Home / World Cup Diary IV: USA vs Italy

World Cup Diary IV: USA vs Italy

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Apparently a lot of people are upset about the officiating in the match between Italy and USA. They think the Uruguayan referee has denied a USA victory. I am not convinced. In fact I don't even agree to the slightest.

Uruguay was never in the holy trio of the axis of evil, so you cannot really claim any bias.

The tone of the game was set in the opening minutes with a total of 6/7 fouls committed from both sides, majority of them by the US clearly showing their intention of how they want to go about with their game — anything but soft. In fact I wrote in my earlier post:

"It would be foolish to try to outplay the Italians as they are superior in every department of the game. Instead, they should be more physical, and try frustrating their opposition–more importantly not to give them an inch of free space in the midfield from where every attacking move originates.

In other words, if it comes down to being downright ugly, they better be BAD if they want to keep their hopes alive.

I don't see the US winning, but a gritty draw will go a long way to salvage some of the respect lost. "

So, I am not surprised, in case you are.

And the battle tested Italians, all of them playing in the toughest of European leagues, don't exactly enjoy the reputation of easy goers on the field either.

You could see the red cards coming. It was just a matter of when.

Daniele De Rossi for Italy was the first one to sent off for taking a cheap shot on the face of Brian McBride that required multiple stitches. It was a sick act from the Italian midfielder who later apologized.

The controversial moment of the match followed when Pablo Mastroeni tackled Pirlo and the Uruguayan referee didn't hesitate to bring out his red card one more time. In ABC the commentators referred to it as the "make up call." Sadly that's far from truth.

I expect them to take the US side, but making it sound like some sort of conspiracy against the Yanks was plain dumb.

Look, the tackle was late which is to say it was not necessary at all. And when you tackle, you don't plunge with a two-footer with spikes up — it could potentially ruin a career. There was no way the referee could let it go.

The third marching order was automatic when Eddie Pope received his second yellow card of the match — an unfortunate one because it appeared to be a bit harsh.

As if their series of misfortunes were not enough, DaMarcus Beasley's goal from 15 yards was ruled out because McBride was standing in an offside position. Certainly luck was not in their side today but the effort was a commendable one, something that sorely lacked against the Czech Republic.

US played almost the entire second half down to nine men, and they had little choice other than to defend although they counter-attacked on rare occasions. Eventually they ran out of gas in the late but some valiant saves by their goalkeeper Kasey Keller saw them escape with a gutsy draw and a valuable point.

The day for the US started with the good news of Ghana pulling off an 2-0 upset against the Czech Republic with a magnificent display of attacking football, keeping the US very much alive in the tournament.

Right now the group remains wide open. Italy remains on the top of the pack while Czech Republic and Ghana are tied in total points for the second place. US is at the bottom of the group but things can change quickly.

If they can steal an improbable win against Ghana:

• Ghana won't qualify.

• If Italy wins against Czech Republic, Italy and US qualifies.

• if Italy loses against Czech Republic, Czech qualifies, FIFA rules determine the next qualifier (between USA and Italy)

• if Italy draws against Czech republic, Italy qualifies, and again FIFA rules decide between USA and the Czech Republic.

If two or more teams have equal points after all group stage matches, positions will be determined by FIFA rules:

1. Greatest number of points obtained in all group matches.
2. Goal difference in all group matches.
3. Greatest number of goals scored in all matches.

If two or more teams are equal on the basis of the above three criteria, their rankings will be determined as follows:

4. Greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned.
5. Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned.
6. Greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned.
7. Drawing of lots by the organising committee for the FIFA World Cup.

Just to let you know, the last two matches of the group will be played simultaneously to avoid match-fixing.

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About Q Bit

  • i expected a terrible and humiliating defeat for USA agaist Italy…a 1-1 draw came as a very big surprise.
    i never considered a draw.

  • In both US red card instances, the US player actually touched the ball. What of that?

  • Makeup calls really aren’t conspiracies. And conspiracy involves a group of people. If anything, USA analysts were hinting toward referee bias.

  • Robert/Maryland

    You obviously share little love for the USA, and hey who can blame you. The USA has behaved horribly on world issues.

    As far as the ref in this match…you’re blending your dislike of foreign policy with ignorance of this ref’s past. This is a ref that had been pulled from the previous World Cup of 2002 for irregularities.

    Somehow, somewhere from the FIFA management, somebody thought it might be cute to place this referee in a USA match.

    There’s more to this story, I don’t exactly know the whole story behind it. But it’s not as black and white as you claim.

  • Shea

    The referee was inexcusably bad. Pope’s initial yellow card was a foul by the Italian striker and should be rescinded. He most certainly should not have been sent off.

    I saw absolutely nothing in that match indicating that the Italians were strategically or technically superior. They deserved to lose and were fortunate to escape with the draw.

  • @Reggie: am not surprised. US probably doesn’t deserve their #5 ranking but they are surely one of the top 20 teams. They did create chances and they played smart and within their limitations. Give it to Bruce Arena who somehow found a way to maximize their strengths and minimize the weaknesses. He was clearly a step ahead of his counterpart Lippi.

    @Michael: In case of serious fouls touching or not touching the ball has little to do with the card.

    @Susster: I didn’t really say the “make up call” amounts to some kind of conspiracy. I thought the commentators while discussing the issue made it sound like that.

  • @Robert:
    You obviously share little love for the USA, and hey who can blame you. The USA has behaved horribly on world issues.

    My political bias or love/hate for US foreign policy has nothing to do with my report.

    As far as the ref in this match…you’re blending your dislike of foreign policy with ignorance of this ref’s past. This is a ref that had been pulled from the previous World Cup of 2002 for irregularities.

    Yes, I am aware of that fact. But I also think if his previous case had anything to do with his ability to officiate a match, he wouldn’t be here. FIFA often takes actions against officials for off the field irregularities. In this World Cup an African official is sacked for selling tickets in the black market.

    Somehow, somewhere from the FIFA management, somebody thought it might be cute to place this referee in a USA match.

    There’s more to this story, I don’t exactly know the whole story behind it. But it’s not as black and white as you claim.

    I will try to find out more of the story if I can and post it here.


    The second yellow card on Pope was a bit harsh. Usually referees go easy (verbal warnings) on a player who’s playing with one caution, unless the second offense is really serious. In this case I think referee commited an error in judgement, probably forgetting that Pope has already been booked once.

    Yes, Italians had a bad day. But USA also got lucky in the final minutes.

  • “@Michael: In case of serious fouls touching or not touching the ball has little to do with the card.”

    According to FIFA rules, “A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player tackles an opponent to gain possession of the ball, making contact with the opponent before touching the ball.”

    Further, “A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off and shown the red card if he commits any of the following seven offences:

    1. is guilty of serious foul play …”

    I just rewatched the video: Mastroeni touched the ball first (just barely, but still), so it should not be a foul unless it was considered “serious foul play,” which it was NOT. Pope DID touch the man before the ball, so it could be called a foul, but I don’t think it was a yellow card offense.

  • FIFA issued a circular with new instructions on officiating the World Cup. Among others, the new orders include,

    Serious foul play

    Lunging- Red card.

    Elbowing- (intentional) Red card

    An excellent discussion on the topic can be found here.

  • Michael:

    I mentioned serious fouls and not ordinary fouls. Serious fouls are the ones that merit red cards and again it has little to do with actually touching the ball.

  • If they get a green card, do they get deported to the U.S.?


  • Well done. I agree. Pope did not deserve his card. Mastroeni on the other hand was a fool. I think American commentators are plain not insightful. Wynalda is frightengly unimpressive some times. There’s no conspiracy. America caught a huge break on the own goal that made an already intense game even more so. America was the aggressor – as they should have been – and Italy did what they could to stem the proud onslaught. America deserves credit. Had the bad referee let them play it out and sort it out for themselves we would have seen a superb 10-a-side match. Last, if anyone should be thinking conspiracy it’s Italy. Over the last three world cups they have had some of the weirdest calls go against them. From send-offs (some were indeed justified like De Rossi) to blantant missed off sides. Korea should never have won that game in 2002 against Italy had the officiating been remotely adequate and competent.

  • In my opinion that was the most interesting and exciting game to watch thus far and in this world cup. The Italians were close to lose their faith and face! The American took the bloody face with pride and the power of the American team surprised all of us who first thought that Italia would crush USA in the first half. Those surprises make this sport so interesting. And the team efforts of course.
    We have to ask ourself if the soccer player of today also take acting classes, as they immediately fall and then pretned being hurt–to be carried off the field, take a moment to rest and drink water–and as soon as they arrive at the border of the field, they jump off and run back into the filed as if they never had a problem at all.
    Some even do it most believable.
    I just felt sorry for my brother in law who is Italian. But USA: WAY TO GO!

  • Blake Altom

    I can’t believe that anyone who watched the game would even consider that the match wasn’t determined by the ref. To me, it’s clear, and it’s not just because I am American and love our team. But how could this ref even be in the World Cup? HOW? It appalls me to think that how hard we played was shot down because of the worst ref in the world. It’s crazy, and if he refs another game, there’s got to be something going on. Even if those fouls were really fouls, they were in NO WAY yellow cards even, let alone red cards. It’s simply ridiculous, and we’ve had two really bad refs so far in this world cup, although the first ref didn’t determine the game because we sucked so bad. But he missed a definite red card against the Czechs. Anyway, it’s ridiculous to think the ref had no outcome of the game.

  • A hard hitting take on the game here (London Times).

    Scapegoating the referee is easy but you might want to check the link in #9 to familiarize yourself with the rules – the referee simply followed the rules.

    And the professional footballers are damn good in play acting. In fact the referees are pretty much aware of their tendencies and that’s why you won’t see too many fouls called inside the 18 yard box–most of the falls are fake hoping to get a penalty.

  • “Just to let you know, the last two matches of the group will be played simultaneously to avoid match-fixing.”

    Ah! I knew there was a reason for that! 🙂

  • Paul

    Q Bit
    here (London Times).
    Scapegoating the referee is easy but you might want to check the link in #9 to familiarize yourself with the rules – the referee simply followed the rules.
    -You might want to familiarize yourself with common sense. You need to realize that you can only follow rules to a certain extent. Ultimately that referee wasn’t mentally or physically fit for the game. And even if the calls were “fifa correct,” then why didn’t he keep his consistantsy and hand out three or four more reds. He decided to finally let the last 15 minutes of play go without any calls and there were plenty of tackles. I am half Italian, but the USA should have won that game. A tie doesn’t cut it, Italy was lucky USA couldn’t capitalize. It’s all about the European game, well united states finally has a good team, and you get favorism. It’s all bullshit.
    11v11 and united states wins
    11v10 and united states would destroy Italy
    9v10 is unfortunate and they scored, but called back

  • @ Q Bit – You couldn’t be more wrong in your assessment of the red card given to Mastroeni. Certainly, I can see a yellow card on that play, or even a straight foul, but it was clear that a red card was simply an atrocious “make up” call on behalf of the referee. To say that the commentator’s on ABC are “plain dumb” is incredibly erroneous.

    Also to defend FIFA for allowing this referee to continue to oifficiate World Cup matches after being dismissed in 2002 is downright ludicrous. Only in the world of futball and FIFA could a referee be removed form one World Cup for irregularities, and then be permitted to officiate in the next World Cup.

    The list of outlining FIFA’s ineptitude is endless.

  • Also find it funny that a “London Times” article wrips the Americans and the Italians for rough play and a foul-filled game, when English Premier Futball is traditionally known to be the roughest and most physical in the world.

    Just a tad irionic if you ask me…

  • Robert/Maryland


    You obviously haven’t seen any matches from South America. Any one of many countries south of the boarder are the worst officiated in the world. Pele has begged and pleaded for the corruption to stop in Brazil. It’s like watching a WWE wrestling match. Really, it is unwatchable if you asked me. I’ve been watching the EPL for 8 years and it’s no worse than any other European league.

    lmao…we all need to remember this is a blog site. Q Bit is going to play devils advoctate all he can to stir the shit up. Ofcourse the ref had shown favor to the Italians.

  • @Paul, Wozzy and Rob:

    The objective of the FIFA instructions is to protect the spirit of the game and the players.

    The referee followed the rules because that was the right thing to do. This is not about common sense. It is about the right sense.

    Daniel DeRossi would have still got the Red Card even if he hadn’t cracked McBride’s cheek — that his act , intended or not was in gross violation of the conduct was good enough.

    Likewise, Mastroeni’s tackle is one of the worst of its kind. I ask you to take a look at it again — and I will say it again — it was two footed spuds up lunge which could have put an end to Pirlo’s playing career.

    The referees were specifically asked to look for these kinds of offenses and punish accordingly.

    And your observation is right — the referee didn’t call quite a few (not yellow cards though) fouls in the last 10 mins.

    Wozzy, of course English Premier League is the toughest one (arguably) and it’s kind of ironic for a British reporter to criticise rough and tough football but I thought the whole point of his criticism was to show the relative departure of one particular game from the rest of the games.

    And Wozzy, ABC commentators are so bad that in comparison the analysts in Rogers Sportsnet/TSN seem to do a better job.

    And Rob , I’m not playing DA here although I wld love to 🙂

  • Robert/Maryland

    ok…you can catch me back at the redcafe.

    I think we’ve beaten this one to death.

    Had fun, I’ll be back for more.

  • Davis

    You’d have to be biased to not see the awful officating in this game toward the US. In what soccer league/organization/etc in the world is a slide-tackle that gets the ball first a red card? And seriously, if every referee followed that circular to the word, you’d have every match ending in 4 v 4s. These referees aren’t idiots. They aren’t going to just start sending guys off for every challenge. There was nothing consistent in that game. Plain and simple the referee sucked, especially so in calls against the U.S.

  • Davis:

    You could possibly enhance your knowledge by going through the comment section and the links therein.

    And if you can take another look at the replay of that tackle.

    As Rob noted we have beaten this one to death.

    Not always everyone gets everything right — so feel free to disagree and try watching more games 🙂

    This world cup has been wonderful for all kinds of fans, serious or casual.

  • Alan

    Q you must not be watching the same replay I am. First of all Mastroeni came in with only one foot out the other was under him as he is sliding. Second of all it is clear the one foot comes square on the ball and passes by the legs of the Italian and the Italian then trips over the LEGS of Mastroeni. I have played this over and over and can’t see it any other way. A foul may be in order but immediate dismissal is tragic.

  • Edgar

    I think the referee did not do anything doubtful. the game had very high rhythm and everyone in that case could have some mistakes. The second goal of Americans was not goal, as the American player closed Buffon’s sight, besides he was off side. everything was normal. I am just upset for Italy’s game, because the Italian team was better and it was obvious, i am sorry that Italy did not win.

  • Alan:

    I guess we differ. Since you have already watched the replay few times and still not convinced, I don’t know what else to say. Perhaps a different angle of the play could have helped.


    Pope was clearly unfortunate.

  • knowledgeable football fan

    Follow the Ghana game, I think we can all accept the fact there definitely was some kind of conspiracy to facilitate an early US departure from the World Cup:
    1. Placing the US in the toughest Group in the tournament. What ever happened to seeding by world ranking?
    2. Assigning the refree who was kicked out of the 2002 World Cup for fixing games to the game in which the US plays the Mafia.
    3. The penalty kick awarded for Ghana in stoppage time in the first half on a header ball that the 5’6″ Ghanan had no chance of winning against the 6’4″ US defender.
    4. On top of all this the second place team from our Group gets to play the Number 1 ranked team in the world BRAZIL. What would have happened if the Czechs would have advanced – you would have had the #1 & #2 ranked teams in the world playing in the second round!

  • There are many rumours of corruption in football at the moment but I think it’s going a bit far to talk of conspiracies.

    The groups were chosen at random in a public event on live television so they weren’t fixed.

    Neither of the Ghanaian goals should have stood and the USA should have gone through to the next round to meet Brazil.

    The level of refereeing mistakes at the tournament has been unacceptably high so far.

    As to the rankings, they are worked out on some complicated formula that is based on the quality and quantity of matches played. The Czechs probably aren’t the only team that deserves a different ranking.

    I actually don’t like seeding anyway. It’s only done for commercial reasons and removes some of the romance and unpredictability of a truly open competition.

  • KFF:

    None of your comments has any merit whatsoever:

    1. Conspiracy theory is rubbish.

    2. Tell me the source.
    I have checked his record since 2002, and the Uruguayan referee has been assigned to all major FIFA tournaments including world cup qualfiers and Confederations cup. FIFA chooses the best referees for the world cup – not that they never screw up – they always do , but they are human making mistakes -nothing more.

    3. The penalty was not justified — it was indeed a mistake. US could have drawn the game but it wouldn’t have helped.

    4. That comment doesn’t make any sense. The seeds are expected to win their group, so that in pre quarter finals they don’t meet each other. It’s not FIFA’s problem if any of them comes second or fails to qualify from the group stage.

    Chris: I don’t see what’s your problem with the second Ghana goal unless you are extremely prejudiced. In any case US didn’t play like they were one of the top two teams in the group — it’s simple why they didn’t advance– they weren’t good enough.

    The ranking system is a bit complicated and has a strong regional bias – that’s the reason why US is 5, Japan is 18 and so on – rarely these teams play top teams – they get points playing all the minnows in their region.

    Czechs are indeed good, it’s not easy to grab #2 spot from Europe – and that’s why they were also a BIG disappointment. But that happens in every world cup.

  • Alan


    Are you suggesting that a different angle than the one you watch is the answer?

  • vinnie

    I am sorry if I offend anyone, but that referee should be sent to Iraq for public work for 1 month to see if any terrorist makes a mistake…