Posts Tagged ‘referees’

In a very balanced clash between leader Corinthians and second placed Palmeiras, the refereeing was instrumental, allowing Corinthians to open up the scorecard through a clear offside goal halfway into the first half. Dazed and confused, taking greater risks in the chase for the equalizer, Palmeiras quicly suffered a second blow, then diminished through Mina before allowing Corinthians a third goal, resulting from a dubious penalty. Moisés scored a beauty in the second half, closing the scorecard and Palmeiras’ title aspirations.

“The refereeing is just poor, the errors even out in the end” is a common argument. An argument that ignores the obvious: Corinthians are the team most times directly and decisively benefitted by the referees in this year’s edition of the Brazilian Championship. On the other side of the scale, Palmeiras, the team most times disfavoured. Mind you, this is not supporters talking, but according to the Brazilian Football Federation’s own data analysis, available online. A quick crunching of numbers, correcting the tables for points won and lost through undisputable refereeing errors, and the current standing would be Santos (61), Palmeiras (60), Grêmio (58) and Corinthians (54).

Palmeiras are now 8 points behind with six rounds to go. 2017 has boiled down to securing a spot in the top four, which would guarantee direct qualification to the Libertadores Cup, in turn crucial for less turbulent 2018 pre-season preparations.

On Thursday, in Salvador, Palmeiras visit Vitória, just below the relegation divider. Expect a “difficult bone to gnaw”, as one would say in Portuguese.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!


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The round could not have shaped up any better for Palmeiras. Figueirense might be in the relegation zone, but are strong at their home grounds Orlando Scarpelli, where they lost only two games this season. Three games now.

Cuca surprised, placing rarely used Fabiano on the right flank, displacing Jean to the middle. Could have worked, but Figueirense populated the midfield with defensive players, effectively clogging things up. However, Palmeiras slowly learnt to master both the slippery surface and the spaces available on the flanks, creating chances in the last third of the first half. Virgin scorecard in halftime.

Palmeiras came out determined, applying pressure and creating several chances within the first minutes. At the seventh, Gabriel Jesus received an arm to his face as he went up heading a ball in the penalty area. Much confusion as the Figueira players applied Flamengo-style pressure on the referee, perhaps buying time in hope of an external interference. No such luck: while Gabriel Jesus received medical attention, Jean tucked the ball away, giving Palmeiras the lead.

Palmeiras continued dominating the game. The referee could have awarded Figuerense a penalty, as Egídio stupidly made contact with an opponent right on the divisor of the penalty area, but did not. Just as he did not reward Dudu with one in the first half, when our forward was taken down inside the area.

At 39 minutes, Gabriel Jesus broke free on the left flank and somehow got the ball into the middle, where a charging Jean found his second brace for the night. The three points seemed in the bag, but no: shortly after, Figuerense scored on a corner, Jaílson completely misjudging the trajectory of the ball. A few minutes of nervousness ended with the final whistle. Major victory.

Simultaneously, we palmeirenses had all been keeping an eye on Inter vs Flamengo and Botafogo vs Atlético. Both games swung back and forth, but ended with defeat for the two title contenders. With that, Palmeiras pulled ahead of Flamengo four points, and Atlético a whopping eight points.

— ooo —

Four points ahead of Flamengo, which today Tuesday, at least momentarily, turned into seven points. The Supreme Tribunal of Sports accepted Fluminense’s claim that their game against Flamengo – which originated the external interference scandal – should be subject to their ruling. As Fluminense are seeking a rematch, the points awarded Flamengo have been suspended, the two teams now featuring one game short compared to the rest. No one knows when the court will decides on the case. It can take weeks.

A special feature on Brazilian TV significantly strengthened Fluminense’s case last Sunday, analysing footage from the game. In the middle of the ruckus, with players from both teams pressuring the referee, a man in a suit, identified as the inspector of refereeing for the game, is seen talking to the referee – which is a violation in itself – lip synch experts affirming he says “TV showed it, TV showed the offside”.

External influence is such a severe breach of regulation, a rematch would be expected in any serious country. I leave it at that.

— ooo —

Palmeiras now switch attention to the Brazil Cup, where Grêmio await tomorrow Wednesday. Having lost the away leg 2-1, a simple 1-0 victory would see Palmeiras through to the semi-finals. That being said: Cuca will opt for sparing roughly half of his ordinary starting eleven, letting players like Moisés, Dudu, Roger Guedes, Edu Dracena and Yerry Mina rest ahead of the game against Sport on Sunday. No doubt the Brazilian Championship it the top priority. And I completely agree, although I believe Palmeiras have the quality and the manpower to win both titles this year.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

*photo by César Greco

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Yesterday’s Palmeiras vs Cruzeiro was a well-played and intense affair, nevertheless resulting in a goalless draw. I could and should elaborate a bit more on the game, the decision to play in Araraquara (the Allianz Parque not available for having received an Andrea Bocelli show the previous night) and the unusual lengths Palmeiras – or rather Paulo Nobre – is ready to go to have national squad members Gabriel Jesus and Mina present and in playing conditions. Could, should, but will not.

The single most important aspect of yesterday’s round happened during Fluminense vs Flamengo, where the runners-up were ahead on two occasions, before Fluminense scored the equaliser, an offside header, five minutes from stoppage time. The linesman raised his flag, but referee Sandro Meira Ricci overruled him, allowing the goal. A few minutes of discussion, as would be expected, then the entire Flamengo bench poured onto the pitch, affirming goalscorer Henrique had indeed been offside. After some ten minutes of this, the referee reversed his decision, disallowing the goal.
More than one Flamengo player confirmed they learnt Henrique was offside from external sources, i.e. someone watching TV or listening to the radio passing the information on to the bench. Players brought this to the referee, who succumbed to the pressure. Nothing of this appears in the referee’s post-game report, released only this morning: “game stopped for 10 minutes as players from both teams protested against a referee decision relating to an offside situation” and then, a little further down, “nothing out of the ordinary to report”.

Referees acting upon external sources of information are in clear violation of FIFA regulations and of a magnitude that sets the stage for a rematch. Fluminense president Peter Siemsen says he will demand it, but he does not stand a chance. Just as Palmeiras in 2012, when Barcos’ “Hand of God” brace against Internacional was disallowed due to external interference, contributing to the Verdão’s relegation that year.

justice“Why do you defend an unjust goal? Henrique was clearly offside, and justice was made in the end”, some shallow minds argue, failing to see that “making justice” in that particular moment automatically implied in violating justice on every single previous occasion involving controversial refereeing in the championship.

The correct thing would be a rematch. As many clubs as possible should joint ranks with Fluminense (oh, the irony) to endorse that rules and regulations be followed. “Good luck”.

— ooo —

If yesterday’s results stand, Palmeiras are found at 61 points, Flamengo at 60 and Atlético Mineiro, who beat América Mineiro 3-0, at 56. With eight rounds to go. Buckle up, people.

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The Brazilian Championship anno 2015 – one of the most exciting in many years – has been wrecked by the refereeing.

The statement above is not an opinion neither an accusation. It’s a fact. The many errors committed by referees round after round is having a direct impact on the championship and on the position of teams in the tables. Moreover, there is consensus that one team has benefitted more than any other from this sequence of errors: current leader Corinthians.

Perhaps it’s all about poor refereeing. Perhaps. Nevertheless, the only thing people talk about is the refereeing. And whether it’s “only” poor or if there is a hidden agenda.

In Brazil, it’s common knowledge that the road is slightly better paved for a few: Flamengo, Fluminense, Corinthians… The treatment these receive in the rulings of the Supreme Tribunal of Sports is just one of several indicators. The expressive investments Corinthians and Flamengo receive from the largest Brazilian TV network and the difference in airtime, another.

There are expressions in the context of Brazilian football – “a força da camisa”, “influência nos bastidores” – used without shame to point out the importance of working backstage in order to secure things go your way, or at least not against you. Including influencing the outcome of draws.

Of course you get suspicious. We live in a dishonest country – Atlético Mineiro coach Levir Culpi 

It’s hard to blame Levir Culpi. Especially when considering that Corinthians’ ambitious former president is part of the inner circle of the Brazilian Football Federation and also has political influence. Refresh your memory, if necessary, reading first about the Itaqueirão and then about the shameful (and luckily failed) attempt to cancel 90% of football club’s tax debts

Still, many are skeptical. Who would be coordinating this unlikely scheme, paying off the many referees and linesmen for it to come together? It’s easier to envision if you forget about the money. This is not match fixing for profit (not like in 2005, when that was actually the case and people ended up in jail). Think of it as a culture, where referees quickly learn that if they want to have a career, they better not get on certain team’s black list. Where a phone call from the head of the National Association for Referees on the night before an important game, wishing good luck, is like a shout through a megaphone.

So what is the sports journalists’ take on all this? They normally stay within three arguments: 1) the refereeing quality is bad, and has been for a while. 2) mistakes are committed all the time, but that evens out over time. 3) there could be foul play involved, but suggesting this without proof would be frivolous, and they have seen no proof. With that, they lean back and continue business as usual.

Seems like Brazilian sports journalists have collectively forgotten one of the fundamentally important pillars of good journalism: investigation. They are waiting for the police to arrest people, for the prosecutor’s office to press charges, for someone to invite them to a press conference and lay out evidence. If none of the above happens, they seem happy to conclude that everything is fine. 

I’m not saying there is foul play involved. I’m not saying there isn’t. I’m saying sports journalists have a goddamn obligation to initiate investigations of their own.

Investigation concluded, they could say “no, we found absolutely nothing”. Or they could say “yes, this championship is corrupt”. Either way, they would have done what is expected of serious journalists.

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When Palmeiras play at the Beira-Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, the odds are against the Verdão: 31 games and only four Palmeiras victories since 1969. Now, 32 games and four victories.

Kickoff and Palmeiras supported well the initial pressure, marking high up on the opponents half and deploying speed in several surprising counter-attacks. Luan opened up the scorecard with a header after a corner. Barcos, Artur and Patrick Vieira had clear chances to score and could have decreed victory already in the first half. Instead, as usually happens, the pendulum swung back and Inter equalised through Fred, with the gaúchos increasingly finding spaces on Palmeiras’ right flank where Artur struggled defensively. We went tied to halftime.

Early into the second half, again after advancing on Palmeiras’ right flank and crossing the ball – this time to Rafael Moura – Palmeiras suffered the second blow of the afternoon. A third was to come, but of the least expected kind.

17th minute. Another corner for Palmeiras. Assunção took it and Barcos – unable to jump due to an Inter defender grappling him from behind – punched the ball into the back of the net. With his fist. Several Inter players saw this and immediately rushed towards the referee complaining. The referee – incredibly enough – had seen no irregularity and validated the goal. The linesmen, idem. And it was all quiet from the fourth referee. Inter’s players however continue complaining while TV spectators watched replay after replay, leaving no room for doubt: Barcos had clearly and intentionally executed the “Hand of God” stunt.

After a good two minutes, suddenly the referee changed his mind, disallowing the goal. He seemed on the verge of booking Barcos but then hesitated. Now it was Palmeiras’ time to feverishly complain, but to no use. The scorecard remained 2-1 until the final whistle.

Taynah Espinoza – a journalist at TV Bandeirantes working on the transmission of the game – confirms that a representative of the Brazilian Football Federation, a certain Gersen Baluta (smug-looking suit pictured above), sought information about the goal with the journalists and then proceeded informing the fourth referee; the fourth referee who in turn informed the referee, who then disallowed the goal.

Please understand that I’m not endorsing Barcos’ attitude here, but that goal HAD to be validated. Irregular goals are validated from time to time, just as regular goals are disallowed. We don’t have to like it, but it is and has always been “part of the game”, using one of the arguments that FIFA brings to the table in resisting the use of electronic aid during football games. I would love to see some change to this in the future but the fact is that today, referees acting upon “external” sources of information are in clear violation of FIFA regulations: a breach of this magnitude is reason enough to demand a rematch. Which Palmeiras should do, if they can in any way sustain their case. The stepping forward of the TV Bandeirantes journalist certainly helps.

The already difficult mission of avoiding relegation has become a little harder. Thankfully, Sport lost at home to São Paulo and, more importantly, Bahia only drew at home to Grêmio. Palmeiras are five points behind with five rounds to go. Hard, but not impossible. Especially considering how Palmeiras played yesterday (highlights below). There is quality enough in the squad. We just need a bit of luck. Actually quite some luck. And equal treatment.

Avanti Palestra!

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On the night that Luiz Felipe Scolari reached the mark of 400 games for Palmeiras (191 victories, 110 draws e 99 defeats), Barcos and Bruno secured the first victory ever in the history of Botafogo vs. Palmeiras at the João Havelange stadium – the Engenhão. If it hadn’t been for one of the most absurd linesman error I’ve ever seen, Barcos would have a new hat-trick in his CV. Luckily, the extra goal wasn’t “needed”, but the last 15 minutes were never-ending agony as Botafogo adopted the all-or-nothing final pressure and hit Bruno’s goalpost on stoppage time. On the whole, Palmeiras did not play well (although with much disposition) and the game could have gone either way. Again: the standout performances of Barcos and Bruno made all the difference.

Our taboo-breaking heroes for the night: Bruno; Artur, Maurício Ramos, Leandro Amaro and Juninho; Henrique, Marcos Assunção Patrik (Betinho 38′ 2nd H) and Fernandinho; Obina (Daniel Carvalho 17′ 2nd H) and Barcos.


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Scolari continues having difficulties due to the elevated number of players in the medical department – the latest member is Daniel Carvalho who on Wednesday left the training session. Against Botafogo in yesterday’s first leg of Palmeiras’ debut in the South America Cup, our warriors in green were Bruno; Artur, Maurício Ramos, Leandro Amaro and Juninho; João Vitor, Henrique, Marcos Assunção (Márcio Araújo – 20’/2nd H) and Mazinho (Obina – 38’/1st H); Maikon Leite (Fernandinho at halftime) and Barcos. At least we got Maurício Ramos and Assunção back, but not even Scolari was to be found on his usual position: due to previous bad experiences with the two linesmen he chose to put assistant coach Murtosa in the frontline, Scolari calling the shots from the stands by radio.

As you can notice, Palmeiras came without a reference playmaker on the midfield as both Valdivia and Carvalho are injured. This was clearly felt as improvised Mazinho didn’t deliver and both he and Maikon Leite got almost nothing right in the first half. Botafogo were not dominating completely, but Palmeiras certainly weren’t on top of the situation. We went to halftime with a goalless draw, much thanks to Bruno’s inspired evening between the posts.

Second half began with Obina on Mazinho and Fernandinho on Maikon Leite, turning the game around completely. Palmeiras gradually took command of the midfield and created chance after chance. The efforts paid off twice and in similar fashion: Barcos taking down the ball on his chest, turning, choosing the angle, and netting. Two spectacular goals by the Pirate.

Barcos’ two goals and the excellent performance put on by Bruno were the highlights of the night, together with the hilarious moment below. The basketball player in disguise deserves a medal.

The return game will take place in three weeks’ time and Palmeiras have an important advantage, especially for not having conceded any away goals.

Now for the less positive aspect of yesterday’s clash: 3.833 paying spectators at the Barueri arena. “Less positive” is quite an understatement: utterly revolting is more like it. To your right, a picture taken by “ArqPalestrina” and posted on the Arquibancada Palestrina blog, showing the ticket box at the stadium less than 30 minutes before kick-off. Deserted.

Those responsible at Palmeiras for insisting on using the Barueri must be pressured every single moment and in every possible way to reverse this perversity and put Palmeiras back at the Pacaembu stadium. If that doesn’t help, hang’em high. This has GOT to change. Palmeiras are being clinically separated from the lion’s part of their supporters, with only the die-hard fans mustering enough energy to time and time again show up at the Barueri stadium. Enough!


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