As the pressure rises on players and coaches throughout the World Cup, it rises on referees as well, and the North American officiating crew of Mark Geiger, Sean Hurd and Jeremy Fletcher from the Professional Referee Organization were in the spotlight on Monday afternoon.
While no call was as controversial or high-profile as the penalty kick that decided Sunday's Mexico-Netherlands match, a close offside call in the first half and several hard fouls in the second half were discussed early and often in Nigeria head coach Stephen Keshi's post-game press conference.
"If you look at the goal that we scored, I don’t think there was any infringement there that happened," said Keshi, who said he did not see an in-stadium replay. "Again, the referee is a human being; he’s bound to make some mistakes. But a lot of mistakes are questionable. I’m not happy about it, but he’s the one who decides. But it’s not good."
Replays appeared to show that the offside call, flagged by Fletcher from the far sideline, was a correct decision.
NIGERIA! OH NO...ruled out for offside. Would've been a HUGE goal for the Super Eagles. pic.twitter.com/CaOig1Bqz2— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 30, 2014
Geiger and co. may come under more scrutiny, however, for his decision in the second half not to send off France's Blaise Matuidi for a hard foul that knocked Nigeria's Ogenyi Onazi out of the game. Geiger issued Matuidi a yellow card, keeping both teams at full strength in terms of manpower, even if Nigeria lost a starter on the play.
"I’m not happy with the officiating, because Onazi on two occasions he [suffered] a very bad tackle, and the referee did nothing," Keshi said. "This is the first time I will speak about the referee in my life as a coach, but it wasn’t good."
Another solid game by Geiger in FRA v NGA. But, could this decision (YC) cost team another assignment? Video soon. pic.twitter.com/TQNL0mCkkt— Opinion of the Ref (@itootrdotcom) June 30, 2014
Geiger is the first American to officiate an elimination game at the World Cup. Assignments for future games in the tournament will be announced 1-2 days before each match.