A good match between Brazil and Colombia was ruined by a referee who forgot what his job is about, which includes setting the tone of a match so players don’t get injured. Not enough yellow cards came out early enough from the pockets of Carlos Velasco Craballo, and as a result Juan Camilo Zuniga took Neymar out of the tournament with an injury.
Being a referee isn’t only about making the big decisions: Red cards, offsides, penalty kicks or not. Those don’t happen too often in a match and most of the time, they make the rigth decision. However, setting the tone of the match and providing a deterrent for players in order that things don’t get dangerous for the players on the pitch.
Carballo allowed Brazil to hack and chop from the first minute without punishing the players for it. Colombia took an entire half to learn from that mistake, and soon began fouling hard at every opportunity. Somehow, only four yellow cards were used, all coming in the final 26 minutes of the match.
Zuniga was booked for his fouls on Hulk and Neymar… Oh wait, he wasn’t. Dangerous tackles, that might not look much at first, but from pitch level, from up close, the referee should have seen their intent and the danger in them.
Julio Cesar wasn’t sent off for his foul on Carlos Bacca which prevented a clear goalscoring opportunity. James Rodriguez was kicked around by Fernandinho for the entire 90 minutes, He wasn’t booked as well.
Neymar is out for a month, missing the rest of the World Cup. Looking at the isolated incident, it’s clearly Zuniga who is at fault here. A purpose in his tackle, kneeing Neymar in the back withotu a hint of accident or mistake. Those fouls are more dangerous than bites on the shoulder, even if it’s a FIFA hated figure like Luis Suarez doing the biting.
But as long as there were no embarrassing mistakes, refs come out OK. He didn’t blow the penalty kick situation, didn’t make a mistake when Colombia scored from an offside position. Even if he let the pitch resemble a battlefield with the fouls, the viciousness and frequency, he probably left the pitch last night feeling he had a good performance.