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World Cup Opener 2014: Bad Reffing and Fred’s Flopping

Since it is a world cup year we have decided to shift our focus from the law to something more important: Association Football (or soccer). We are going to provide discussion and analysis regarding the most exciting games during the World Cup. First up, Brazil vs. Croatia on June 12, 2014.


No one can doubt that Croatia looked strong. There team consisted of a solid line up including Modric, Corluka, Lovren, Olic, Jelavic, and others. At the outset Croatia maintained a solid shape on defense. They were very disciplined in terms of not getting stretched out by ball chasing in Brazil’s half. Their entire team got back behind the ball and maintained control of their half of the field on defense–initially frustrating Brazil and preventing any penetration.

On offense, Croatia’s goal was not possession per se. Their movement had purpose. Upon winning the ball, the Croatians brought a quick counter attack that sought to take advantage of Brazil’s shape being stretched or or out of a defensive formation.

Croatia’s tactics worked well. Brazil appeared desperate to penetrate Croatia’s disciplined D. As Brazil took more and more risk in terms of movement forward they become more exposed in the back. This made Croatia’s counter very effective and facilitated the first goal whereby an intelligent, well placed, and low cross with pace was played from the left wing in behind the Brazilians that Marcelo ended up tapping in due to the confusion the ball caused the Brazilians.

Croatian continued to fight hard, but in the end it was not enough. A single defensive lapse caused the ball to pop out to Neymar in the Croatian’s end of the field. Neymar’s left footed strike seemed to be just right. A somewhat slow moving ball slipped by the Crotian keeper’s reach and struck the lower right post for a goal. Still Croatia fought hard. But in the end the referee decided to get too involved.

The ball came to Fred’s feet about four feet outside the six yard box. His back was to the goal. He was not in a scoring position. The Croatian defense barely made any physical contact. Then Fred flopped like a spoiled child. The Japanese referee then fell for it. A penalty was awarded. The call essentially decided the game as the momentum, composure, and confidence of Croatia changed although they continued to play with heart. Croatia’s tactics also had to change in an attempt to get another goal. As a result their defense was stretched due to their offensive desperation.

Why did the ref feel it appropriate to decide a game with a single call? Fred was not in a scoring position. His flop was obviously overly dramatic. He was hardly touched. And refs should be reluctant to make such a call without GOOD CAUSE.

Did the ref feel pressure from the home fans?

Would a Brazil tie or loss kill the party over on Copacabana beach?

Would coca-cola sales suffer? How about jersey sales?

Whatever the reason, the ref messed up. Fred’s flop was poor sportsmanship at best; cheating at worst. And the call altered the outcome of the world cup. A stunned Brazil may have altered the group, Brazil’s confidence, and their subsequent performance.

It is time to fine players that pull such garbage as Fred did last night. It is also time to suspend refs who fall for such tricks or otherwise demonstrate a willingness to alter the outcome of games in situations where there is soft contact and no goal scoring opportunity.

Hopefully Spain v. Netherlands will not disappoint.