KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY: If Carlos Velasco never referees another match at this World Cup he will already have refereed one too many.
Referees, like players and anyone else at their office, can have bad days. But the exhaustive selection, preparation and training programme created to bring the so-say elite officials to the World Cup let the finals down on Friday night in Fortaleza.
Maybe the Spaniard just froze on the big occasion. For a man who has been wearing the FIFA badge for six years and counts a Europa League Final and the Euro 2012 Opener on his cv this is surprising. But if that were not the case then the accusations and criticism of his handling of Brazil v Colombia would have to delve murkier depths.
To put it simply: on the night he was not up to the job.
That became shatteringly clear at the halfhour mark when Colombia won a free kick in roughly the central position from which David Luiz scored, decisively, against them in the second half.
To the Colombians’ justified anger, Velasco took no action when, on signalling the free kick two Brazilians charged over the vanishing spray and were within a few yards of the kick by the time it was, not surprisingly, blocked.
That was the moment when all the players knew they could push whatever boundaries they wanted and very few of them would take a card for it.
This was not a case of ‘Webbism’ – the insoluble conundrum confronting England’s Howard in the 2010 Final over whether to do what was right for the Final (and not send off Nigel De Jong for his chest-stamp on Xabi Alonso) or what was right for the game (send him packing and ruin the final)*: it was a clear dereliction of duty.
Velasco’s signal that he had decided on a ‘referee-lite’ style led on inevitably to some clumping behaviour by players of both sides and Camilo Zuniga’s assault on Neymar.
No way was Zuniga ever pursuing possession of the ball; hence that left only one alternative intention which is not permitted by either the laws or the spirit of the game.
FIFA may need to review not only Velasco’s performance but the manner in which Massimo Busacca, the Swiss former FIFA referee, manages the referee preparation programme.
** With hindsight, Webb should have sent him off: the 2010 Final was a gruesome ‘exhibition’ of non-football even with all 22 players on the pitch.