KEIR RADNEDGE in MOSCOW: Nestor Pitana will finish the World Cup he began. The Argentinian who refereed the Opening Match between Russia and Saudi Arabia will also be in charge of Sunday’s Final between France and Croatia in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
Pitana, a 43-year-old physical education teacher, will be partnered by assistants Hernan Maidana and Juan Pablo Belatti.
He is not the first referee to open and close the World Cup finals. Predecessors were Sweden’s Ivan Eklind in 1934, England’s George Reader in 1950 and Pitana’s fellow Argentinian Horacio Elizondo in 2006. In 1934 all the first round matches were played simultaneously so there was no single opening match as such.
Pitana has refereed four matches at Russia 2018, following up Russia v Saudi Arabia with Mexico v Sweden in the group stages, the second round tie between Croatia and Denmark then the quarter-final between Uruguay and France.
Pitana has been an international referee since 2010. He is the second Argentinian referee to participate in two World Cups after Norberto Coerezza, who oversaw two games in 1970 and one in 1978. After Horacio Elizondo in 2006, he becomes the second Argentinian referee to officiate a World Cup Final.
He made his FIFA finals debut with three games an the U-17 World Cup in 2013 followed by four fixtures at the following year’s senior World Cup in Brazil where he officiated at four fixtures, including France v Germany in the quarter-finals.
In 2015, he was called up for his first, and so far only, Copa America, in addition to handling River Plate v Huracan in the final of the Supercopa Argentina.
Pitana returned to Brazil in 2016 for the Olympic Football Tournament, where he was the man in the middle for the semi-final between Germany and Nigeria. In 2017 he took charge of the Confederations Cup semi-final between Germany and Mexico.