KEIR RADNEDGE in BELO HORIZONTE: German coach Joachim Low leaped eagerly off his usual diplomatic fence to fire up the World Cup refereeing controversy on the eve of a daunting semi-final confrontation here with hosts Brazil.
Low, concerned that a Latin American referee may indulge the hosts in a rugged repeat of their Colombia clash, excoriated the “brutal” fouls and “sliding tackles from behind” in the quarter-final which saw Neymar carried out of the tournament.
After regretting Neymar’s absence from the semi-final and wishing him a speedy recovery, Low left no doubt about the anti-football he does not expect Mexican official Marco Rodriguez to permit.
Brazil’s 2-1 defeat of Colombia saw the most fouls of any match in the finals with little disciplinary restraint offered by Spanish referee Carlos Velasco.
Low acknowledged that pace and power had played a role in the drama of the World Cup but feared that Brazil-Colombia had gone over the top in more ways than one.
He said: “We have seen a World Cup based on enormous dynamism, physical power, tough tackles and players willing to fight and go for it but who will also stop and break up the opponents’ game.
“I hope – and believe – that the referee here will clamp down on that because what I have seen in the match against Colombia went beyond the limits we see in Europe. If this match had been in Europe it would not have ended with all 22 players on the pitch.
“There were brutal fouls, tough fouls and this tough type of play was exaggerated. We will have to see that these really brutal and crude fouls are stopped otherwise we will not need the Neymars and Ozils and Messis we will need another type of player who will go out to destroy.
“At this World Cup I have seen matches where the limits of what can be tolerated have been surpassed.”
Low resisted a suggestion that referees had been too lenient in general in the finals in Brazil but he was concerned events from Brazil-Colombia should not be repeated.
He said: “It was a real fight with numerous fouls from both sides. It was not just that one foul against Neymar but many other things as well I think there was only 38 or 39 minutes real playing time because there were so many breaks.
“Also it’s normal that teams are informed what you get a yellow card for, while a red is for this and that.
“In Brazil-Colombia there were many fouls from behind which were really dangerous for the player and sliding tackles from behind. You have to protect the players when you are a referee.
“It is important for everyone working in football to protect the attackers and I don’t think what we saw there was very good.”
Referee Rodriguez was the official in the Group D match in which Uruguy beat Italy 1-0 after Luis Suarez bit Azzurri defender Giorgio Chiellini.
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari had no concerns about whether that reflected on Rodriguez’s refereeing in general.
He said: “Many things happen that the referee doesn’t see. Sometimes they are following the flight of the ball when something else is happening. That’s why they have assistants.
“But this is a referee in his third World Cup, he has a lot of experience and I think it’s a correct choice for FIFA for our match.”
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