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Saturday’s game between England and the U.S.A. is already chock full storylines. It’s a rematch of the 1950 stunner when the U.S. pulled out a 1-0 win over the Brits in Brazil. England is sending arguably their most talented team ever to the tournament. Expectations are sky high across the pond so you know they’ve got something to prove. With the overwhelming majority of players on this year’s roster playing their club soccer internationally the Americans could make a case that this is their most talented team ever. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan might be the most prolific goal scoring duo an American national team has ever had and England’s superstar Wayne Rooney is among the world’s elite. So if tensions weren’t high enough already a story released yesterday about Carlos Eugenio Simon, the head referee in charge of this weekends clash, is sure to stoke the flames of an already raging fire.
In the past 18 months Simon has had a team (Flamengo) from his native country of Brazil reach out to FIFA lobbying to get him off the list of approved referees for the World Cup. In addition, last October, Simon was banned from calling any games in the Brazilian league for the last month of the season due to suspect calls and questionable intentions.
The first incident occurred 18 months ago when Simon sent off a striker on the Flamengo side during a heated game with their rivals Cruzeiro. Star striker Diego Tardelli was sent off for diving when it was clearly a foul on Cruzeiro and should have resulted in a penalty kick. After the game the Flamengo administration was so irate with the call they sent a video of the game to FIFA and asked that Simon be taken off the list of officials for the World Cup.
Last October Simon was handed a six week corruption ban by the national federation for ‘a repetition of mistakes.’ The final straw came in a game when Simon disallowed a goal that was clearly legit. Had the goal been allowed it would have tied the game. In the end the team with the disallowed goal lost by one which prompted the team’s president to accuse Simon of ‘being in someone’s pocket’ ultimately forcing a probe by league officials which ended in a six week ban. Everything sounds like it’s on the up and up with this guy right?
Oh, and there’s another example back in 2002 when Simon was refereeing the Copa do Brazil final between Brasiliense and Corinthians where Simon failed to give a clear penalty shot to Brasiliense which even Corinthian players after the game admitted should have been a penalty.
Personally I think it’s shocking that FIFA is even allowing this guy to work the World Cup, although he has worked the tournament both in 2002 and 2006. Either way, tensions will be high, the game should be competitive and lets just hope officiating does what it’s supposed to.