questioned the decision to play only eight minutes of stoppage time and said: “I can bet that Argentina will be champions.”

He may well be proved right.

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