USA beat Brazil in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, a result that looked unlikely after the Americans were reduced to 10 players on the pitch, when midfielder Rachel Buehler was given marching orders by referee Jacqui Melksham.
Had USA not scraped through in a penalty shoot out, after a 2-2 thriller, in regulation time, Buehler’s red card would probably have become a major controversy. Not because it was not deserved but because of other incidents that appeared to point to refereeing bias.
After the US back-line was beaten by Marta, Rachel Buehler tracked back and brought down Brazil’s star striker, even as Marta was about to score, from point-blank range, with only keeper Hope Solo to beat. The resultant penalty taken by Cristiane was saved by Solo. Solo was so busy celebrating her save and had her back to the referee that she did not notice that the ball was back on the penalty spot.
Referee Melksham was not satisfied. Melksham wanted the penalty to be taken again, claiming that Solo had left her line before the shot was taken, the first time. Solo was “awarded” a yellow card, to boot. Marta who took the second shot made no mistake. Replays showed that Solo had not left the line.
Had USA paid the penalty for some biased refereeing? Did Marta dive? These are some questions that beg answers, especially in light of other incidents that shed a less than sympathetic light on the quality of officiating seen in the match.
Brazil fans might also have their complaints that Melksham failed to award a red card to Carly Lloyd for her foul against Cristiane, inside the USA area, early in the game, and a second yellow, later on, for an “intentional” handball. Or that US players were intentionally off-side during a penalty kick. And if Marta is a diver, then so is Wambach.
But US fans would be justified in claiming that the referees chose to overlook an offside during Brazil’s second goal that gave the South Americans a vital lead.
A sad aspect of the match and a commentary on the quality of refereeing was the reaction of the crowd of mainly “neutral” spectators, who made Brazilian star Marta bear the brunt of their abuse. There was a general feeling among spectators that Brazil players were directing a considerable portion of their energy towards influencing the referee.
Whether or not Melksham was biased, nobody would disagree that she made a huge and decisive difference on the way the match progressed. Her refereeing style was interventionist, not the best style if you are looking for a spontaneously flowing game of football.
Photographs: Courtesy of Zimbio.com
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Jinxatious is the Chief Editor of SportingAttitude.com
An avid writer, on an eclectic range of subjects, he brings to bear editorial experience garnered with a national newspaper in South-East Asia. He also has sportscasting experience, as a cricket commentator, and his passion for sport extends beyond Cricket, to Football, Tennis, and Olympic Sports.