Watched the end of the Australia/Croatia match tonight and I have to say I'm terribly confused about what's happened. Apparently, the English ref, Graham Poll has had a bit of a shocker and got absolutely slated by the friendly BBC pundits, (both premiership players, neither of whom seem to have had a good opinion of him in the first place). The accusations brought against him are:

  • Missing a penalty against Croatia early on (Viduka being held)
  • Missing a penalty against Croatia late on (Handball)
  • Allowing Australia's second goal when the scorer was offside
  • Not sending off Simunic after booking him twice and in fact booking him a third time at the very end of the match and then sending him off!
  • Disallowing Australia's goal at the very end as he'd already called full-time.

I'm going to hold back on judgement just for a moment though, because

  • The replays don't help Viduka's cause. Although he was clearly held, Viduka was rather theatrical in his fall, and that has an effect these days.
  • Handball in the middle of three players jumping is easy to miss. This wasn't the first time and it won't be the last. Slightly offset by Poll catching a much less blatant handball in the first half and awarding a penalty which resulted in Australia's first goal.
  • Not really the ref's fault, linesman error, and none of the linesmen have been particularly good at judging offside during this tournament. More to the point, what exactly is the rule these days? Fifa change it so often, I've lost track of what to look for.
  • If this did indeed happen then there isn't much defense for it, that is the reason he has a book after all, and also why players have numbers as well as names. Trouble is, I didn't actually see Simunic get booked the first time as I started watching at about 65mins. When did he get booked? The BBC live update screen doesn't help as it doesn't mention his first booking, only the two at the end, calling them his second and third. [edit] it seems The Times and The Guardian agree on something for once (a feat that will never be repeated in all eternity)…Simunic was booked in the 63rd minute.
  • I'll be honest, I couldn't figure out what was going on at the very end. I thought the ref had blown for a foul on a defender at the end. It wasn't until I saw the match report later that I found that it was supposedly for full-time.

Anyway, it'll all come out in the wash. It was pretty chaotic at the end there!  I doubt Poll will be refereeing any more world cup matches though…

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