The Football World Cup Referees

Bet on football spreads The players are the stars of the World Cup and newspapers, websites and magazines will devote their column inches to analysing every aspect of their performances on the biggest stage of all. But what about the other men on the field? Those officials who hold the power to make or break the dreams for millions of supporters across the globe. England fans in particular have had reasons to moan at the officials throughout World Cup history, although Geoff Hurst’s was-it-or-was-it-not over the line goal in the 1966 final is the best example there is of getting the ‘rub of the green’. But who can forget Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal or Frank Lampard’s ‘strike’ that was so far over the line versus Germany four years ago that it was almost out the back of the goal. Or the extraordinary decisions that helped joint-hosts South Korea make their way to the semi-finals of the 2002 tournament. So, who are the referees officiating in Brazil this summer and what do we know about the 26 men entrusted with delivering a fair tournament? Who has yellow fever and who is likely to see red?

Howard Webb (England)

An experienced referee well-known to Premier League fans and often pilloried for his apparent Manchester United sympathies. Well-respected in world football, becoming the first man to officiate the Champions League and World Cup final in the same year (2010). Has taken charge of 111 international games* awarding 23 penalties ' on average one every 4.8 games ' and brandished an average of 4.05 yellow cards every game. Webb has shown 21 players a red card in that time.

Felix Brych (Germany)

One of the Bundesliga’s preeminent referees, the 38-year-old took charge of his first major final in the Europa League showpiece between Benfica and Sevilla this month. Brych booked seven players in that game and in 73 international matches has shown 252 yellows – an average of 3.45 per game. He’s issued 17 red cards ' including four occasions where’s he’s sent two players off in the same match.

Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)

Istanbul-born Cakir may ring a bell with English fans. He sent off John Terry in Chelsea’s famous 3-2 aggregate win over Barcelona in 2012, Gary Cahill versus Corinthians in the World Club Cup final, Mario Balotelli in a Europa League game between Manchester City and Dynamo Kiev in 2011 and controversially dismissed Manchester United’s Nani in a quarter-final with Real Madrid in 2013. At international level, he’s issued 332 yellows and 17 reds in 81 matches and pointed to the penalty spot 22 times.

Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)

Reportedly a multi-millionaire, the Swede made his major international tournament debut at Euro 2012 and has battled a fair bit of criticism for his performances in Europe over the last few years. Despite being renowned for his style of letting the game flow, his cards’ averages are not lower than many on the list. He’s shown 321 yellows in 89 international matches, along with 16 reds, and awarded the same number of penalties.

Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)

One of the most experienced referees on the list, the Dutchman has been in charge of the 2011 Super Cup, the 2013 Europa League final, the 2013 Confederations Cup final and most recently the Champions League final between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. Not only is he The Third Team’s (a European website that analyses referee’s performances) reigning referee of the year, the 41-year-old finds time to co-run three supermarkets and a hair salon! In 82 international games he’s issued 311 yellows, 17 reds and awarded 22 penalties.

Milorad Mazic (Serbia)

Top-rated on, the Serbian has quickly risen up the ranks in European football and will be making his debut at a major international competition next month. Not shy about dipping his hand into his pocket, Mazic showed 30 yellow cards in seven Champions League/Europa League ties this season. On average he has shown 4.46 yellow cards per game in international matches and has given 16 reds and 17 penalties in 61 matches.

Pedro Proenca (Portugal)

A financial advisor by day and a respected referee by night, Proenca was the first Portuguese to take charge of a European Championship final in 2012, and in doing so became the first man to referee the Champions League final and the Euros showpiece in the same year. One of the favourites to officiate the World Cup final, Proenca is another referee with trigger-happy tendencies on this list. Players picked up a massive 40 yellows in the seven European games he officiated this season. He averages 3.83 yellows a game at international level and has sent 14 players off in 89 games.

Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)

The Italian is another on the list to have incurred the wrath of Man United fans. He was responsible for sending off Rafael in a Champions League quarter-final in 2010 against Bayern Munich with United leading 3-1. Munich would go on to score again and progress on away goals. Trusted on the big occasions, as being chosen to referee last year’s European Cup final testifies, the architect has worked at major tournaments before and is a safe pair of hands in the middle of the park. In 74 international appearances, the 42-year-old has shown 291 yellows and 10 reds.

Despite the talents of the global football stars on show when the eagerly-anticipated World Cup kicks off in Brazil next Thursday, much of the dreams of those hoping to lead their country to glory will rest on the men in black refereeing the game. How will the referees handle the pressure of millions of eyes on them scrutinising every decision.

Who can forget Kuwaiti FA president Prince Fahid marching on to the pitch to remonstrate with the referee in 1982 after France scored a goal versus his country? Incredibly the ref controversially disallowed the goal but it made little difference that day – France still won 4-1. Or what about Germany’s Harald Schumacher’s infamous horror tackle on France’s Patrick Battison, also in 1982? The man in charge didn’t even give a foul despite Battison being knocked unconscious, losing several teeth and later slipping into a coma! More recently Howard Webb’s decision not to dismiss Nigel De Jong for a shocking karate kick into Xabi Alonso’s chest during the last World Cup final would not have been so easily forgiven had the Netherlands gone on to beat Spain. So in part two of our World Cup focus, we profile the men whose decisions will define the hopes of millions of fans across the world and there are a number on here who you don’t want to mess with.

Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain)

One of La Liga’s foremost referees, Carballo has tonnes of experience and was in charge of the Europa League final between Porto and Braga in 2011 and a year later was one of the 12 men in charge at Euro 2012. He copped some criticism in his first match for sending off a player apiece from Greece and Poland. In 53 international matches, the Spaniard has pointed to the spot 18 times, so spread bettors might be interested in buying penalty goal minutes in matches he officiates. The 43-year-old has also reached into his pocket 197 times for a yellow, an average of 3.72 a game, and has dismissed five players in international games.

Joel Aguilar (El Salvador)

Aguilar is one of the most experienced officials on the list having been a full international referee since 2001 and been in charge at everything from Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups, to World Club Cup finals and the last Confederations Cup. Although he was a reserve official four years ago, this will be the first time he’s actually refereed at a World Cup and total bookings points in his games should be interesting. In 89 international fixtures, he averages 4.28 yellow cards a game and issues a red every three matches.

Mark Geiger (USA)

In 2011, Geiger, who also works as a maths teacher, broke new ground for American football when he became the first man from the country to referee a FIFA final at the 2011 Under-20 World Cup. Geiger was also in action at the Olympic Games when he oversaw two matches and will be the first American since Brian Hall in 2002 to be at the World Cup. Based on 39 international matches, he’s issued an average of 3.79 yellow cards and 0.31 reds in that time, along with a penalty every 3.9 games.

Marco Antonio Rodríguez (Mexico)

A former sports professor who is now also a Protestant priest, Rodriguez has a reputation in Mexico for being very strict. Cards flow as often as waves of attacks in games he handles. He sent off two players in two games at the 2006 World Cup and also was criticised for showing a contentious straight red to Australia’s Tim Cahill in South Africa four years ago. Overall in 79 internationals, the 40-year-old has shown 350 yellows, 51 reds and pointed to the penalty spot 29 times – not a man to cross!

Enrique Roberto Osses (Chile)

Osses was at the centre of a footballing storm in 2005 when, after booking Ignacio Gonzalez for a second time in a Chilean league game, the goalkeeper reacted by hitting him in the face, knocking him to the ground. Gonzalez was subsequently banned for 50 games but moved to play in Argentina and didn’t serve his ban. That came in an extraordinary season for Osses when he sent off 21 players in just 16 games! Another fiery Latin American official on this list, he averages 4.66 yellows a game at international level and a red every four games.

Nestor Pitana (Argentina)

The respected Argentine has quickly risen through the refereeing ranks having received his FIFA badge three years after making his debut in 2007. He won widespread praise in his homeland for repeatedly stopping a Boca Juniors match in 2009 after sections of the crowd shouted discriminatory chants, drawing attention to the state of football in the country. Buyers of total booking points, make a note. Pitana averages 5.03 yellows at international level, although he’s only shown red nine times in 38 matches.

Wilmar Roldan (Colombia)

South American football has a reputation for being somewhat more volatile than other regions of the world and that might help explain why a number of refs on this list, Roldan included, rack up so many bookings. The Colombian has been a referee since 2003 and at international level since 2008, selected for his maiden Copa America tournament in 2011. Roldan has also officiated at the 2012 Olympic tournament and 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Across 73 international games, the 34-year-old is another to break the five yellows a game barrier, average 5.22 and shows a red card every two games on average.

Peter O’Leary (New Zealand)

Peter O'Leary is head of the biology section in school in New Zealand and referees in both his homeland and Australia. His name may ring a bell with Premier League fans as in 2008 as a guest of fourth official Steve Bennett for a game between Aston Villa and Sunderland, he was called into action after an assistant ref got injured. As the new fourth official he became the first ever New Zealander to act in the English top-flight. O’Leary has wielded 154 yellows in 42 international games and eight reds as well as given eight penalties.

*All referee stats taken from and are accurate as of 03/06/14

Sandro Ricci (Brazil)

With 15 years of refereeing experience under his belt, Ricci has been refereeing since the precocious age of 24. His rise to the top was swift, and he has been rewarded with the chance to strut his stuff in front of his own fans as head of the Brazilian refereeing team. In 2010, Ricci famously clashed with Neymar over a game between Vitoria and the striker's then side, Santos. After the match, the diminutive player took to Twitter to call the referee a 'thief'. Amazingly, Ricci took legal proceedings against the youngster and won, with Neymar forced to pay the ref $15,000 for 'offending' him. Not one to cross, in 38 international matches, Ricci has handed out 17 red cards and averages 4.55 bookings per game.

Carlos Vera (Ecuador)

Much like the Coppalas (and to a lesser extent the Baldwins), Vera is part of a family dynasty. Refereeing is in his blood. His father was a top level assistant in Ecuador, and three of his brothers also now ply their trade as officials. Despite only being a relatively youthful 37, Vera has already presided over 65 international matches, doling out 23 red cards and an average of 4.58 yellow cards per game.

Noumandiez Doue (Ivory Coast)

Named African Confederation Referee of the Year in 2011, Doue has been a mainstay at the prestigious African Cup of Nations tournament since 2010, whilst also taking charge during the 2011 CAF Champions League final, the 2011 Club World Cup and the 2011 U-20 World Cup. Doue is relatively even-handed, handing out yellow cards at a rate of 3.83 per international game officiated and a red nearly once in every five.

Bakary Gassama (Gambia)

Gassama has been making waves in recent years. Having refereed at the 2012 Olympics and the 2013 African Cup of Nations, he has been shortlisted for the 2013 African Confederation Referee of the Year. He will be the first Gambian World Cup referee. A lenient ref, Gassama has handed just six reds in the 54 international games he has officiated, and bookings at a rate of 2.78 per game.

Djamel Haimoudi (Algeria)

The 2012 African Confederation Referee of the Year, Haimoudi really came to prominence when he officiated the 2013 African Cup of Nations final. After blowing the whistle for full time, the triumphant Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama attempted to lift him onto his shoulders in celebration. The Algerian has also been getting some practice in on Brazilian soil ahead of this summer's tournament. He took charge of the third place playoff of the 2013 Confederations Cup, also held in Brazil. Despite having a reputation as a disciplinarian, Haimoudi's record of 3.32 bookings per international game officiated and just 10 reds in 65 say otherwise.

Daniel Bennett (South Africa)

Bennett became a ref after a broken leg sustained whilst playing forced him to reconsider his options. His father, also a referee, encouraged him to take up the whistle to stay in the game. In his other life, Bennett is also a primary school teacher. With 63 international games under his belt, Bennett issues bookings at a rate of 3.29 per game, and has given 11 players their marching orders

Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)

When a World Cup referee in 2010, at just 32, Irmatov became the youngest referee since 1934 to officiate a World Cup game when he took charge of England versus Algeria. He was also involved in last summer's Confederations Cup, controversially awarding Italy a penalty against Brazil, only to allow advantage to be played and Giorgio Chiellini to score. Still only 36, the Uzbek has refereed 115 international games, issuing 26 reds and 3.43 yellows per game.

Yuichi Nishimura (Japan)

Nishimura has been selected to take charge of the opening fixture between Brazil and Croatia, and the Japanese certainly has credentials in the tournament. He issued the first red of World Cup 2010, sending off Uruguay's Nicolas Lodeiro, and would later go on to fulfil fourth official duties during the final itself. Notoriously unflappable (he once refused to send off a number of Algerian players who confronted him physically during an U-17 tournament), Nishimura has sent off 13 players in the 91 international games he has presided over, issuing an average of 3.59 yellows per game.

Nawaf Shukrulla (Bahrain)

Despite only getting his refereeing badge in 2008, Shukrulla has shot through the ranks and now finds himself amongst the elite selected to referee this year's tournament. A former player in the Bahraini first division, Shukrulla is also a full-time legal researcher. A no-nonsense ref, he hands out an average of 4.58 bookings per game, and has dismissed 19 players in 65 international games.

Ben Williams (Australia)

Winner of the 2013 AFC Referee of the Year award, Williams is a veteran in the Australian A-League, as well as the AFC Champions League and took charge of the opening game of the 2012 Olympics. A ref with an itchy trigger finger, Williams gives out 4.16 bookings per game and has issued 27 red cards in 77 international games (averaging more than one in every three), including an incident in which he once sent off two Malaysian players seconds after each other. *All referee stats taken from and are accurate as of 11/06/14 

Market leader in football betting

Sporting Index is the world's biggest sports spread betting company and offers over 150+ markets on football covering everything from the time of the first goal to the number of bookings, from individual player's goal minutes to a team's total shirt numbers. All these markets can be traded live in-play allowing spread bettors to react to a game as they watch. And unlike fixed-odds betting, spread betting with Sporting Index means profits or losses are calculated by how right or how wrong you are. Join today to enjoy the most exhilarating betting experience out there.
View our football spreads and bet with Sporting Index

Spread Bet On Other Sports And Betting Markets